By Arogbonlo Israel
The above question is a rhetoric begging for legal bases as a result of the controversies that have since been doing the rounds on social media following the land tussle between a former second Vice President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Monday Ubani, and a building developer, Engr Abiodun Ariori, who the former alleged to be a land grabber.
Recall that the Lagos State Government in the morning of December 31, 2020, allegedly descended on Monkey Village with graders and bulldozers, pulling down the houses, and displacing more than 400 persons including children. Many of the residents who had gone out for the day had their homes totally demolished with their belongings inside.
Popularly called Monkey Village, and hidden at the back of one of the biggest business districts of Ikeja in Lagos, is the little-known shanty occupying about 12.75 acres.
The said land was a product of the Supreme Court judgement which the Meadow’s Family got in 1988.
The occupier of 2 Foluronsho Kuku Street, Opebi, Chief S.F. Kuku had sued the Meadow’s Family in Suit No: ID/1270/90 over the land covered by Certificate of Occupancy dated 3rd July 1986 registered as 15/15/1986H and also the occupier of 8, Ibadan Close, Opebi, Ikeja whose Certificate of Occupancy was registered No. 52/52/1991AP.
All came to ratify their title with the Meadow’s Family after the pronouncement of their ownership to the land covered by the judgement of the High Court of Lagos State and affirmed by the Court of Appeal.
However, Mr. Ubani refuted the claims by the judgement creditor justifying the forceful takeover of the property, which they insisted is part of Monkey Village.
In his reaction, Ubani insisted that his client’s property located at 1 Folorunsho Kuku Street, Opebi Village, is covered by a Certificate of Occupancy obtained since 1989, and not part of Monkey Village which the Meadow’s family is laying claims to.
He said: “I have seen the reaction of the Meadow’s family to my statement in which I specifically alleged that the family got the Lagos State entangled in this messy land scandal wrongly and glad to note that the family’s reaction confirmed my allegation.
“It is very alarming that the Lagos State Government fell into this mess by listening to this family that have no basis both in law and logic to do what they did over this land matter.
“My client has been on the land for more than 20 years and has been paying his land use charge up to date. We’ve a C of O as back as 1989. This particular property is sold by Egba refugees who are the land sellers in the whole Opebi and they’re the one that sold this particular land. And they (Meadow family) were never part of the court case.
“That Supreme Court judgement they’re mentioning, the Egba refugees were never parties to that suit. In fact, there was a Supreme Court judgement that gave 90% of that land to Egba refugees.
“Even if we establish the fact that that particular property fell into the Meadow’s family, you’ve to also establish the root of title if the Egba refugees were the original owners of the land who’re not part to the Supreme Court judgement.
“So, this is why I said the matter can only be determined by the court and not this panel or Surveyor-General.”
Addressing the press on Monday, January 11, Francis Monye, counsel to Prosperous Ariori Golden Ventures Limited, which the Meadows family hired to develop the land, gave a legal background after meeting with the Inter-ministerial Committee set up by the Lagos State Governor to look into the matter.
He said: “What was apparent before the panel is that we didn’t come into this place through the back doors. The reason we’re saying this is because we came in through a due process.
“The conclusion is that there was an execution on that property and the judgement creditor was given an order from the court.
“There was a warrant of Certificate of Occupancy (Form 0) issued by the court as far as 1988. So, if there is a judgement and we were put in possession by the same court in pursuance of the Sheriffs & Civil Process Act, any other person on that land is a trespasser.”
All efforts by our reporter to speak with the panellists over the matter were unsuccessful at press time as journalists were not allowed into the room for the hearing.