A major battle appears to be looming over an extensive parcel of land measuring about 400 acres in Igbo-llogbo community, Ayobo, in Ayobo-Ipaja Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of Lagos State.
The tussle is between some children of the late business mogul and presumed winner of the annulled June 12, 1993, election, Bashorun MKO Abiola, and residents of the community.
The residents claim to have properly acquired the land from Radio Communications Nigeria (RCN) Limited, a company owned by the late MKO Abiola.
The aggrieved occupants have argued that the property does not form part of the late Abiola’s estate, and that it belongs to RCN, which is a legal entity.
But Abiola’s children have said that the occupants bought the land from the wrong persons who might have capitalised on the late businessman’s death to claim his properties.
When the reporter contacted the lawyer representing Abiola’s children, Olufemi Falana of Olufemi I. Falana and Co, he regretted that the residents were not showing any sign of remorse but were busy spreading wrong information to the public. He said it was unfortunate that some persons heartlessly went behind the Abiola family to swoop on the land. He said such persons started selling the land with total disregard to whatever consequences might arise thereafter.
While the occupants are crying out to the authorities, especially the police, to rescue them from their alleged attackers, Abiola’s children have vowed not to fold their arms and watch outsiders claim the family’s property.
It was gathered that residents of the area woke up on Thursday, March 14, 2019, to see hoodlums, numbering over a 100, who allegedly stormed the area in commando fashion, brandishing weapons to harass the residents. Some residents told Daily Sun that a thick pall of anxiety enveloped the entire community while the siege lasted.
Over a thousand houses and three thousand households are said to be directly and indirectly affected by the controversy.
According to the residents, there have been pockets of threats and rumours flying around the community that some persons were about to forcefully take possession of the area. But not too many people considered such rumours with seriousness.
“When the thugs came that Thursday, it was like war. Virtually all of them were fierce-looking and probably high on some dangerous substances. There were also policemen around. All our efforts to calm them down were rebuffed. The hoodlums went ahead to lock our houses, shops, schools and molested anyone who tried to stand on their way,” one of the landlords, Mr. Debo Adebisi Ogunde, said.
But while countering such claims, Falana said none of Abiola’s children, considering their father’s legacy, would do anything outside the law to inflict unnecessary hardship on any Nigerian. According to him, the family got a court judgment and was given warrant for possession by the deputy sheriff of the High Court of Ikeja, Lagos State. He said the family peacefully went to the area with some policemen to enforce the possession.
Falana said those behind the “illegal occupants” were hell-bent on dragging the Abiola name in the mud in order to gain public sympathy. He insisted that whatever action the late businessman’s children have taken so far was in accordance with the rule of law.
On the day of the said siege, it was alleged that students of Briggs Gate Comprehensive College, on Alaja Road, were locked in the premises, which caused apprehension that lasted over an hour. It was also alleged that the management of the school had to give the hooligans some amount of money before they eventually unlocked the padlocks and set the students free.
A landlord in the area and chairman of Springfield Peace Estate, Mr. Ufomadu Cosmas, said he had enjoyed absolute peace in the last 12 years since he moved in. But he lamented that many people were now relocating from the community for fear of possible attack by the hoodlums.
“I acquired the land duly from RCN, and nobody has come all this while to challenge us. And that is why we were very surprised at what is happening now.
“Some of us heard of the proposed plans to invade our area on Wednesday night. Amid the confusion, we quickly summoned an emergency meeting, where we discussed how to handle the intruders. Before that night, there was no court injunction or any notice telling us to vacate the community. But as law-abiding citizens, we didn’t confront the hoodlums all in order to prevent a total breakdown of law and order.
“From that day till now, the hoodlums are still in our community, ransacking everywhere and harassing people who are lawfully going about their legitimate business. Wherever they sight people building on their land, they will run there and seize their tools and demand money.
“We hereby solicit Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s and the police’s intervention to forestall loss of life and property,” Cosmas said.
But Falana said there was no iota of truth in the claims by Cosmas. He said it was not true that the Abiola children suddenly woke up and began to claim the land. He said that the recent court judgment was simply a revalidation of the two previous judgments of November 11, 1998, and April 14, 2000, against the people who had overrun the said land.
On the connection between RCN, Abiola and the contentious plots, the lawyer said that before Abiola died on July 7, 1998, there were only two directors of RCN, that is, Abiola and his late wife, Simbiat.
“MKO had 99 per cent of the shares of RCN, while Simbiat had just 1 per cent. At the time MKO died, there was no director of RCN, up till date.
“Nonetheless, at that time, when judgment was given on November 11, 1998, on the same land, some people that the judgment went against in respect of the 400 acres of land went on an appeal. On April 14, 2000, another judgment was given in such that the first, second and third appellants were declared as tenants of RCN. And if you have to get them out, you have to go through the statutory notices, not by way of declaration in that manner because they are not seen as encroachers but licensees through RCN. But judgment was declared in respect of 400 acres against one Afariogun, the first appellant, who was claiming adverse ownership of the land.
“More importantly, MKO died leaving a will. He appointed an executor from England. Having died, is it not the executor that was supposed to do everything MKO was doing? Unfortunately, the executor was not carried along while a certain agent outside the family started selling MKO’s land,” he said.
But the residents, through their lawyer, countered Falana’s narrative. In a letter to the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Lagos State, the residents maintained that RCN was the rightful owner of the vast area of land with plan number R144, dated March 25, 1977, with Deed of Conveyance dated March 28, 1977, and registered as No. 24, Page 24, in Volume 1620, at the Land Registry Office in Lagos.
While drawing the attention of the Lagos State Task Force on Land Grabbers to their plight, the occupants said the judgment that Lekan Abiola and some of his siblings obtained against one Alhaji Aliu Afariogun was only on an acre of land.
“Our clients informed us that, rather than limiting the execution of the judgment against Afariogun to the one acre of land on which he allegedly trespassed, the court officials, in company with these hoodlums, began to mark the entire properties with inscription ‘possession taken today pursuant to order of court in suit No. ID/155/88.’
“It is pertinent to inform you that the purported judgment was obtained by fraud and impersonation in that RCN, who is our clients’ vendor, did not and has never instructed any person whether Lekan or Jamiu Abiola or any solicitor for that matter to apply to the court for the validation and enforcement of the judgment obtained by RCN against Afariogun.
“What is more, Lekan and Jamiu are not in the management of RCN and, therefore, have no capacity to enforce any judgment on behalf of the company.”
The letter added that the management of RCN, through its solicitors, has set aside the execution and further execution of the said judgment, and filed a motion of notice at the Ikeja High Court.
The residents have, therefore, called on the relevant security agencies to wade into the matter and dislodge the hoodlums from constituting more nuisance in the community. They complained that they now live in perpetual fear.
A landlady in the area, Alhaja Muslimat Anibire, lamented that the invasion has caused members of the community, especially schoolchildren, unimaginable trauma and incalculable losses.
One of the leaders of Progressive Unity in the community, Prince Ganiyu Olayiwola Dosunmu, said he was still in shock over the invasion of the community and revealed that some houses have been padlocked by their tormentors.
“Some of Abiola’s children are digging up a case won by their father in 1988 against one Afariogun. That case has nothing to do with us. We don’t even know who the Afariogun is,” he said.
Dosunmu said Mr. Kola Abiola was strongly behind the residents and has recognised RCN as the true owner of the property, and not Abiola.
Reacting to Kola’s stance on the matter, Falana said the eldest son of the patriarch could not have connived with strangers to cede his father’s property without the consent of his siblings.
He said some of the land-grabbers were claiming that Kola was a director at RCN, therefore, hiding under the guise of Kola’s purported support to sell the land,
“Kola has not come out to admit that he is behind those selling the land. His siblings believe that he couldn’t have done that because he is a responsible man. Kola is not a director at RCN as the land-grabbers are claiming,” Falana said.
He said it was an act of wickedness for the residents and those who sold the land to them to be justifying such an act of illegality. He vowed that the Abiolas were ready to pursue the case to a logical conclusion at the appropriate courts.
Some residents have appealed to the authorities to wade into the matter before it degenerates into a major crisis.