5th March, 2013
In what appears to be a bad birthday present to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a family in Badagry whose land the ex-president is said to have snatched, has cried out to Nigerians for help.
The former President is celebrating his 76th birthday Tuesday in Abeokuta, capital of Ogun State, but in Badagry area of Lagos, the family of the late ruler of Kweme Land, Oba Afolabi Ogungbe James, is having sleepless nights over their land which has allegedly been taken away.
The seven-acre of land, the family alleges, has been taken over by the Bells University of Technology in Ota, Ogun State, an institution founded and owned by Obasanjo.
The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, had many times called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to take the multi-billion naira institution from the former president, saying that it was built with stolen money.
The latest scandal and the acquisition of more lands by the former president, is likely to anger many anti-corruption crusaders in the country.
The property, which the family said the university has fenced, is at Bogolo village along Seme Road in Badagry area of Lagos State.
Family members claim they acquired the disputed land since the mid 1970s and own documents with a Deed of Conveyance dated 8 November, 1977.
The land was allegedly taken over by the tertiary institution and every effort by the family to make their case has proven abortive.
“Instead, the institution has been intimidating us, using policemen who claim they have orders from above to guard the land,” Julius Adeyemi, the family spokesman said.
Mr. Adeyemi said despite presenting the title to the land, he was hounded with other family members and bricklayers working for them by policemen attached to the Seme Police Station and charged with trespassing and stealing 11 shovels belonging to the contractor of the private tertiary institution.
“This was a place we used to rear our cattle and we had two small detached houses there occupied by some Fulani people.
“We also had a lot of coconut trees on the land, but decided to uproot them when it was time to use the land for the construction of warehouses.
“One day, while we were mending part of our fence destroyed by Julius Berger during the construction of the road in the area, a man showed up and told us that he was from the Bells University and that the school had acquired the land.”
He said the man immediately contacted the Area K Police Command as well as the Divisional Police Officer of Seme Police Station, who later arrested them and transferred them to the Area K Command where they spent a night in detention before being charged to court for trespassing and stealing of the shovels.
“The magistrate granted us bail but since we could not immediately meet the bail condition, we were detained at the Badagry Prison for two days,” he added.
He said currently, the bricklayers employed by the institution had gone ahead to create another fence on the land using the blocks owned by the family.
The law firm, Adegbite-Stevens & Co has now threatened to take up the case with the institution, saying it could no longer bear the threats and intimidation of its clients concerning the property which belongs to them.
Head of the law firm, Mr. Kunle Adegbite, told P.M.NEWS that in a reply to one of the firm’s letters, the institution had appealed that it stays all legal proceedings on the case till its lawyer is sufficiently briefed on the issue. But the institution has gone ahead to build a fence on the land.
The institution’s legal representative, Osahon Ihenyen & Co, has not replied any of the letters written by the legal representative to the aggrieved family.
When P.M.NEWS visited The Bells University of Technology in Ota, Ogun State, Monday, the management of the institution was not available for comment.
The Vice Chancellor of the institution was said to have travelled to Abeokuta, Ogun State, where preparations for Obasanjo’s 76th birthday Tuesday were in top gear.
However, a highly placed source in the school claimed that the land in dispute legally belongs to the Bells University.
“There is no controversy over that land. All documents are with the Lagos State Government,” he said, adding: “Anybody can say anything but the facts are there and there is no controversy that the land belongs to our institution.”
A text message sent to the spokesperson of the institution yesterday was ignored until today, about 24 hours after it was sent.
—Simon Ateba & Eromosele Ebhomele