By Job Osazuwa
A Lagos-based businessman, Mr. Jude Chizoba, has said that he would do everything legally possible to reclaim his land, which he alleged to have been stolen from him.
The disagreement on the land, which has lingered on for almost 10 years, is between him and an ex-military officer.
Chizoba lamented that the dispute has further sunk a hole into his pockets in a bid to get justice against his alleged oppressor and he has vowed not to relent in his efforts in exploring all the legal options to finish victoriously.
In a chat with Daily Sun, he claimed that it was unfortunate that, despite all his documents, proving him to be the rightful owner of the plots, the other man went ahead to forcefully build on the land. He said that all his evidence was before a tribunal that set up by the Lagos State Government to look into the case.
It was gathered that people are at the moment living in some buildings erected on the controversial land, which the former general confirmed to the reporter that he sold to buyers.
He said: “This is my sweat that we are talking about here. Getting the N18 million in 2011 to purchase the land was not an easy thing for me. At the moment, the three plots are worth about N60 million. I cannot fold my arms and allow anybody to collect my property from me, except I am no longer alive. Even if I am no longer alive, my documents are always there to speak for me.”
Both Chizoba and Gen. C.O. Ugwu (retd.) are laying claim to the land located at Victory Estate, in Okota, Lagos State. But the general said that he had bought the said parcels of land long before Chizoba came into the picture.
However, Chizoba and his lawyer challenged the retired officer to present valid documents proving his true ownership of the land. He claimed that Ugwu had not been able to tender any in all their meetings since the case began.
Chizoba showed the reporter various documents purportedly obtained from the Directorate of Land Bureau, Lagos State Government, after allegedly buying the land on July 28, 2011.
He told Daily Sun that he had obtained all the necessary documents from the state government, including the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) issued by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode since April 3, 2016, with Plan No. 60/60/2016c. He is also challenging Ugwu and his associates in like manner to produce any valid evidence to prove that they are the rightful owners of the land.
However, in his response, Ugwu told the reporter on telephone that he was ready to go to any length to defend what he claimed rightfully belonged to him. He said he bought the land in 2009 while he was still in active service, and would not fold his arms to allow anyone to arm-twist him and collect it from him.
On how he got the land, he said he applied to be part of a Lagos State government scheme called Lagos Building and Investment Company (LBIC) and he was given the allocation, having satisfied all the requirements.
A document made available to Daily Sun, dated July 29, 2011, and signed by the executive secretary of Land Use and Allocation Committee, Hakeem Muri-Okunola, read in part: “We are pleased to inform you that, after due consideration of your application, the executive governor of Lagos State, has approved that the land be allocated to you in accordance with the Land Policy of the Lagos State Government. Location – Okota, size of land – three plots and terms of lease – 99 years.”
“The general went as far placing a caveat emptor on the land, which read: ‘Military Zone: Keep Off’. When I later got the general’s telephone number after some months, he threatened me not go near the plot. He even sent me a text message where he threatened to deal with me if l did not leave the land for him.”
A petition by Chizoba’s lawyer, Ezealor Osu, dated October 29, 2018, noted that: “Our client, being civil about this, has reported the matter to the Commissioner for Ministry of Physical Planning, chairman, Lagos State Special Task Force on Land Grabbers, Office of the Attorney-General, Lagos State Ministry of Justice and State CID, Panti, who are investigating the matter. The Army, especially the officers’ cadre, have been known and respected for their discipline, comportment and obedience to the rule of law.”
Meanwhile, investigation revealed that the woman who bought the land from Ugwu has built and moved into the house, while Chizoba watched helplessly.
While interacting with the reporter in 2018, the general said: “What is the problem with this man? He has taken me to the Office of Land Grabbers, taken me to Panti Police Station. Whether you publish anything or not, it doesn’t concern me, as far as I have papers for my six plots.
“He is claiming that the state government gave him three plots out of my six plots, but government doesn’t have any land in that place. Government can never give someone three plots at a go in a residential place.
“I have even sold part of the land and the buyer has almost completed her building on it. I can follow him to anywhere to defend the land.
“Why should I threaten to kill him? That is a lie. The first time I saw him was when he took me to the Special Task Force Office on Land Grabbing. Before then, I went to the land on a particular day and asked him to, please, come for us to discuss, but he refused and said I would kill him. I have been seeing him since, have l killed him?”
Chizoba, however, countered the former officer and insisted that he had evidence to prove in court that the land rightfully belonged to him.
He asked the court not to further prolong giving judgement on the land. He said it was also sad that the general went ahead to develop a land that was subject to litigation, with suit No/2116LM/18 between Mr. Jude Chizoba and Retd. Gen. Christian Ugwu and persons unknown.
When the reporter called the ex-general to get his side of the latest development pertaining the land, there was no response from him. Text message and WhatsApp message sent to his phone number were not replied, though it showed they were delivered.