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S/Court cedes Jos North to owners

Du, Gyel and Gwong districts have been disputed for several years over who should exercise authority over the entire villages in Jos North local area…

Du, Gyel and Gwong districts have been disputed for several years over who should exercise authority over the entire villages in Jos North local area but most especially, the three districts of Tudun Wada, Dong and Kabong leading to the setting up of a commission of inquiry by the then state governor, Col. Joshua Madaki to resolve the dispute.

The commission was to determine the ownership of the disputed areas in the three districts and to make any recommendations that the commission might consider necessary to end land disputes in general within Jos metropolis.

The commission of inquiry headed by Justice Luke Emefor, at the conclusion of its sitting, later recommended that the ownership of the three districts be given to Gwong which it declared as the rightful owners of the disputed areas.

Dissatisfied with the recommendation, the district head of Du, Da Kabirikim, on behalf of himself and his people, went to court to stop the implementation of the report arguing that the state government has no powers to set up a commission of inquiry to determine the ownership of the three villages insisting that the powers conferred on the military governor of Plateau state by section 2(1) of the commission of inquiries cap. 25 laws of Northern Nigeria, did not entitle the military governor to commission Justice Emefor and others to inquire into the matters set out in the terms of reference and to decide or determine the ownership of the disputed areas.

The District Head of Du also wanted a declaration, that the setting up of the commission of inquiry and its term of reference were “unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect, whatsoever in that there is no dispute whatsoever as to what district the three villages of Kabong, Tudun Wada and Dong belong,” and that the determination of the ownership of the three villages is not within the competence of a commission of inquiry.

He prayed the court to set aside the instrument constituting the commission of inquiry with respect to the terms of reference set out therein and place an injunction restraining the state government from acting on or in any way, taking any action on any report submitted to it by the commission.

But the High Court in Jos ruled against the District Head of Du and his people and declared that the state government has powers to set up the commission which prompted him to  appeal against the judgment. The decision of the lower court was upheld by the appellate court and still dissatisfied with the ruling, the District Head of Du took the matter to the Supreme Court.

Justice Walter Onnoghen, leading four other justices, ruled that the High Court which first entertained the case acted rightly and that its decision cannot be faulted in any way having regards to the evidence on record.

He stressed that it is clear that the issue under consideration has no merit and went ahead to resolve it against the appellants by dismissing the appeal.

“I find no merit whatsoever in this appeal which is consequently dismissed by me with N50,000 cost in favour of each of the respondents against the appellant and dismissed the appeal.”

President of the Anaguta Development Association traced the genesis of the dispute about who exercises control over the villages in Gwong district to 1991.

“There have been this issue of ownership of land between these districts: Gwong district which falls within Anaguta land i.e. the area of Jos North, extending by historical facts over building material i.e. by Map M60 OF 1993 AND Du district in Jos South, mostly by the Beroms  and Gyel.

So, there have been problems between the three communities which caused the problem of the issue of community tax by government. You discover that the district head of Gwon who is now the Ujah of Anaguta, has his own traditional rulers that is as ward heads at Dong, Tudun Wada and Kabong collecting government revenue.

Even before the creation of Jos North, that problem had been lingering between these districts. So, these communities have been in a problem over the ownership claim.

When the census of 1991 came, there was a serious crisis in these communities and the 1991 census could not allow the census officials to carry out the exercise in Dong, Tudun wada and Kabong. Infact the 1991 census has no records of Dou/Tudunwadas and Kabon.

Now there was a serious appeal from the Dou community through it’s paramount ruler. Appealing to government to set – up a commission of inquiry to determine the ownership of these areas that is between Gwong, Du and also Gyel district.

So, the then military governor, Colonel Joshua Madaki (late), set up a committee to determine the ownership of these areas between the three communities. So the committee, while trying to conclude their reports and submit, the other districts i.e.Du and Gyel, went to court but still, the committee concluded their report and submitted it to the government but the report is yet to be implemented.

The committee came up with a report that those areas belongs to Gwong district, not Du or Gyel.

So, not satisfied, they went to court challenging government’s authority over settling the community given their own reasons which is in the judgment.

There has been jubilation among the Anagutas as they say the issue has laid to rest, which of the ethnic groups owns Gwong which essentially is the area known as Jos North.

An elder from Gyel district, Chief GG Bot, when contacted, said the error was in the manner the counsel filed the case, saying the Beroms were not quarreling with whether the state government has the right to set up the commission but what they disputed was whether the commission has the right to demarcate lands between the inhabitants.

 He said but because that was the case that was presented to the Supreme court, the apex court ruled in the manner it did saying it brought into focus, a matter that was not in dispute adding that that was not the fault of the court but an error in the manner the appeal was filed.