By Daud Olatunji, Adepitan Elizabeth and Haruna Zainab
After three deadly attacks on residents by suspected land grabbers, things are no longer at ease in Gbagunre village in Kajola area of Atan-Ota, Ogun State. Many residents have fled, especially after the third attack during which the suspected land grabbers engaged in shooting of guns ostensibly to intimidate the villagers. In the first attack, one of the residents, said to be a commercial motorcyclist, was allegedly shot. Now, residents, who have chosen to stay in the community, no longer sleep with their two eyes open as some of the land grabbers are said to be permanently stationed there, forcing the people to give up their property or make fresh payment for parcels of land they had bought from the family which owns the land. Even the village head (baale), Chief Olatunji Dada, is not spared of the intimidation as he claimed to have fled into ‘exile’ after the land grabbers allegedly threatened to kill him and his people.
The 70-year-old village head, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard in an office in Sango during a meeting with some of his kinsmen to discuss the land grabbers’ crisis in Gbayunre village, said he took the threat seriously as he alleged that the invaders attacked at the behest of a former police officer. He identified the former police officer as one Joseph Ayodele, aka Jossy, allegedly working for one Lateef Afegunsho. Incidentally, Afegunsho is alleged to be a top official of the Police Service Commission. “I had to run for my dear life after my people began to flee in droves following the consistent attacks by the land grabbers allegedly led by the former police officer who allegedly boasted that he would take our land and kill us if we resist and nothing will happen”, the village head said.
According to him, he and his people had come to believe the erstwhile police officer was capable of carrying out his alleged threat after the three attacks on the community by the suspected land grabbers were reported to the police and the former police officer kept walking free while allegedly stationing his men in the village, dispossessing residents of their lands. He begged the police authorities to investigate the allegation that the former police officer may have had contacts frustrating the investigation of his alleged activities in the Atan-Ota community. “We have written at least four petitions to the authorities including the Inspector General. After each of the petitions, the police would invite us and the former police officer. Sometimes the former police officer will ignore the invitation and whenever he chooses to honour the invitation, they will caution him against laying claim to the land that does not belong to him or his alleged sponsors.
But no sooner than we leave the venue of meeting that the suspected land grabbers, allegedly acting on his instruction, will return to continue to terrorise our people”, Dada said. However he believed the police authorities and Ogun State government, under the leadership of Governor Ibikunle Amosun, can still intervene to restrain the police officer and his suspected land grabbers from continuing to unleash terror on Gbayunre community. Another member of the Dada Gbabi Family, Chief Olumuyiwa Folarin, also speaking to Sunday Vanguard, disputed the claim that Afegunsho, on whose authority ex-policeman Ayodele had allegedly been terrorising Gbayunre village, had any claim to land in the community, saying neither Afegunsho nor Ayodele had been able to produce documents to back their claim. According to him, it was on the strength of the lack of proof that the police had consistently warned Afegunsho and Ayodele to stay away from the land.
He, regretted, however, that the police had not been unable to restrain the suspected land grabbers from terrorising residents and dispossessing them of their land.
Folarin narrated that the alleged Police Service Commission top official, reportedly from nearby Ajayi Egan village, and the former police officer started making their claim to the Gbayunre village land in September 2017.
“This happened about eight years after we won the right of ownership to the large parcel of land in the 2009 Court of Appeal judgement in a suit instituted against our family (Dada Gbabi Family) by one Taiwo Oyebo and others from Kajola village”, the family member said.
Following the claim by Afegunsho and Ayodele, Folarin said suspected land grabbers invaded the Atan-Ota village on September 15, 2017, shooting and terrorising residents. One resident was said to have been shot during the incident. The suspected land grabbers, according to him, occupied several parcels of land after the incident which they subsequently sold illegally. On the strength of the attack, the Dada Gbabi Family petitioned the Area Commander, Sango Area Police Command, Sango, Ogun State through their lawyers, Akinola Sanni and Co.
On October 6, 2017 after the second attack on the community, the family did another petition to the Inspector General of Police through the DCP, X-Squad, Force Headquarters, Abuja, to report the incident.
On January 15, 2018, the Dada Gbabi Family, after the third attack of December 23, 2017, also wrote to Ogun State House of Assembly to report the alleged land grabbing crisis in the Atan-Ota community, copying the SSG, the state Commissioner of Police and the Chairman of the House Committee on Justice, Ethics and Public Petitions.
The last petition on the matter, dated April 11, 2018, was addressed to the IGP, begging him to intervene and restore peace to Gbayunre village.
Saying the suspected land grabbers seemed untouchable because they were getting protection from some highly placed people in the police, the embattled family begged the IGP: “We, on our part, want to use this opportunity to appreciate the valiant acts of your office to curb acts of crime and eradicate the menace of land grabbers in the country. In this circumstance, we urge you to use your good offices to bring these land grabbers to book so as to restore peace to Gbayunre town”. Also present at the family meeting were Chief Sunday Olusola Dada, the Olori Ebi of Dada Gbabi Family and Alhaji Ayinde Kassim, another member of the family.
Some residents of the community, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, begged Governor Ibikunle Amosun to use this opportunity to enforce the law and demonstrate the will of his government against land grabbers in Ogun.
One of the parcels of land said to have been taken over by the suspected land grabbers belongs to the Cooperative Society of the Baptist Model High School, Ijegun –Ikotun, Lagos.
The Society begged the authorities to help recover the land.
Contacted on the allegations againsts the former policeman, the Public Relations Officer of Ogun State Police Command, DSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, told Sunday Vanguard that the police were aware of the issues at Atan-Ota. Adejobi added that the police had invited Ayodele over the matter.