How Supreme Court decided Osapa land tussle

on   /   in Law & Human Rights 12:35 am   /   Comments

The Lekki axis of Lagos has over the years blossomed from a dirt stretch of forested swampy land into one of the most expensive real estate corridor in West Africa.   The return on investment in the axis has over the years been phenomenal and almost incomparable to other areas of Lagos.

There is therefore no gainsaying that any conflict in relation to properties around this neighborhood is big trouble that must not be treated with kid-gloves because of the economic interest involved.

It is therefore not surprising that the Osapa area of Lekki has become a theatre of the absurd of sort since the Supreme Court Judgment of July 12, 2013. This judgment is in relation to disputes that have festered for decades between the Ojomo Chieftaincy and the Gbadamosi Eletu Families over ownership of a large expanse of land situated within the Osapa area.

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The Supreme Court in the judgment, in the case of Major Muritala Gbadamosi (rtd) and Ors v. HRH Oba Tijani Adetunji Akinloye and Ors (we would further refer to this case as the “Eletu Case” for ease of convenience), which lays to rest the decade long land dispute, ruled in favour of the Gbadamosi Eletu Family and ordered that they are entitled to 10 hectares of land.

The judgment has since assumed some organic attributes, cultivated and stretched to accommodate sundry interpretations by the Gbadamosi Eletu Family.   It has formed the basis for their claim of ownership over large expanse of land without the actual or formal execution of the said judgment.

As a law firm that represent interest of several clients within the Lekki axis, who may be affected directly or indirectly by the judgment of the Supreme Court and the claims of ownership now being asserted by the Gbadamosi Eletu Family purportedly based on the judgment, we have painstakingly studied the judgment with a view to determining the scope of interest conferred on the Gbadmosi Eletu Family by the judgment and how the interest of the Gbadamosi Eletu Family impacts on the interest of other land owners within the axis.

We would proceed in our analysis of the judgment by examining the background and preceding facts that gave birth to the instant litigation and the Supreme Court decision which necessitated this write up.

The background facts that led to the dispute, which was resolved by the Supreme Court in suit No. SC/146/2005 are as follows:

The Gbadamosi Eletu family claimed to have acquired 254.558 hectares of land (we would refer to this land in the remaining part of this write up as the “Eletu Land” for ease of convenience) within the Osapa area of Lekki from the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family in 1977 and entered into a Deed of Conveyance dated August 23, 1977 (registered as no 36 at page 36 in volume 1648 at the Lands Registry Lagos) with the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family to document the purchase of the land and evidence the interest acquired by them.

In 1981 the Lagos State Government compulsorily acquired a vast area of land consisting of many villages and settlements in the Lekki axis, this vast area of land included the EletuLand.

In 1989 the Ojomu Chieftaincy family and other land owning families through their accredited representatives filed Suit No. ID/1883/89 (Alhaji Fatai Ajetunmobi & Ors vs. A.G of LagosState) at the Lagos State High Court challenging the acquisition of their land by Lagos State Government.   The Claim of the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family covered the EletuLand, which had been acquired by Lagos State Government.

Suit No. ID/1883/89 was fully litigated at the HighCourtofLagosState and the High court ruled in favour of the land owning families.

Following the success of the land owning families at the HighCourtofLagosState, the Lagos State Government entered into negotiations with the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family and it was agreed that some of the acquired land would be excised by the Lagos State Government and ownership rights over the excised land vested in the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family.   This agreed excision was published in Lagos State Official Gazette No. 24, Vol. 27, dated June 23, 1994.

In 1993, the Gbadamosi Eletu Family brought an action against the Lagos State Government in Suit No. M/779/93 ,Major Muritala Gbadamosi Eletu & ors vs. A.G of Lagos State &Ors, relying on their Deed of Conveyance from the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family. Whilst the suit was on going, the Gbdamosi Eletu Family entered an agreement with Lagos State Government to settle the dispute before the Court, the terms of this settlement was adopted as the consent judgement of the High Court of Lagos State in that suit.

The terms agreed are as follows:

1. the Gbadamosi Eletu Family would relinquish all rights of occupancy over the EletuLand; and

2.  they would accept 10 hectares of land and the sum of N358,080.00 (three hundred and fifty eight thousand and eighty Naira) as full and final compensation for their extinguished rights in the EletuLand in consideration of the relinquishment of their rights.

Whilst this matter was on-going, the Gbadamosi Eletu family entered into and began acts of trespass on the portion of land excised and granted to the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family. Their claim being that they are entitled to a portion of the land the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family was granted as part of the settlement with the Government of Lagos State, which was published in the Lagos State Government Gazette.

Consequently, the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family instituted an action at the Lagos High Court in Suit No. LD/2642/95   against the Gbadamosi Eletu Family claiming that they were trespassing on their land. The Ojomu Chieftaincy Family was successful at the Lagos State High Court and judgment was entered in their favour on  October 11, 2000.

The Gbadamosi Eletu Family then appealed to the Court of Appeal and on  May 12, 2004 the Court of Appeal also ruled in favour of the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family.   The Gbadamosi Eletu Family not satisfied with the ruling of the Court of Appeal further appealed to the Supreme and the Supreme Court on  July 12,  2013 made the instant ruling, which is the subject matter of this write up.   A cursory look at the order would reveal that the totality of the of the Appellant’s interest as encapsulated in the Supreme Court judgment is 10 hectares.

However the Appellant have claimed and continues to Claim that it was awarded 254.558 hectares, instead of the 10 hectares mentioned in the judgment.   The question therefore is: what is the basis of the Appellant’s claim of 254.558 hectares instead of the 10 hectares clearly awarded.

The question therefore is: what is the basis of the Appellant’s claim of 254.558 hectares instead of the 10 hectares clearly awarded.  As pointed out earlier, the original measurement of Eletu’s Land is 254.558 hectares, however the Gbadamosi Eletu family’s claim to 255.99 hectares is not predicated on historical facts and antecedents, it is however seemingly and erroneously predicated on the Supreme Court judgment.

Dele Farotimi  is a Lagos based legal practitioners.

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