Houses worth millions of naira were destroyed recently at Valley View Estate, Aboru, Lagos, as parties relied on judgements obtained at different courts and at different times to claim ownership of the land.
Investigations by the reporter showed that, many years ago, two families were engaged in a tussle for a parcel of land, with one securing three Supreme Court judgements in its favour. Later, the Federal Government acquired the land under the Compulsory Land Acquisition Policy for overwhelming public purpose. However, the litigant that allegedly lost to the other contending family sued the Federal Government and won.
The two contending parties now are a surveyor, Mr. Benjamin Akinsanya, and a lawyer, Mr. Yinka Campbell. Akinsanya claimed that the Olugoke Iroko Ilariopa family, whose ownership of the land was confirmed in three Supreme Court judgements, gave him the land in lieu of his professional fees. But the lawyer, Campbell, claimed that there were several court judgments in favour of his own clients, whose names he gave as Chief Salawu Bamgbopa, Rasaki Akinde, Nojimu Alade Akinola, Akeem Akinola, Akanni Sanni, and others.
Akinsanya insisted that the judgement Campbell holds against the Federal Government has been set aside in the Appeal Court.
“He needs to hold on before taking any step,” he said. “We are not a party to the case, because we have Supreme Court judgements against his landlord and my clients have been negotiating with the Federal Government.”
In a petition written by Akinsanya to the General Officer Commanding, 81 Division, Nigerian Army headquarters, dated October 29, 2019, after demolition of several structures on the land, he stated that his landlord’s ownership of the land had been confirmed in suit No. 22 of 1917, Iroko Ilari-Opa v Jacob Kehinde; suit No. 43 of 1925, Iroko Ilari-Opa v Alimi Oke and suit No. 363 of 1929, Ogundare v Abass Shelle, all of the Supreme Court.
The surveyor said he has been exercising acts of ownership like selling part of the land to buyers but could no longer do so because trespassers always demolished structures of people who bought land from him. According to him, he went to court in suit No. ID/997/12 with Campbell and others, and the matter is still pending. He showed the reporter copies of several petitions written to the police authorities regarding the matter. Akinsanya said, before the latest demolition, under the protection of some soldiers, two of the guards at the property, Messrs Wasiu Akeem and Tunde Awakan, were beaten and whisked away and later hospitalised.
While responding to the allegations, the lawyer, Campbell stated that the Community Development Association (CDA) and other genuine landlords who are his client’s buyers would corroborate his claims of ownership. Some of the court judgements, according to him, include suit No. FHC/L/CS/629/98; FHC/L/CS/261/2010; ID/1304/LMW/17. Campbell stated that the only court document that Akinsanya was relying on was a High Court’s interlocutory ruling, which was appealed by his client.
Campbell also said that the structures demolished were those of land-grabbers who forcefully entered the land. He, however, denied responsibility for the demolition but said that those who carried it out acted with his full backing because his firm had been granted possession of the land. He stated that those that called themselves the landlords were land-grabbers, sponsoring hoodlums to demolish his client’s buildings on the land. He alleged that the documents, an agreement between Mr. Akinsanya and the family that allegedly gave him (Akinsanya) 124 acres of the Aboru land in 2002, did not cover any land in Aboru: “Rather, the said family described themselves to be of Igoke Township, Oke-Odo, Lagos State, not Aboru.”
Campbell said that the people accusing him of using force actually used more force to build on the land.
“When their structures are demolished, hell seems to break loose without reference to the damage started by them or the right of the person in peaceful possession to remove intruders pursuant to s199, (1), (a&b) Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011,” he said.
Meanwhile, the victims told the reporter that the present imbroglio started on Wednesday, April 29, at about 10.30am during the COVID-19 lockdown. They alleged that about nine men, accompanied by Air Force men attached to OP Mesa, stormed Valley View Estate, Aboru, and started demolishing completed and uncompleted houses and were subsequently arrested.
A lawyer, Mr. Adekunle Williams whose house was demolished, said he had completed his building and was waiting to move in after the COVID-19 lockdown. “They sent thugs assisted by Air Force men to demolish my completed bungalow,” he alleged. “The perpetrators also took away building materials worth N9 million, including doors, tiles, windows etc.”
Also, Mr. Babajide Ogundeji, whose house was affected, said he bought the land in May 2019 and started building in September the same year.
“There was no challenge from anyone or party contesting the ownership of the land,” he said. “There were no court papers or invitation from the man, his wife and their team proving ownership of the land. So, I was shocked to see them send thugs and OP Mesa Air Force personnel to demolish part of my building where I have invested several millions of naira.”
The victims want the authorities to intervene in the matter to ensure justice and peaceful resolution. They demanded that the perpetrators should produce valid court order stating clearly the rightful owner of the land with regards to original survey used to obtain judgment. They also demanded that they should also show a Notice of Possession Taken Order and Notice of Demolition Order from a competent court of law.
Ogundeji who spoke on behalf of others, said they were not land grabbers, noting that they purchased the land from the Olugoke Ilari Opa family through a surveyor, Benjamin Akinsanya.