Court nullifies El-Rufai’s revocation of Abacha’s hotel’s C of O

Nasir El-Rufai

A Kaduna High Court has nullified the revocation of the certificate of occupancy of Durbar Hotel owned by family of the late head of state, General Sani Abacha.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai, in January 2020, demolished the hotel and revoked its C of O while the case was still pending in court.

The Abacha family through their counsel, Reuben Atabo, consequently dragged the governor and three others to the Kaduna High Court presided over by Justice Hannatu Balogun for the “illegal demolition” of the hotel and revocation of its C of O.

Among other things, Atabo prayed for “an order setting aside and/or nullifying the revocation of the title of the Plaintiff/Applicant on the 24 day of January 2020 by the Defendants/ Respondents but received on the 29/1/2020 during the pendency of the action.”

Counsel for the plaintiff, E.D Izu, submitted that the defendants had not been able to counter the averments in the affidavit because they were awaiting directives from the government officials and applied for an adjournment to put their house in order.

In the ruling, Justice Hannatu Balogun stated that, “Having heard both counsel, the oral application to stay hearing of the motion dated 17/12/2020 and filed on the same date cannot be granted because the matter in the Court of Appeal is an appeal against the grant of leave to amend the Plaintiffs processes.

“There is currently no stay of proceedings in this Court and the Defendants appear not to be diligent in prosecuting their appeal while at the same time they continue to disobey the Orders of this Court and also are trying to do acts that will prejudice the other side. The duty of this Court is to ensure that there is a level playing ground for all parties.

“In the circumstance, the application to stay proceedings or adjourning this matter cannot be granted in the interest of justice and fairness. It is accordingly refused and the business of the day shall proceed.

“I have considered the application to adjourn this matter made again after the motion has been moved and I agree with the Plaintiffs Counsel that the Defendants have not shown bona fide. They have not denied the fact that there is tampering of the res by them or others at their instance.

“In the circumstance, since the application has bearing on the res and the Defendants have not deemed it fit to respond to the motion for over 2 years, there is nothing to show that the interest of justice will be achieved by an adjournment of this matter. The application for adjournment is accordingly refused.

“Having considered the Plaintiffs motion of 17/12/2020 which is uncontested, I am of the view that the application has merit in view of the grounds of the application, the unchallenged affidavit and the Exhibits annexed.

“The Supreme Court and in deed all Courts of the land have decried the use of self-help by litigants. It is the duty of the Courts to provide a level playing field for all parties and not allow any side to use the judicial system side by side with self-help to the disadvantage of the other.

“On the whole, I grant the Plaintiff’s motion dated 17/12/2020 and nullify the purported Notice of revocation of Certificate of Occupancy No. 177789 in respect of Durbar Hotel and nullifying the revocation of the Plaintiff’s title made on the 24/01/2020 and received on the 29/1/2020 during the pendency of this action. The status quo antebellum i.e. prior to commencement of this action shall be maintained by all parties.”