By Henry Ojelu
Former second Vice-President of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Monday Ubani, has accused the Lagos State government of aiding suspected land grabbers through some of its agencies.
Ubani had raised the alarm in December 2020 over an alleged forceful takeover of a property belonging to his client located at Opebi by a family with the connivance of Lagos State Task Force on Land Grabbing and two other ministries.
Addressing the concern raised by Ubani, the state government through the Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotosho, in a statement, reiterated its support for the suspected land grabbers and also absolved the ministries involved in the forceful takeover of the property.
Responding to the state government’s position, Ubani while addressing a press conference on Monday said it was worrisome that Lagos State would openly support an illegal takeover of a citizen’s property despite a court judgement, which showed that his client’s property does not fall within the area covered by a Supreme Court judgement that the government relied on to make its decision.
Accusing the government of having a vested interest in the disputed property, Ubani stated that the responsibility of determining the ownership of a property rest with the courts and not with the state government or its agencies.
He said: “Lagos State government cannot ‘enforce’ court judgement as that is the work of the Sheriffs of the court.
“I am proved right because after the invasion in collusion with Lagos State Government officials, the family, the supposed judgement creditor, has gone back to court to ask the court to re-issue the ‘warrant of possession’ for them to carry out the execution on Folorunsho Kuku Street that was never and had never been part of the subject of a judgement of both at the trial and at appellate courts.
“The Surveyor-General’s report that my client’s land fell into the subject of the judgement at the trial court was seriously objected to by my humble self because the Surveyor-General based his report upon a forged survey.
“It was never part of the proceeding at the trial court in Suit No ID/513/80. This purported survey plan upon which the Surveyor-General based his report was never used, tendered and admitted in evidence in that case.
“I have a complete copy of the entire court proceedings that took place on that case and a complete set of all the surveys that were also tendered and admitted in court.
“I also have the court judgement, which never made mention of a purported survey plan drawn by one Surveyor Ogunbiyi in 1981 which is the wrong survey that the Surveyor-General of Lagos State has used in his report that the Special Task Force on Lands Grabbers acted upon.”
Speaking further, he said: “How can a whole government agency believe in a document that was never part of the proceedings during the trial and chose to act on it?
“What irks me in this whole mess is the brazen inability of the Lagos Government officials to appreciate the gravity of this blunder. Their bold-faced attempt to justify this illegality is clearly amazing, shocking and alarming.”
On the allegation that he was using social media to get sympathy on the case, Ubani said: “I am amused by the accusation that I used social media for sympathy and blackmail.
“I am not seeking anyone’s sympathy but for the truth to be unveiled. Secondly, I am a lawyer of reputable standing and not known for blackmailing.
“It will be wise for the Lagos State government to admit this grave error and correct the injustice rather than engage in smearing the name of a lawyer that is out to pursue undiluted justice for his client.
“Social media is open to everyone and the Lagos State government has just used it to convey their opinion, even though wrongly on this issue.
“The Lagos State Government through their officials acted wrongly in the manner they dispossessed a citizen of his land.
“They need to check their process and procedure in investigating cases of land grabbing to avoid aiding and abetting land grabbers in perpetuating their nefarious acts.
“The officials erred gravely over our client’s land episode and it is alarming that instead of redressing the manifest injustice, the state is digging deep in infamy and encouraging anarchy.
“The people who grabbed our client’s land have sold out all the land to desperate buyers with the aid and assistance of the state government.
“This is clearly evil, unlawful and a dent on the good name of Lagos State. That they are trying to justify this is terribly alarming.”