12th March, 2013
Former president Olusegun Obasanjo is currently embroiled in a tussle with a Badagry family over land
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the 76-year old former president of Nigeria, has his life coated with controversies. This time, like the proverbial hunter who still chased after a grasshopper while carrying an elephant, he is accused of using his might to deprive a family of its land in Badagry, Lagos State. The land in dispute is spread over seven acres.
To ensure that the family of the late ruler of Kwemeland, Oba Afolabi Ogungbe James, who is laying claim to the land, does not question his ‘authority’ over the property, the former president, through his Bells University of Technology, is alleged to have been using his influence in government to scare off claimants to the land.
One of the family members, Julius Adeyemi, said he, some family members and bricklayers were maltreated and detained when they went to mend the fence around the land. The fence was destroyed by Julius Berger while the construction firm was fixing the road.
“We were working when a man suddenly showed up and told us that the land we were fencing belongs to the Bells University. But I told him we own the land and had bought it since the 1970s. I also informed him that we have the required titles to the land,” he said.
The man, whose name he could not mention, allegedly called the Area K Police Command as well as the Seme Police Station and a senior police officer invited them to come to the police station for amicable resolution.
Armed with documents showing that the land belongs to the family, Adeyemi confidently left Lagos for Badagry. While driving through the land, he discovered that the place was empty. The bricklayers had disappeared.
“I came down from my car and was making enquiries from some women around when a group of policemen swooped on me, accusing me of trespassing on another man’s property,” he recalled. He was arrested and taken to the Seme Police Station from where he was taken with the bricklayers and family members, who had earlier been arrested, to the Area K Command.
“The first question a senior police officer asked me was: ‘Who are you to be talking where Obasanjo is talking?’ That was how I knew that Obasanjo owns the school,” he said, adding that he was charged with the others to the court for alleged trespass and stealing of 11 shovels belonging to the contractor hired by the institution.
They were granted bail, but because of their inability to meet the bail condition, they spent two nights at the Badagry Prison. Adeyemi lamented that while they were seeking the best ways to get the issue resolved, the institution went ahead to ensure that its bricklayers fenced the stretch of land with the bricks the royal family had bought.
“This was a place we used to rear our cattle and we had two small detached houses occupied by some Fulani people. But now, they want to claim it forcefully because they think we don’t have rights,” he lamented.
Days after the tertiary institution was reached for its reaction to the allegation, it maintained silence just as it asked the law firm, Adegbite-Stevens & Co, standing for the aggrieved family, to henceforth relate with its legal representative, Hya’ Osahon Ihenyen & Co. rather than the institution.
When a correspondent from P.M.NEWS, our sister publication, visited the institution last Monday, the Vice Chancellor was said to be away in Abeokuta for Obasanjo’s birthday celebrations. A highly placed source in the school, however, said: “There is no controversy over that land. All documents are with the Lagos State government. 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 was also ignored. While the institution is bent on taking possession of the land, the Deed of Conveyance made available to TheNEWS by the royal family and dated 8 November, 1977, shows that the latter purchased the property from one Umoru Haammed of Ogbogbele Sea-Beach, Ketta, Badagry.
On 9 January, 2013, Adegbite-Stevens & Co. wrote the institution informing it that the family is the bonafide owner of the land. The letter, signed by Martins O. Oyigbo for the firm and copied the Governing Council, stated that: “Our client is the bonafide owner and legal owner of the land situate at Bogolo village, Badagry, Lagos State by virtue of outright purchase from the original land owning family witnessed by registered Deed of Conveyance in the Land’s Registry, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos as No 61, page 61, Volume 1663 and has been in an interrupted occupation/possession of the same since 1977.”
The letter further stated that on 3 December, 2012, some workers allegedly working for the institution began constructing fence on the land. The law firm attached a photograph of the alleged incursion, giving the institution seven days to vacate the land. Mr. Kunle Adegbite, head of the firm, told TheNEWS that the institution actually acknowledged receipt of the letter and urged that the status quo be maintained by the two parties. It also asked that further deliberations on the issue be made with the institution’s lawyer.
While the family maintained the status quo, the institution went ahead to erect the fence. Letters to its legal representatives by the family lawyer had not been replied at the time of this report.
On 20 February, a letter from Adegbite-Stevens & Co to Hya’ Osahon Ihenyen & Co reminded the latter that it had not replied a previous e-mail sent to it concerning the issue.
But the university has remained unperturbed over the issue. Its workers have continued working, protected by security operatives. Adegbite, however, said the battle will continue in court.