Lagos Land Grabbing Saga: Ubani Accuses Sanwo-Olu’s Officials Of Taking Over Client’s Land

By Benjamin Omoike

Former Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Monday Ubani, has disclosed that the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has ordered an investigation into an issue of land grabbing involving some officials of the State Government.

Recall that Ubani had on Thursday, December 31, raised the alarm about activities of land grabbers attempted forceful take over of a parcel of land situated at No 1 Folurunsho Kuku Street, Off Agbaoku, Opebi, with alleged connivance of some agents working for the State Government.

Ubani had sent a ‘Save-Our-Soul’ message to the State Governor, to intervene and prevent the perpetrators from going ahead to take over the said property.

Giving an update on the issue, Ubani expressed relief that governor Sanwo-Olu had ordered his aides, especially his Commissioners, to unravel those behind the act.

But the former NBA chief also expressed worry that some highly placed officials in the State are working behind the scenes to frustrate efforts to get justice.

See The Full Update Below:

On the 31st of December, 2020 I raised alarm and sought the help of Nigerians to reach His Excellency, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, over an unbridled attempt by the agencies of Lagos State Government to dispossess a private citizen of his land he acquired legitimately and had been in possession for over 20 years with a certificate of occupancy of about 31 years. 

My Nigerian brothers and sisters, especially those of my friends who are close to the governor reached out to him with my pathetic cry for help. Dutifully and as a listening governor, His Excellency immediately ordered many of his aides especially the Commissioners to investigate the story, including the wanton destruction of a place popularly called ‘Monkey Village’, which is close to the land in question.

One of these aides some of who I know personally and have relationship with, have reached out to me and I have supplied some information and promised to give fuller details of the land matter in question upon resumption from my short holiday I took outside the State.

Despite the fact that I have received very vital information from numerous sources of how and who instigated the operation, I decided to keep quiet until I see what the State Government is up to with this land in question. I know how lawless we can be in this part of this world but I also know that there is always a limitation to state of anomie in our country, especially over certain matters that are very clear, unambiguous and straightforward.

However, the various Press Releases and denials by the various Ministries that were clearly implicated and involved in the land grabbing scandal is becoming provoking that I feel compelled to cry out once again as there clear ominous signs in place that there is a larger sinister motive by these State officials over this land grabbing episode which the governor of the State may not be aware of.

As at yesterday, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Environment have denied knowledge of the invasion, destruction and towing of the vehicles from the site to Alausa even when there is evidence that the “Notice to Remove” the vehicles was pasted by the Ministry of Transport and the said vehicles were towed to the Ministry of Transport Premises where the Mechanics who are legitimate tenants on the premises were asked to pay some amount of money before they can secure the release of their vehicles. 

So if Ministry of Transport is claiming not to have knowledge of the invasion, destruction of the site and towing of the vans to Alausa, the question will be what are the towed vehicles doing on their premises in Alausa? Who towed them there?

Today I read the Press Release of the Ministry of Physical Planning owning up to the invasion, destruction of the fences and structures on site and taking over of the property in question. They made several claims among which is that they acted on an approval by the Ministry of Justice of a faceless and nameless petition written to Special Task Force on Land Grabbers in Lagos State.

Secondly, they alleged clearing the site of shanties used for criminal activities and of mechanics who are constituting a nuisance to the neighbourhood. The site in question is completely fenced with a high gate. No one can see the mechanics (tenants) from outside unless, the gate is opened for you. No alleged criminals are harboured in an environment that is completely fenced off and have legitimate tenants that are known to the land owner.

They also allege breach of planning laws. The decent question will be which planning laws was breached? Assuming but not conceding that there is alleged breach, where is the Notice of any breach of the alleged planning laws by the owner of the property from the Ministry of Physical Planning before now? Are they saying that the “Notice to Remove” cars within 48 hours issued by Ministry of Transport has now become the Notice of breach of Planning laws of the State warranting invasion and taking over of a private property by them?

The second critical question will be which petition was written to the Special TaskForce on Land Grabbers and who were the writers of the petition? Could the writers be the same persons who invaded the same land few months ago and were sued with an injunction, and who up till now have refused to respond to the legal suit? Can we be availed of the petition and approval by the Ministry of Justice to take over a private land by the said Special Task Force on Land Grabbers?

Further and better question will be whether someone who has a certificate of occupancy over his land with effective occupation including payment of Land Charges up to date can be termed a Land Grabber of his own property in LAGOS STATE?

As at the evening of the invasion and destruction of the structures including the fences on the property on the 31st of December, 2020, the information at my disposal which I have even confirmed from Special Taskforce on Land Grabbers Unit in the Ministry of Justice is that they are the ones that led the operation to the land as a result of a complaint by the persons who purportedly obtained the Supreme Court judgement. 

The “beneficiaries” of the judgement were said to have alleged that they have executed the said judgement many years ago but that some people have repossessed the land and so they came to enforce the judgemrnt on their behalf.

It is confirmed to me that when the governor demanded explanation about the invasion, he was told by a high ranking officer of the Ministry of Justice that it was an enforcement of judgement that was carried out by the Ministry of Justice on behalf of the beneficiaries. At least the Press Release of Ministry of Physical Planning has further corroborated this fact.

What compounds all these stories and denials that are being spewed here and there is the questionable role of one Engr Omotosho who allegedly led the Government Officials to the site for the operation. Who is Engr Omotosho? Is he in which Ministry presently? Is he in the Ministry of Physical Planning or Ministry of Justice that have owned up being the Ministries that engaged in this illegal invasion and locking up a private property that has a certificate of occupancy given by the same Lagos State Government? He was alleged to be the one that led the operation of 31st December, 2020. Who is him in all this plans to take over this property?

Why these questions are germane is because a lawyer who was representing the family at the police station when the family first invaded the land some months ago sent me a text this evening informing me that the family has terminated the contract of one Engr Abiodun Ariori whom they contracted to help grab the land from my client at that time. The said Engr Ariori whom I sued along with others, according to him is no longer acting for the family.

My conjecture from this information is that they have contracted this Engr Omotosho who perhaps is more “powerful” and more “connected” to be their consultant for the “recovery of the land” . The intimidating and frightening mobilisation of men and materials for the destruction of the site and its environs can only be the work of a very “powerful”, “fearless”, “tough”, “intimidating consultant and contractor” who are part of the people that own and determine what happens and who can own anything in Lagos State!

PLEASE KEEP THESE FACTS IN PERSPECTIVES.

The Land has a certificate of occupancy of over 30 years. The owner of the property has fenced the property round with gate and has been in effective occupation with tenants, tenancy agreement of over 20 years and evidence of payment of Land Use Charge up to date.

Some land grabbers led by one Engr Abiodun Ariori led the invasion of the land some months ago and he is not a member of the family but hired by the family because they know his antecedent in “this business”, and they claimed they have a supreme Court judgement which was delivered over 25 years ago.

They refused to use court bailiffs to enforce the said judgement but illegal mopol and thugs and now Special TaskForce on Land Grabbers after many years of having obtained the said supreme Court judgement.

At the Police station, they tendered warrant of possession that showed an address different from the present land in dispute. They also tendered several survey plans different from the one used in the case at the High Court.

When I sued them at the High Court to come and prove the validity of the supreme Court judgement with regards to the land in question, they declined appearance and defence up till date.

The High at Court Ikeja granted an injunction against them and they were served, yet they refused to respond or file any response till date.

At the police station Engr Ariori boasted to me how powerful he is and how they installed this present government and will use them to take over that land from me. He even implicated himself while talking to me at the Police Station how they killed a popular doctor that stood their way over the opposite land in the estate. I do not know whether he was serious about this claim or he was trying to use that to scare me. I have petitioned Area F over threat to my life after that story.

In one meeting before the police, Mr Ariori even said that my client was dead but was reprimanded by the officer from the IG Monitoring Unit whom they brought from Abuja to come and meddle into the land matter. Those ones withdrew from the matter when they discovered their inconsistencies and moreover the matter was already in court.

Worthy of note is the desperation of this group of people when they invaded the land by bringing surveyors from God knows where to come and start re-surveying the land. It was shocking because this is the land they said they had judgement on. Why re-survey a land you purportedly have judgement on? That to me was the turning point in my belief that these men are just unfortunate land grabbers using raw power to take by force what does not belong them.

Despite the court injunction, they did not stop parading the land regularly and threatening the tenants therein that they should remove their cars as they will start work on the property very soon on the property. I have a video of when they first invaded the land and had started to commence building until I was able to stop them using the police and the law court.

Before this invasion, destruction and locking up of a private property with an inscription on the wall that it is in respect of an unknown judgement, Ministry of Transport pasted a “notice of removal” of vehicles on the site within 48 hours. I raised an alarm and called on the Commissioner of Transport who denied knowledge of the Notice. Their press release still say so, however I have stated it earlier that the vehicles at the site were towed to Ministry of Transport Premises at Alausa with an instruction to the mechanics from the said Ministry officials to collect their vehicles on payment of fees.

11.Special TaskForce Unit in the Ministry of Justice signed a document which was sent to the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State that the Unit was the one involved in the operation of the 31st of December 2020 in enforcement of judgement of the said Supreme court.

The police that I sent to the site on the day in question interviewed the people demolishing structures on the land and taking over possession, and they informed the police that they are from the Enforcement Unit in the Governor’s office. I have the video of the confirmation of where they said they came from.

The Ministry of Physical Planning is now claiming to be the Ministry that carried out the invasion, demolition and towing of the vans that were on the site on the grounds of approval from the Ministry of Justice and breach of an unknown planning laws without any prior notice of such breach to the owner.

Presently Area Boys and thugs have taken over site and some hanging around the site smoking dangerous weeds day and night, keeping vigil on the property with intention to have commenced building on the site the following day after the invasion but for my cry and shout that got the godly attention of His Excellency Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu who i believe will give me a listening ear over this matter that his officials want to use to embarrass him and the Centre of Excellence.

MY PRAYERS:

That His Excellency, the Governor of Lagos State should not allow these desperate land grabbers to start any work on that site as that will mean that “might is right”. Our clients who have been in possession were chased out of the premises and the place taken over with an inscription that this is in respect of a Judgement of a court even though the Ministry of Physical Planning is claiming some other things in addition and to the contrary.

That the matter is presently in court and as a State that respects rule of law, we have a court injunction to which the defendants have not responded to up till now. Possession of a property is 9/10 of the law. No contrary court order has asked our client to be driven out of possession of the property in question. Justice must not only be done but be seen to have been done in this matter.

3.Since the State Government has asked his aides(Commissioners) to investigate this case and report back to him, I request that I should be given an opportunity to present my case in an unbiased atmosphere in order to hear me out concerning what is playing out in this case.

It is a pathetic case that the Lagos State Government should not have been involved in the first place.

LAST LINE:

Those governing us and presiding over state agencies should have this at the back of their minds that power is TRANSIENT AND EHPEMERAL; THAT NOTHING LASTS FOR EVER.

I have absolute faith in the government of His Excellency, Babajide Sanwo-Olu to resolve this matter in favour of JUSTICE, NO MATTER THE PRESSURE/S FROM ANY QUARTER THAT BELIEVE THAT THEY OWN LAGOS AND BY EXTENSION THIS WORLD.

Our client should be restored back to his property after the truth is established that we are in lawful occupation before the unlawful invasion and ejection.

“CONSCIENCE IS AN OPEN WOUND, ONLY TRUTH HEALS IT”.

Mr M.O. Ubani Esq, Legal Practitioner. 4th of January, 2021. ubangwa@gmail.com.

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