*Lagos govt, IG intervene, sue for calm
By Olasunkanmi Akoni, LAGOS
Vehicular and human movements were, on Wednesday, paralyzed in Magodo Estate, Shangisha, Lagos State, as residents barricaded all entrances to the estate over planned demolition by members of a family who claimed to be original owner of the land.
Trouble started on Tuesday, when the family allegedly invaded the highbrow estate in company of court bailiffs, some armed policemen and miscreants to eject occupants, claiming that they were acting on court order.
Property owners and residents were thrown into confusion when the landowners stormed the erstwhile quiet estate overnight in an attempt to take physical possession and reclaim the entire community following a Supreme Court ruling in their favour as the original owner of the land in dispute.
On Wednesday morning, to prevent the family members from carrying out their threat, the apparently disturbed occupants and residents locked the main access gates to the estate.
As early as 6a.m., no vehicle was allowed in or out of the estate. Human movement was strictly restricted, while only journalists with visible means of identification were allowed in and out of the estate.
The residents claimed that the closure was necessary in order to put all actions on hold until the appropriate authorities intervene and resolve issues concerning ownership of the lands among parties amicably.
The closure of the gates, which were manned by armed policemen and other security agents, led to breakdown of business activities.
There was stampede at the gates as people struggled to gain entrance at every slightest opportunity when the gate was opened for journalists and few dignitaries.
Inscriptions on some properties read: “Possession taken over”. They were on various properties, which included banks, fashion houses, law firms and schools.
An affected resident, Tokunbo Adeola, narrated his experience: “The estate was invaded by stern-looking policemen and thugs, yesterday (Tuesday night).
“They took over the area to execute a purported Supreme Court Judgment, which was said to have mandated by Lagos State government to give back 549 plots to the original owners of the area, before it was fraudulently acquired over 38 year ago.
“Some armed policemen, arriving with court bailiffs, took strategic positions around the axis.
“More than 1,000 youths, apparently recruited moved from house to house marking the buildings with inscription of possession, indicating that the court had given them possession of the land on which the houses were built.”
It’s lawlessness— Lawyer
Also, speaking with newsmen, a lawyer and a resident handling the case, Morenikeji George-Taylor, stated that the situation at the Mogodo estate was a breakdown of law and order.
He added that it showed how people took laws into their hands by trying to take forceful possession of people’s properties without valid court orders.
According to her: “I am a resident of Magodo Estate. I have worked with the legal team on this matter.
“The situation we are seeing is a very sad one. It is actually a breakdown of law and order.
“People took law into their own hands and tried to take possession of properties without valid orders from the court.
“The writ of possession they said they have is currently pending before the court of appeal. There is no reason they should come with bulldozers and write on walls.
“If you look at what was written on the wall, you will find that there is no court order effect on it. They just wrote the date of the case and possession taken.
“None of the landlords was informed or showed anything, they only brought thugs and police to harass them.
“I believe the Lagos state government had issues with Shangisha residents Association and the issue led to the court directing Lagos State Government to allot some plots of land to the Shangisha residents.
“Now, that process hasn’t taken place which might require the residents to come with evidences to prove their claims.
“To think that they can just jump the process, come to the estate, write and take any house you like is not done.”
George-Taylor, further recalled what happened on Tuesday night when the police invaded the estate, highlighting the essence of the protest.
She said: “Yesterday they came with over a 1000 thugs and Magodo residents just decided to embark on the protest to complain about the situation.
“I don’t know how they chose the houses they marked. They also came with police today, Wednesday.
“The gates will be opened. We are filing petitions and letters against the people involved and we just need to be sure that we will not be threatened or harassed,” she said.
Magodo Board Chair
Chairman Board of Trustee, Magodo Residents Association, Professor Ayodele Ogunye said residents have always had issues with the land grabbers, but it has never got to this extent.
He said: “About 50 law enforcement agents with guns accompanied these people (land grabbers). They have continued to harass us.
“I have been to Alagbon three times this year on this particular issue. Yesterday (Tuesday) morning, some people came in to besiege us. They said they were bailiffs trying to enforce the Supreme Court judgment.
“They are not Lagos State Government bailiff. If they were, they will wear their jackets. Maybe they hired some area boys to come in as bailiffs.
“The senior officer that led them said he got instruction from the top hierarchy to follow them and we told them to show us the judgment they were enforcing, and they showed our lawyer a press release.
“Press release is not a court judgement or court instruction that they should have shown us.
“They were marking houses including houses we have been living in since 1992. We gathered that the government was not informed.
“How could they come into a government estate without clearance from the governor?”
Also, Legal Adviser, Magodo Residents Association, Tunji Abdulhameed explained that the estate gate was locked to prevent suspected land grabbers from invading the estate with a bulldozer.
He said the land grabbers got a judgment in 1993, which was not properly captured.
He stated that the judgment indicated that the government should allocate 549 plots to them with no specification to the area, property, and location of the plots of land.
“They came around 1pm yesterday; the land grabbers invaded the estate and the police gave them backing.
“I asked what they were doing here and the police said they are trying to enforce judgment.
“When I asked for a copy of the judgment, no document was shown to me. What they showed was a newspaper publication, which was to inform the world that they are the owner of the property.
“The resident associations had a meeting in the evening and thereafter, we just saw a bulldozer at the front of our gate.
“The police didn’t go and were with them. The bulldozer is still at the other gate. That was why we closed the gate.
“We don’t know whether we are going to open the gate because we don’t know their plan as the land grabbers and policemen are still around.
“They have a motive they want to achieve; I think the purpose is to use the bulldozer to destroy property.”
Also, Chairman, Magodo Residents Association, MRA, Mr Banjo Osinubi, condemned the invasion, vowing that the association will not allow such illegality to take place in Magado.
“I think they (family claiming the land) have resorted to self-help. The bulldozers are outside the gate waiting to come and demolish our houses but this won’t work.
“If the state government have the political will, this matter would have been solved long time ago. We are appealing to the state government to come to our rescue.
“We have spent our monies, time pursuing this case in court. I feel very bad about this, but we will resist the forceful takeover of these properties and ensure they follow due process to the latter.”
Sanwo-Olu and IGP step in
Addressing the residents, the governor, who was represented by the Council chairman of Ikosi-Isheri Local Council Development Area, LCDA, Bolanle Dada, commended the residents for their peaceful conduct since the land owners invaded their community to mark houses for demolition.
She assured the residents that due process would be followed to ensure their adequate protection of their properties now and in future.
Dada, disclosed that an official statement would be issued by the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Moyo Onigbanjo, to state the position of the state government on the judgement and other plans for the landowners and residents.
However, respite came later when a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Kantagora acting on the order of IGP, arrived the scene and announced the withdrawal of the police officers attached with the court bailiffs to carry out the order.
The officers, who came in company of court bailiffs on Tuesday to mark the affected houses camped at Magodo Police Post to embark on eviction and demolition exercises, were subsequently dislodged by ACP Kontagora who order their withdrawal out of the area around 11am.
Consequently, the two main entrances to the estate were thrown open following the assurance by the ACP, who said the Inspector General of Police, IGP has ordered the withdrawal of the policemen with the bailiffs and called for maintenance of peace and tranquility, in the spirit of yuletide.