By Emma Arubi
EIGHTY-TWO-year-old Madam Rebeca Taniyu Akinimola of Sapele, Delta State , got the shock of her life on November 4, 2010 when during her early morning devotion she got a phone call that some land speculators were busy clearing her land in preparation to developing it. Not amused by the story, she sent one of her sons, Shola to go and verify what was reported. He got there and never returned until late in the night.

She sent another person who did not return to tell her anything. Worse still is the fact that the said parcel of land harbours her late husband grave at Esiri Lane , Ugbeyiyi, Sapele.

Further inquiry revealed that in spite of the buyer allegedly being aware of the presence of the grave and the existence of the owner he went ahead in what could be termed a show of force to bulldoze the grave and erect a perimeter fence to secure the land for himself.

When the attention of the Sapele Police was drawn to the act they allegedly asked the contending parties to go settle the matter claiming it was a civil case. Mama appears to be on the losing side with nobody to cry to as  her son has been arrested by the same police who declined to intervene at the beginning.

The man at the centre of this face-off is a well respected Chief and business mogul of no mean standing in Delta State. So Mama has chosen to cry to the public for help. And she spoke with Vanguard Metro on her predicament, alleging that both the seller and buyer of the land in question were only hell-bent on  depriving her poor family of their rightful property.

Excerpts:

May we please know your name?

My name is Mrs. Rebecca Olajide Taniyu Akinrniola.
What is the problem that made you to call on Vanguard to come and help you?

The problem is about the land my husband and I bought. When he died, I buried him there. The land is at Esiri Lane , Ogbiyiyi Road, Sapele. But on November 4 last year when we were having our morning devotion we got a phone call that some people were clearing the land and they asked if we were the ones that sent them.

When my son, Olusola rushed down there.  I  waited for him to come back but he did not. And when it was 12 noon I was beginning to be afraid so I have to send another person in the compound to go and check too. That one also did not come back, and it was already 3pm and I was getting agitated.

But later my younger sister came and said I should not worry, that my son was alright and she told me what was happening there. Before then, one of the sons of the people that sold the land to us rushed to my house and asked me if I had heard what was happening in my land and I told him I had heard and that I had sent my son there.

I insisted that I want to go and see things for myself. When they took me there I saw some men with guns, and some tippers of sand, while some were busy clearing the land.

My son was telling them that the land belongs to his father and that he was buried there. But they said we should shut our mouth and threatened to shoot us if we dared to talk. But we are Christians and we do not have the strength to fight back, so we left there and went to call the people that sold the land to us.

When they came they ordered the people to stop but they refused so we had to leave there and the next day we heard that they have started digging the foundation for the laying of the fence. It was then I prayed to God to come to my aid since I do not have anybody.

They succeeded in fencing the land. But when we went to report the matter to the police, we were told to go back, that it was a civil matter since nobody was injured.

We went back and got a lawyer who went to a court and got an order ordering them to stop. But they still refused to stop building on the land. My son later came crying to me, saying that they had destroyed his father’s, my husband’s tomb. I then said, God what is this.

That same day we went to the police to report the case again, and again, they told us that we should go back that it was a civil case since we did not see the people destroying the grave.

So we left the police station and went to the village of the Eba people where we met one Chief who told us that yes, he has heard about the matter. He said he went with one J.J. Scott to the land and told him that the boy who sold the land to him is not the owner of the land and that the land was sold to an old couple and that it was the man that was buried there.

He said he asked the man why he wanted to build in the land without telling him first as an Okpe man. He told him to leave the land because the land was going to cause a lot trouble for him, adding that if he needs another land they will give him one.

The next day they went and completely destroyed the grave. Since then I have been crying to God that I do not have anybody and I do not have any money and that he should come to my aid. So, yesterday (sighs and starts sobbing),  J.J. Scott was boasting that the man (her husband) is a Yoruba man and that he will break his bones and take the land.

Who sold the land to this man and what is he to you?

His name is Temisan. He is not Itsekiri and not related to us in any way and I do not even know him. I am appealing to well-meaning Nigerians to come and rescue me and my children before we are  killed, and help us recover our land.

Indeed, when Vanguard Metro visited the land in question, old building blocks now turned green with age and well coated by spirogyra were seen heaped at the centre of the land beside the now levelled tomb of the late Pa Olajide Akinrinola who died on April 7, 2000.  Also evident was the freshly erected perimeter fence (which,however, has been brought down), as well as tipper loads of sharp sand dumped on the land.

••• Chief Scott reacts

When Vanguard Metro called Mr. Temisanren Gordon,  the alleged seller of the land to Chief J.J.Scott, he neither answered his call nor responded to a text message sent to him.

However, Chief Scott told Vanguard Metro on phone that he was not aware that there was a grave anywhere on the land. He said when the matter got to a point, he asked the old woman to present to him her document for examination against that given to him by Mr. Temisanren to enable him take a decision on the matter but the family declined,  so he commenced development of the said plot of land.

According to him, he was shocked when he later discovered to his chagrin that the perimeter fence he erected around the plot of land was destroyed, allegedly by the family members of Mama. And that when the matter was taken to the Sapele Police Station, himself and the Divisional Police Officer, DPO. waited for Mama and her people for two days in vain and he had to leave town for Lagos and other places in pursuit of his business.

But a member of the embattled 82_year-old mama who does not want her name in print but has been talking with Temisanren disclosed to Vanguard Metro that Chief JJ Scott, after paying an initial N1million to Temisanren for the land has become suddenly evasive  and giving very flimsy excuses for his inexplicable absence.

The source, a lady, further refutes Chief Scotts claim on their absence at the police station, saying that the Chief is standing truth on its head as the reverse was the case, adding that it was this that forced them to drag the matter before the law court in Sapele.

Chief Scott who claims to be a member of the Ebah family, the original owners of the land, told Vanguard Metro that he wants the matter settled as he is a very peace-loving person who abhors oppression of any kind, noting that was why when he learnt that the case has been dragged before the law court he felt very happy, saying that will at least compel every party to the dispute to present their land document for thorough scrutiny and final determination.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.