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Lagos community cries foul over alleged illegal demolition

…Wants FG, Lagos govt intervention

By Elizabeth Uwandu

Residents of Okun-Mopo in Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State have cried out over the demolition of their houses and other structures by two estate agents, CMB Estate and Diamond Estate . The demolition was allegedly carried out on the order of Ajayi Apata Property Limited which claimed that the Lagos State government allocated the land in the area to them.

*Demolished structures at Okun Mopo community
*Demolished structures at Okun Mopo community

Residents of the community who spoke through their solicitors, Bolanle Olugbani of Bolanle Olugbani & Co. told Vanguard Metro that the demolition started on April 14, 2016. The demolition team which came with caterpillars and bulldozers was made up of agents of the property firm led by one Isaac Okeke a retired superintendent of Police attached to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS Ikeja Police Command.

Narrating the plight of the affected residents, Olugbani had said: “The residents now live in anguish and pain over the loss of their properties. They also move about their duties in fear of being attacked by thugs.”

Tracing the genesis of the tussle, Olugbani said the land which belongs to his clients – the Traditional Rulers of the Okin- Mopo community, in the name of Isiaka, Oladehind and Balogun families, was allegedly allocated to Ajayi Apata Property Ltd by the Lagos State government without due consultation and any form of compensation to the land owners. It was on account of this that his clients sought redress in the court via suit no LD/135/2013. And on June 30, 2014, Hon. Justice E.A Adebajo of the High Court of Lagos gave an interlocutory injunction to his clients against the defendants, namely the Lagos State Government, New Towns Development Authority and Ajayi Apata Property and Investment Company.

Police involvement:

He said following the demolition two petitions were promptly sent to the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Solomon Arase. According to him, the first letter to the IG accused retired Supol Okeke of assault, impersonation, illegal possession of firearms as well as his actions being threat to life.

The petition read in part: “Our clients informed us that Okeke (rtd) and his boys viciously assaulted our clients and members of the community through possession of illegal firearms to threaten and kill them. The said retired Police Officer impersonated a serving police officer to order his gangs to forcefully and illegally take away our clients land”.

Illegal demolition

The second petition requested for transfer of the case filed against the AIG Zone 2 Police Command , the Deputy Commissioner of police, Zonal CID, and Zonal SARS, Zone 2 Command for alleged “biased and prejudiced police action, improper investigation, illegal demolition of private property and disobedience to court order.” The petition read thus: “Our clients have reliably informed us that the aforementioned security officers acting through the Deputy Commissioner of Police,ordered the demolition of their properties in Sangotego Lekki, area of Lagos on 14th April, 2016, without a court order or enabling law,.

“Nigeria as a country of law places no one above the law. Since, we have no confidence in the afore mentioned security operatives, we request that the case should be removed from Zone 2 Police Command forthwith to prevent a continuation of improper and illegal police action and ultimately miscarriage of justice.

“Going by the way the CID, Zone 2, DP Zone and CID, and the O/C of the Zonal SARS have shown a clear unmistakable bias and prejudice, we are convinced that despite court order in our favour in the land matter, we cannot get a fair, balanced police investigation at Zone 2 Police Command, Onikan Lagos.”

Fear of reprisal by host community
The community,through a release disclosed to VM that the Lagos State and the Federal governments should urgently intervene on the land issue so that the situation may not degenerate to fracas where lives might be lost.

Reacting to the allegations, solicitors to CMB Building Maintenance and Investment Company Limited through a release titled: “False and malicious claims by Okun Mopo Community against CMB Building Maintenance and Investment Company Limited and AIG Zone 2, LAGOS”, said their client had denied the various false and malicious allegations pertaining to its conducts.

In their words:” It must be stated that this same Okun Mopo community had previously made this kind of allegation of demolition against the Lagos State government.

“It appears that the Baale of Okun Mopo considers our clients to be a soft target, hence the false allegations against our client with a view to intimidating our client into submission.”
The solicitors also averred that: “Our client is not a party to any suit involving the Okun Mopo community and had many years ago lawfully acquired the land from Ajayi Apata Property and Investment Company Limited, whose certificate of occupancy was issued over twenty years ago”.

The solicitors also exonerated the Police of blame, saying Zone 2 Police Command only acted in response to a petition sent to it against the harassment of agents of their client by thugs in the community.

He added that: “The refusal of the Nigeria Police to do the bidding of the Baale of Okun Mopo… appears to have precipitated the smear on the persons of the Assistant Inspector General of Police and his officers of Zone 2 Command, Onikan Lagos.”

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