Ajasa Estate Residents Send SOS to Governor Sanwo-Olu

Ajasa Estate Residents Send SOS to Governor Sanwo-Olu

One month after land grabbers invaded and laid siege on a Lagos Community at Ajasa-Command Area of the State, the 20,000 strong residents have 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.

On February 16, 2024, the residents of Ifelagba and Aniya Community Development Areas woke up to the invasion of notorious land grabbers from Ogun State with over 200 thugs, to invade the community on the pretext of executing the judgement 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. Owoeye is well known and feared in Ogun State, particularly at Atan-Ota, where he has his base. 

The litigation started with suit no ID/937/2006 before Justice Atinuke Ipaye of the Ikeja Judicial Division who delivered her judgement 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 judgement 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 judgement creditor, to the effect that execution of the judgement shall not be used as an occasion to unleash violence and mayhem on 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 judgement with violence on December 12, 2024. However, despite the pendency of the appeal before the Supreme Court, it also granted a consequential order granting possession to the judgement 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 judgement was delivered at the Court of Appeal and immediately instructed their 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 judgement 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 judgement 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 judgement creditor. 

Mr Ogunye has written to Mr Kokumo that the residents are ready to negotiate, but that such negotiations could only be done in an atmosphere of peace, and not under duress and chaos that has been unleashed on his clients.  

In his letter to the Governor, Ogunye urged Governor Sanwo-Olu to come to the rescue of residents as law abiding citizens of Lagos State. “That the entire Community has been thrown into a state of permanent pandemonium, and the landlords and residents are left at the mercy of the invaders, with no intervention of a governmental authority to arrest the breach of the peace and restore breakdown of law and order. Your Excellency, these are law-abiding citizens of Nigeria, and residents of Lagos State are daily being subjected to a horrendous maltreatment by their land-grabbing traducers. Our clients bought their respective landed property and developed same legally and legitimately, without any knowledge of any encumbrances or interest of any adverse claimants. In the acquisition of their respective landed property and development of same, our clients paid duties, fees and taxes to the Lagos State Government, for stamping of their title documents, for obtaining their certificates of occupancies, for physical planning and building developments permits, and are also paying tenement rates and ground rents, thereby making their modest contributions to the revenues generation of Lagos State. It is our considered submission that, in the circumstances, they deserve due protection of the law when their constitutional rights to own a property without forcible acquisition, is being flagrantly violated”, he stated.

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