On Wednesday, 5th January 2022, the parties to the Magodo residential estate dispute reached an agreement over the presence of the police personnel that have been laying siege to the estate.
The parties, including the Lagos State government, aggrieved Shangisha Landlords Association, and the Magodo Residents Association, agreed that the over 50 police personnel that have been laying siege to the estate should vacate.
The agreement was reached at an extraordinary meeting summoned by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to find an amicable solution to the over three-decade dispute that went up to the Supreme.
In December 2021, Hundreds of Magodo residents were stranded as they were locked out of their estate by policemen who escorted landowners to enforce a Supreme Court’s judgment after 38 years of dispute.
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The stern-looking policemen at the time took over the area in Magodo to execute a Supreme Court judgment which had mandated the Lagos State Government to give back 549 plots of land it had fraudulently acquired over 38 years to them.
Over the days after the police was deployed, the news media; both conventional and social media has been agog with “supposed invasion and excesses of the Federal Government controlled Nigerian Police”.
At the stakeholders meeting, held at Banquet Hall of the Government House, Alausa, Ikeja, the Lagos State government resolved to begin the search for 549 plots of land to be given to the aggrieved Shangisha Landlords, who have been using police from Abuja to attempt enforcing a Supreme ruling in their favour since 2012.
Given the narration of this case given by The Chairman of Shangisha Landlord Association, Alhaji Adebayo Onayiga, and published by Franktalknow.com in December 2021, the promises of the Lagos State Government sounds a hallow as hallow can be.
Alhaji Adebayo Onayiga, who is the creditor in the Magodo Estate Debacle provided insight into the 38 years journey of the legal battle to reclaim the land thus:
1984-1986. Sometime between 1984 through 1986, the government of Lagos State of Nigeria forcefully took the parcels of land belonging to us, members of the landlord Association of Shangisha /Magodo occupied by us, under disguise with claims that will be used for the construction of an international standard hospital. We the landlords were forcefully evicted from the land in dispute.
The government went ahead to pull down all our houses and took the entire area which was not what they had asked for in the first place. After pulling down our houses, we were embarrassed to find out that the Lagos state government involved had converted the land for their personal interest, allotting the said land in plots to their friends and cronies, and some of the high and mighty people in the society including some judges in the Lagos judiciary and members of the former state executives.
The Association (Judgment Creditors) unanimously elected Chief Adebayo Adeyiga as their chairman and six other members to represent the association in the recovery of their land from the Lagos State government. We approached the Lagos State government, armed with facts of the fraudulent allotment, and it was resolved between us that members of the Association would be given plots of land from the then-new scheme known as Magodo scheme 2.
1988-1998. It was when they failed to do so, that we were forced to sue the Lagos State government through the executive officers sometimes in June 1988 in suits ID/795/88 Chief Adebayo Adeyiga and six (6) others versus military governor of Lagos State and four(4) others in Lagos State high court, Ikeja.
The association’s application for an order to sue and prosecute the case in a representative capacity was brought before Honorable Justice W. A. Oshodi, and it was granted on 21st of November 21, 1988.
While the case was going on, the Lagos State government refused or neglected to obey the court order to maintain the status quo, rather they and their cronies intensified construction activities. This forced us to apply for an interlocutory injunction which was granted by the late Justice A. L. Balogun on October 19, 1992.
By this ruling of the courts, it was expected that the Lagos State government and the Association would respect the court of the land and refrain from allotting or further development on the land, pending the determination of the substantive suit, but they refused.
On May 17, 1993, while the case was still pending in court, the then civilian governor of Lagos State, the late Sir Michael Otedola gave the executive order for the release of our land to us, which was not also complied with by the state government officials.
On December 31, 1993, the trial court gave judgment in favor of Shangisha Landlord Association as represented by the Chief Adebayo Adeyiga and six)6) others with a mandatory injunction order on the judgment debtor (Lagos State government) to allocate 549 plots on the land in dispute as to the first choice preference to the association.
On March 16, 1994, while the appeal against the said judgment was pending, the judgment debtor applied for a stay of execution which was granted by the late Justice Rosaline Omotosho, who ordered both parties to maintain the status quo.
On May 4, 1994, the same judgment debtors in an attempt to eliminate members of the judgment creditors, sent members of the government task force with thugs after the chairman of the association Chief Adeyiga, who was beaten with his wife, wounded, and thrown down from his one-story building. This act cost him permanent disability on his body and complete damage to his eyes, this same act of lawlessness was also carried out on other members of the Association using the same task force, thugs, and security personnel.
1999-2012. In 1999, the late Honorable Justice Akinola Aguda tribunal on the allocation of land and Lagos state also gave an order against developers of all the lands in dispute and Shangisha/Magodo and Ikosi GRA to suspend work pending the determination of the suit ID 795/88 in the Court of Appeal but they did not obey the order.
Despite the caveat put on the land by the late Honorable Akinola Aguda, the Lagos state government and illegal allottees refused to obey the order of the late jurist. The Lagos state government and its land officials and Justice department, because of the reprimand given by the late jurist to some Judges.
Ministries of Justice and Land officials colluded and refused to release the recommendation and the report of the Late Justice Akinola Aguda panel until today.
On September 25, 2001, the Court of Appeal gave judgment against Lagos state and reaffirmed the judgment of the lower court. In order to preserve the rest of the land our counsel, the late Mr. Kehinde Sofola SAN wrote a letter dated July 29, 2002, to the then Attorney General of Lagos State, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN to preserve the 549 plots with him pending the determination of the case and sent a copy to the Supreme court. The Lagos state government dissatisfied with the same appealed to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, which finally affirmed the judgment of the lower courts on February 10, 2012.
2012-2021. After the Supreme Court had dropped its hammer by confirming the judgment of the lower courts, we exhausted all options known in law to have our land even by auditing all the remaining vacant land in Magodo Ikosi GRA but all to no avail. We, therefore, applied as of right for writ of possession to harvest the fruit of our judgment.
Our lead counsel Mr. Kayode Sofola SAN wrote the former Chief Justice of Lagos State, the Honorable Justice Ayotunde Phillips on the need to sign the writ of possession to enable us to execute the judgment but she refused. We had no choice but to petition the former Chief Justice of Nigeria and chairman of the National Judicial Council, Chief Justice Honorable Mariam Aloma Mukhta who queried Justice Phillips concerning the matter. Surprisingly, Honorable Justice Ayotunde Phillips refused to answer the query until she retired in 2014.
A reminder of our petition is again forwarded to the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, The Honorable Justice Mohammed Mahmoud, and the NJC culminating in the issuing of another letter of request to Chief Justice of Lagos State, the Honorable Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade to know what step she had taken on the matter.
On November 11, 2016, we wrote a petition against Honorable Olufunmilayo Atilade on her failure to discharge her responsibility in the enforcement of the judgment of the Supreme Court for refusing to sign our writ of possession file before her in November 2015.
Based on all the above facts, we humbly stated that we have by all means done and exhausted what is expected of law-abiding citizens of the nation by following due process in this matter but the government of Lagos state has not deemed it necessary to obey court orders.
On March 1, 2016, the Supreme Court sitting on the matter again voiced its displeasure over the failure of the Lagos state government and the Chief Justice of Lagos state to execute its judgment. The Lagos State Attorney General Mr. Adeniji Kassim was specifically warned of the dangers of refusing to carry out the order of the Supreme Court.
Finally, the NJC which is the highest judicial body in the country ordered the Chief Justice of Lagos State, the Honorable justice Olufunmilayo Atilade to sign for the writ of possession for the recovery of 549 plots of land in the Magodo scheme II area within a specified period and with which she complied with accordingly. The writ of possession was signed on March 16, 2017. The process of execution of the writ had been completed by the Court Sheriff as shown in the correspondence between the Deputy Sheriff and the Police (AIG Zone 2 office) on the request for police assistance.
Thereafter the writ was assigned by the Deputy Sheriff to the Sheriffs for execution.
The police (AIG Zone 2 command) and the sheriffs held a meeting on the way the execution will be carried out to ensure smooth, or orderliness, and peaceful operation. A date was fixed by all parties involved by the AIG zone command for the commencement of the operation. We were shocked when informed that writ had been withdrawn by one Mr. Ojo of the execution Department on the instructions of the Honorable Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade. We were also informed that the Lagos state attorney general Mr. Adeniji Kassim held a meeting with the police (AIG Zone 2 command) asking the police not to accompany the Sheriff to the site of execution.
We wrote the Chief Justice of Lagos state on the matter informing her of the plan by the judgment Debtors/Lagos state government to scuttle the execution by setting aside the writ through sponsored groups who are not parties to the case but planning to file the application in court to set aside the writ. We received no reply from the Chief Justice on this matter.
The Association, therefore, had no option but to write a petition to the NJC on this matter and the role played by the duel of the Honorable Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade and the Lagos state attorney general, Mr. Adeniji Kassim in frustrating the process of execution of the writ. Our fears were later confirmed when a ruling to set aside the execution of the writ was given by Honorable Justice R. Adebiyi even though the association was not served with any process on the case.
On the day of ruling our counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN raised an objection on non-service of the motion on the Association and he asked the court to stay the ruling, but the proceedings judge Honorable Justice Raliatu Adebiyi went ahead to deliver her ruling.
The Association forwarded another petition to the NJC against Justice Raliatu Adebiyi for setting aside the writ of possession which was signed by the retired Honorable justice Olufunmilayo Atilade on the directive of the NJC and which had been assigned by the Sheriff for execution. In our petition to NJC, we appealed for its intervention on the matter and inform the council of an attempt to deny our members from harvesting the fruit of our judgment.
From the narrative of our tortuous journey for over 37 years on our properties, Nigerians can now see how the people who are supposed to keep our properties in trust for us have misused and looted. Nigerians can also see how the people who are supposed to keep our laws in a working state have turned the world upside down. The Supreme court is the final court of the land and when it speaks no other authority can speak against it, it is a crime and criminal to do so.
As we once said, we need people like the Attorney General of the Federation of Nigeria Abubakar Malami who is indeed alive with his responsibility. We also thank the President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari for putting a round peg in a round hole in the person of Alhaji Abubakar Malami (SAN).
Finally, an adage says the will of justice grinds slowly, and it is not easy to catch up with when the pendulum falls. Mr. Adesegun Ogunlewe and Mr. Gbenga Bariu Ashafa pustule and boast that the landlords will reap the fruits of their judgment in their graves. We can now see that Ogunlewe and Ashafa are not God. It is only their wishful thinking. God is more powerful than human beings.
The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, at the stakeholders meeting agreed to the narrative stated above. Speaking to the press after the meeting he said the following;
“We have met with the various stakeholders that were involved in the Magodo land dispute, including officers and cabinet members of Lagos State government, officers and men from the office of inspector-general of police in Abuja and the Abuja FCT Police Command representing that office, Baba Adeyiga, and his lawyer and his son, we have a board member from Magodo Residents Association, the chairman of Magodo Residents Association and some others.“We have their counsels representing the stakeholders, the various families. We have listened extensively to all parties and stakeholders. I am happy to inform gentlemen of the press that the issues had been well laid out, we are not in any disagreement or misconception around the fact that there is a Supreme Court judgment or a judgment that says that the Lagos State government should give 549 plots to the Shangisha Landlord Association and all of that had been taken into context. It has been resolved that the committee that the state government had set up before now should get to work immediately, meaning from Friday they will be working with the stakeholders, identifying available plots of land around Shangisha areas. The drone will be flown, surveys will be made and available plots will be identified. In the event that available plots are identified, allocations will be made timely and additional plots if we don’t have the right numbers there will also be identified at mutually agreeable locations with the other stakeholders.
“The government will also review the list of all the allottees, 549 of them and we will ensure that the injustice that the Shangisha Landlord Association had for 38 years, will offer restitution and give them the deserved plots.
“We also agreed that there should be the de-escalation of police movement in Magodo because we have all agreed that we can resolve this issue on the table among ourselves and the process has started and so there is no need for men of the police to come from either Abuja or wherever into Magodo again and that the peace that Magodo is known for is assured,” Sanwo-Olu said.
The Chairman Shangisha Landlords Association Adebayo Adeyiga, said though the meeting was cordial it was the beginning of a long process for the resolution of the dispute. He was not overly optimistic, and rightfully so.
“From what has happened from the last administration, I am a little bit optimistic, not overly optimistic because I know the civil servants, when we come here now we see lots of people who did not go to court coming here and they want to hide under our judgment to get something from the government. For 38 years, they did not go to court; they did not file any case anywhere in the court.
‘’Let see what the government is going to do. I have asked my lawyer to give the governor my demands. The demand is that the remaining land there be given to the Shangisha Landlord Association, the rest, they will pay on ratification, Adeyiga said.
Nnamdi Maduakor is a Writer, Investor and Entrepreneur