The anger of most landlords in Oworonshoki, a densely populated community in Kosofe Local Government Area of Lagos State is growing by the day.
The nagging issue is the allegation that their traditional ruler, Oba Bashiru Oloruntoyin Saliu, is laying claim to plots of land in the community.
Some of the residents who spoke with Sunday Sun said that Oba Saliu stirred the hornets’ nest in November 2018, when they began to hear series of paid radio a allegedly sponsored by the Oba. The residents alleged that the radio announcement issued by the Oba declared him as the owner of most lands in the Oworo community. They alleged that the Oba claimed he got the right to all lands through various court judgments that were ruled in his favour.
And based on that, he declared himself the legal owner of the lands in Oworonshoki, as well as describing all land and property owners in the commune as ‘illegal occupants.’ Following this, he summoned them to come to his palace for renegotiation and repurchase of the property they had previously acquired.
Many of the residents said that they initially did not take the consistent announcements seriously until January 2019, when they began to see broad public notices pasted on all the houses in the community.
The notices, suspected to be from the Oba’s legal team, notified them of the traditional ruler’s ownership to their lands, and again warned them to come for renegotiation of their property. “That was when we now understood that Oba of Oworonshoki wanted to start trouble with us,” Chief Adekunle Adebayo, chairman, Oworo Residents Association, told Sunday Sun.
According to Adebayo, there are about eight indigenous families that owned and sold lands in Oworo community, and most of the residents legally bought their lands from those families.
Adebayo said: “Some of these indigenous families are: Walter Siffre family, Akinpelu family, Williams family, Sokenu family, Cole family, Miyaki family and Ajisegiri family. We bought lands genuinely from them and got the valid documents of the land. And many of us have been living here for over 30, 40 to 50 years ago. Our lands have all valid documents, certificate of occupancy and we pay Land Use Charge to the government. So, it is absurd that the Oba now wants to usurp all the lands to himself, and now calling us to come to him for renegotiation and repurchase of our lands. That would not happen because we resident have no money to give him in the name of ‘repurchasing’ our lands.
“It would never happen. We’ve enjoyed peace in Oworo for so long, so the Oba should avoid stoking chaos or try to destroy the peace we’ve been having. And that is why we’re calling on the government to come into this matter because we’re law abiding citizens, and we want to be left alone in peace,” he said.
Also speaking, the secretary of the association, Alhaja Fasila Adesanya disclosed that they had first petitioned the Kosofe Local Government and that more government authorities would soon be brought into the matter.
His words: “We have first petitioned the chairman of Kosofe LGA, being the host government of our community to come into the matter and warn the Oba. We are presently waiting for the next Lagos State House of Assembly to settle into office after May 29, 2019 before we also pay them a visit with our petitions too.
“Oworo residents don’t want communal clashes or anything that could disrupt our community. Our Oba’s announcement has been continuous. And recently he started issuing threats that he would use law enforcement agents to take over the lands and property of whoever failed to come to him for the repurchase of their lands. We residents have agreed never to part with any dime to him under any guise,” she said.
Stating his own side of the story, Oba Saliu in a chat with Sunday Sun in his palace insisted that his family -the Salami family, is the sole original indigene of Oworo.
The Oloworo of Oworo argued that the other families came to Oworo, grabbed and started selling lands to people, calling themselves ‘Omo-nile’.
“For years the Salami family tussled over the lands at the High Court, then to the Appeal Court, even up to the Supreme Court, and my family won at the three courts, and was adjudged the original settlers of Oworonshoki,” he said.
I’m not interested in taking over anybody’s land. I also want to maintain the peace in my community. That is why I chose to make the announcement on radio. What we simply want is for them to recognize us as the rightful owners of their lands and then come for rectification and collection of our papers.
“It doesn’t bother me that the residents in these lands are writing petitions to governments. I’m not disturbed at all, because I’m sure petition cannot cancel any court ruling,” Oba Saliu said.