Moshood Adebayo and Job Osazuwa
After what could be described as decades of suspense and intrigues over the rightful owners of about 398 acres of land in some parts of Agindingbi, Lagos State, the case has been put to rest.
A recent judgement of the Supreme Court said the Akinole-Oshiun family is the rightful owner of the vast land.
But the residents, companies, estates and worship centres who have occupied the area for decades are unhappy with the verdict of the apex court. Since the news broke out, the residents have been crying to the authorities to come to their rescue. They have been running helter-skelter, asking questions and seeking urgent answers.
The development is the outcome of a 42-year legal tussle between the triumphant family and another family, as well as the Lagos State Government, over the ownership of the land.
The land in question, as gathered, covers a significant section of the popular Lateef Jakande Road, Fagba Close and other streets, with over 2,000 buildings, comprising estates, banks and mansions.
But some of the occupants are still insisting that they are the rightful owners of the properties. They argue that they had duly bought the land, though not from the Akinole-Oshiun family, and got the certificates of occupancy and other relevant documents from the appropriate quarters.
Many of the residents said they were shocked when members of the Akinole-Oshiun family recently stormed the area with security agents to take possession of the land by pasting Caveat Emptor notice on all the buildings. The inscription, “ID/923M/99 Possession taken today April 26, 2019 by Court Order,” is conspicuous on thousands of buildings in the area.
The aggrieved residents are pleading with the state government to intervene so that there would not be a combat between the residents and the Akinole-Oshiun family. Some of them, who claimed ignorance of the protracted legal tussle, said they would not fold their arms and watch their decades of investment go down the drain.
“Some of us woke up to see the notices posted on our gates. Also, many workers in companies and other businesses around were also stunned seeing the notices in the early hours of Thursday,” a resident said.
On Thursday last week, scores of community leaders and residents of Agidingbi protested the Supreme Court judgment. The protesters, who marched from Agidingbi to the Lagos State House of Assembly complex in Alausa, said the Akinole-Oshiun family, which won the case, had already given them a seven-day ultimatum to vacate their houses.
While urging the government to intervene in order to avert bloodshed, they insisted that they were the rightful owners of the land.
Some of the placards displayed by the protesters read: There is no ancestral link between Akinole and Agidingbi Land, Land Grabbers are enemies of Lagos State.
A community leader in Ojodu Local Council Development Authority, Wasiu Bolaji-Seidu, who was among the protesters, said the news of the possession order came to the community as a big surprise.
“No one from the area was served with the court processes that led to the judgment, but last Friday, they (judgment-creditor) brought a judgment and placed it on our houses and said they have taken over the entire Agidingbi land.
“The issue is, Agidingbi was not mentioned in the judgment. Nobody from Agidingbi was part of the case and I don’t know how you will enforce a judgment against a person that was never part of the case.
“Agidingbi has been in existence for over 200 years ago. I was born and bred in Agidingbi; my forefathers were born and bred in Agidingbi and I don’t see any reason why somebody will just wake up and say they are the owner of the community.
“I am over 50 years; my father lived for over 90 years in this community before he died; my great grand-father died at the age of 150 years and I don’t know where Akinole is coming from and we have people like Habibatu Mogaji who was the Yeye-Oba of Agidingbi; we have Femi Okunnu who is our father in the community and we don’t know where Akinole came from.”
He urged the government to enforce the provisions of the existing Anti-Land Grabbing Law in the state and prevent the matter from degenerating into a serious crisis which may also lead to bloodshed.
“To the best of my knowledge, I know that Lagos State has enacted a law duly signed by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, prohibiting land grabbing in the state because this is a clear example of such case. That is why we are here to call on the Lagos State House of Assembly to look into it and find a lasting solution to avert bloodshed,” Bolaji-Seidu said.
Baale of Agidingbi, Chief Ganiyu Ayinde Haruna, said the residents were embarking on the peaceful protest to draw the attention of government to the silent crisis that is brewing in the community.
“We are peace lovers, but our gentility must not be mistaken for another thing. We are the rightful owners of the land in spite of the court judgment. On Friday last week, we woke up to see people posting possession orders on our property and we don’t know these people. We have been living here for several years and the issue is, we don’t know this family that is laying claim to our land.
“We have never heard any relationship with this Akinole family and so it is surprising to us. Nobody knew anything about the court case. I mean, how can you enforce a court judgment against a party that was never part of the case? We are peaceful people and we are urging the Lagos State Government especially Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and the House of Assembly to intervene urgently in this matter because we don’t want bloodshed in our community.”
Mr. Tunji Idowu, who also joined the protesters, said he had been residing in the area since 1983 and at no time did any strange fellow or group claim ownership of the community.
The 83-year-old Iyalode of Agidingbi, Evangelist Dorcas Faworaja, while lamenting the judgement, claimed that her great grand-parents were born in the area.
“The family claiming ownership of the parcel of land is not a part of us. We know ourselves. I was born at Agidingbi and not brought there and on no occasion did either my immediate parents or even grand or great grand-parents mention the family as part of us. At my age, I should be resting, but I had to join them in the protest. My great-grandmothers were all born in Agidingbi and we are the real owners of the land.”
Deputy Majority Leader of the Assembly, Olumuyiwa Jimoh, who received the protesters, commended them for conducting themselves peacefully and assured that the House would look into their case.
But reacting to the residents’ grievances, the lawyer to the Akinole-Oshiun family, Chief Ayo Opadokun, said the occupants bought the land from some wrong hands and should blame themselves.
He said with the notice posted in virtually all the buildings affected, the family has asked “all the illegal occupants” to contact its solicitors, Ayo Opadokun and Co “with whatever documents they have to rectify their title with payments.”
The execution of the Order Notice of the High Court of Lagos in suit No. ID/216/77L & CA/L/776/2014, as made available to Daily Sun by Opadokun, read in part: “This is to inform the general public and in particular, all illegal occupants of that piece of land measuring 398 acres, situate, lying and being at Agidingbi, Ikeja Lagos State that has been variously confirmed up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria as legally belonging to the Akinole-Oshiun family, a land area which is more delineated in the Judgment Survey Plan No. CK/LS/272 dated 22/12/77 drawn by Abolade Coker, Licensed Surveyor, that the family has by the above court judgments took ((sic) possession of its legitimate land immediately.
“The title of the said parcel of land has been variously re-affirmed in favour of the Akinole-Oshiun family in the following cases namely: By the judgments of High Court of Lagos State in Suit No ID/216/77L delivered by Hon. Justice B.O. Martins on August 19, 1983 and was re-affirmed on March 26, 1993; 36years and 26years ago respectively.
“Appeals/Applications at the Court of Appeal to set aside the above referenced judgments by the Attorney-General of Lagos State in Suit No. CA/L/517/99, were struck out on September 23, 2003; July 4 2005 and April 14, 2008; respectively and in Suit No. CA/L/649M/2006, another Application was struck out on the 26th of April 2007.
“Further Appeals to the Supreme Court in Suit No SC/173/2009 dated May 24, 2010, was dismissed thereby reaffirming the Judgments of the High Court and the Court of Appeal respectively.
“That pursuant to the various Certificates and Warrants of Execution for Possession issued by Particular Lagos State High Courts to the Akinole-Oshiun Family dated July 28, 2000 and October 3, 2006, the latest being that which was issued on November 3, 2016 after the favourable judgment secured by our family in Suit No. ID/923M/99, the family was again frustrated through a curious appeal filed by a non-party to the cases which sought to re-litigate the case already decided by Supreme Court in our favour since May 24, 2010.
“The Court of appeal sitting in Lagos on 29th March, 2019 has finally dismissed the appeal.
“Therefore, by the above Lagos State High Court and Court of Appeal favourable judgments, the Akinole-Oshiun family has taken effective possession of our land, the 398 acres of land at Agidingbi, Ikeja Lagos State.
“All illegal occupants must immediately contact Ayo Opadokun and Co, the family solicitors, with whatever documents they have to rectify their documents with payments for immediate ratification within the next seven days of notice.”
Opadokun, in a chat with the reporter, said: “This matter has been on and the first judgment was given by Justice Martins in favour of Akinole-Oshiun family in August 1983. So, it is not something that started yesterday. It was against one Mogaji but nine years thereafter, the Lagos Government was invited by Alhaji Femi Okwuonu to show interest and claim the land.
“They, therefore, went on an appeal and wrote a letter that the Lagos State has earlier acquired the land. But the court of appeal dismissed the appeal. They went on appeal about three or four times, but were rejected. The case finally ended up at the Supreme Court and the judgment had been given in the favour of my client since 2010. The last appeal was dismissed on March 29.
“The record needs to be set straight that the case was never against the Lagos State Government as being circulated by many people.
“My client had made efforts to take possession of the land three times but all to no avail. My involvement in this matter is in furtherance to my own commitment to service to humanity, ensuring that I provide a voice for the voiceless. I am doing this to secure the right of the downtrodden. The Akinole-Oshiun has been oppressed for over 40 years.
“These residents who are now crying that they have been there for long should blame themselves because anyone buying landed property ought to have conducted thorough investigation at the right ministry to know who the rightful owner is. So, if you fail to do due diligence, the person who sold to you might be fake.
“There is nothing anybody can do about the judgment. Not only that we have got the judgment, the property has been delivered to us by the court. We are to take possession immediately.
“It is we, out of mercy that we granted seven days to the illegal occupants to vacate the plot.”
When asked if there could be any window for negotiation, the lawyer said the family had asked the residents to come forward with whatever documents they had in their possession and pay some money for ratification.