Land grabbers still destroy Ajasa Command properties, despite intervention of court and Police

Land grabbers still destroy Ajasa Command properties, despite intervention of court and Police

Tuesday, May 28, 2024 5:39 pm

Ajasa Command properties

Ajasa Command properties

Despite the interventions of a Lagos High Court, a pending litigation at the Supreme Court, and the State Commissioner of Police, a land grabber, Mutairu Owoeye has begun destruction of properties of the 20,000 strong Ajasa-Command community in Lagos State, escalating tension that could breach the peace of the area.

Owoeye and his thugs in the wee hours of Wednesday morning during the heavy rains started removing the roofs of houses of innocent citizens while still asleep. While it lasted,more than 20 roofs went down.

To forestall this ugly situation, the residents had over one month ago sent a strong ‘save our souls’ petition to the State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, asking him to save them from daily harassment and bullying by the land grabbers. A similar petition was also sent to the Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasanjo, but no action had been taken by the government.

Trouble started on February 16, 2024, when the residents of Ifelagba and Aniya Community Development Areas woke up to the invasion of one Chief Mutairu Owoeye, a notorious land grabber from Ogun State, leading over 200 thugs to invade the the community on the pretext of executing the judgment of a Lagos High Court over a land tussle between Oba Subaru Odualabe, and Kehinde Ologunebi families over an expanse of land measuring 11.370 hectares and delineated in survey plan no: AGB 247A and lying at Igbo Esinsin.

The litigation started with suit no ID/937/2006 before Justice Atinuke Ipaye of the Ikeja Judicial Division who delivered her judgment on September 29, 2011 in favour of the Ologunebi family. The matter thereafter proceeded to the Court of Appeal, Lagos in 2012 before Justices Amina Augie, Abimbola Obaseki-Adejumo, and Tijjani Abubakar. In a unanimous decision, and in the lead judgment read by Justice Obaseki-Adejumo, the appellate court affirmed the decision of the lower court. Not satisfied with the Court of Appeal decision, Oba Odualabe proceeded to the Supreme Court where Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun in December 2022 struck the case out due to withdrawal and incompetence.

Meanwhile on December 8, 2023, Oba Odualabe filed another application seeking leave to relist the appeal before the Supreme Court. But prior to this, the plaintiff had filed an ex parte application before Justice Ipaye seeking to take possession of the land in question. In granting the application, Justice Ipaye said: “It is trite that every court of law has the inherent and bounden duty to ensure that a litigant enjoys the juicy fruit of success in the legal contest. This court having also extracted an undertaking from the judgment creditor to the effect that execution of the judgment shall not be used as an occasion to unleash violence and mayhem in the holders of third-party interests created over the subject property in the course of litigation”. Based on this extraction of undertaking signed by Alhaji Suraju Ologunebi, Justice Ipaye granted the application for possession on November 15,2023. Alhaji Suraju Ologunebi swore to an oath not to execute judgment with violence on December 12,2023. However, despite the pendency of the appeal before the Supreme Court, it also granted a consequential order granting possession to the judgment creditor to take over the land on December 15, 2023. The lower court further granted the order of execution on January 24, 2024.

Meanwhile, the residents became aware of the litigation only in 2015 just after judgment was delivered at the Court of Appeal and immediately instructed its lawyer, Mr Jiti Ogunye to establish contact with Mr Idowu Kokumo, the Ologunebi family lawyer. Correspondences were exchanged between the two lawyers between 2015 and 2020 to the effect that the residents will be willing to negotiate with the judgment creditor, without prejudice to the outcome of the matter before the Apex Court.

It was therefore baffled communities that woke up to see over 200 thugs led by Chief Owoeye that invaded their communities, contrary to the ban on activities of land grabbers by Lagos State Government. They accompanied court bailiffs who marked the possessed properties. There were also 40 policemen and 20 soldiers with a Military Police pick up van. The army vehicle was later traced to the Nigerian Army Dog Center, Ipaja, where it was parked.

Since then, the Owoeye thugs have remained in the communities, destroying properties, locking people’s homes, and extorting residents. They lock gates preventing residents from either going out or coming in. The residents, pushed to the wall, are getting more and more restive by the day. It got to a head that Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Fayoade Adegoke Mustapha on Tuesday March 12, 2024 held a meeting at his office with all the parties involved in the case. In attendance at the meeting were Alhaji Suraju Ologunebi, the judgment creditor, representatives of the Odualabe Royal family, and Elders of the Ifelagba CDA. The police boss admonished all parties to prevent a breakdown of law and order within the community. He told Alhaji Ologunebi to respect the undertaking he made in court and that he should not expect the residents to negotiate with him under duress, while also admonishing the residents to quickly facilitate negotiations with the judgment creditor.

Mr Fayoade’s advice seems to have fallen on deaf ears as continue to be on the prowl. At no 6, Morakinyo Street, the thugs broke down the gate to the premises of a property that contained six lock up shops and within a week, built a bungalow on the property. On the same street, they locked the gate of a house, leaving only the pedestrian passage. The residents could not use their vehicles for three weeks running. The gate is still locked. Pa Kehinde Awokoya in his mid 70s is a blind retired civil servant. His only home at No 9, Captain Kola street was completely locked. The thugs extorted N50,000 from him before he could gain access into the small bungalow he built at the time of his youth. “I have nowhere to go”, he told the thugs, tears streaming off his face. Alhaji Ola Badmus is a respected community leader whose business is block making. The thugs have turned his premises, which also serves as his home, to their base, disrupting his business and family life. Religious centers are not left out. A Methodist Church on Arepo Street has been under lock and key since the invasion, every plea by members to be allowed to hold even Sunday services was rebuffed.

Meanwhile negotiations has commenced between the two lawyers but it seems the Ologunebi family has lost control of the land warrior they brought. On May 21, there was a meeting between the two lawyers and the residents negotiating what to pay. While the meeting was ongoing, Owoeye was busy destroying people’s homes. He insisted that residents must pay him N570,000 and obtained a form called ‘job card’. He has marked several houses in the community as belonging to him rather than the Ologunebi family that gave him the job. He claimed that the properties were his reward for the job he’s doing for the Ologunebi family.

When contacted, Kokumo expressed surprise at Owoeye’s action, saying that he had instructed that he stop destroying peoples houses. “I am not the one who employed him. It is Chief Ologunebi. I am only a lawyer and he has refused to listen to my instructions”, Kokumo said.

Meanwhile, the case between the two parties has been relisted at the Supreme Court, which acts as a stay of execution of all actions on the matter pending final adjudication by the Apex Court.

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