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With a massive dose of reported tales of pains of landlords rendered homeless by demolition and re- possession of their properties, some property owners in some parts of Surulere,Lagos State are at sea as to what the future holds for them. That is after a court judgment stripped them of ownership of their land in favour of the Onikate of Ikate, Oba Lateef Atanda Adams. From Masha Roundabout to Adelabu, Godwin Okigbo to Bolashade and other inner streets, panic and anxiety define the mood of a number of residents.

This is because the Onikate is claiming ownership of 315.9 acres in the aforementioned places. With the inscription ‘IKD/288/68 possession taken today 30/3/2023 by court’ plastered on buildings said to be over 300, the influential and the commoner are united in worry over the threat of losing their property. Adefola Adeniran Ogunsanya is still in shock after those he described as thugs led people to mark his late father’s property for demolition.According to him, his father, the late Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former Chairman of Nigerian People’s Party(NPP), couldn’t have bypassed all known procedures to legally acquire a piece of land.

Speaking with Sunday Telegraph in an interview at his Okigbo residence, Ogunsanya, displayed a document showing the property marked for possession was sold freehold to his father in 1962, noting that his father never mentioned anything remotely close to a case, even when he had married before he died. Pointing to another house – directly beside his father’s- marked for possession, which he said was now owned by Dewunmi Ogunsanya(SAN), Chairman of Multichoice Nigeria and his cousin, Ogunsanya said his cousin, whose father and his jointly owned Ogunsanya and Ogunsanya Chambers, dismissed the markers of his father’s property for possession as jokers when he showed him a picture of his marked house.

At Masha Roundabout, a middle-aged lady, who wanted to be identified as Mrs Eneh, said her shop, like other shops in the facility marked for possession, were owned by the Lagos State Property and Development Company(LSDPC). According to her, her landlord(LSDPC) has not communicated with the tenants after the property was marked, saying she could not state what the future holds for her business. Also, a male hairstylist in the Adelabu area of Surulere, who simply identified himself as Charles, said though the failure to take possession of the facility where his shop wis located after over a month could mean that the issue had been resolved but the inscription on the wall had not been erased, confessing that it was a source of worry and confusion to him.

Meanwhile, a national newspaper (not Sunday Telegraph) had reported how Oba Adams allegedly threatened to reclaim the entire land in question from the present occupiers and “demolish everything” if they fail to come for settlement on the grounds that the state government did not pay compensation to the family/original landowners when the land was acquired about 40 years ago, as stipulated by the Land Use Act, 1978. “They should let us sit down and settle this thing before it gets out of hand. They should come to regularise with us. They cannot win in court. They should come or else, I will demolish everything. We need their cooperation. Let the government call me so that we can have a roundtable,” Oba Adams was quoted as saying.

Igbos targeted?

Speaking on what he deemed the intention of the Onikate of Ikate and other unseen hands, Ogunsanya said it was apparent that some interests want to chase the Igbo out of Lagos, wondering why the Onikate had to wait till March, after the general elections, to enforce a judgment delivered in December. “For something like this to come from nowhere… they want to chase the Igbo away from here. That’s the bottom line. Don’t let us fool ourselves. They got this judgment since December 2022. They had to come after the elections to come and start writing rubbish on people’s walls and they came with thugs,” Ogunsanya alleged.

Describing what Godwin Okigbo Street and its environs looked like in his growing up days in the 60s, he said : “I grew up in this house. I was born in 1962. The document of this house was released in 1962. I’m the kind of person you would want to speak to. When I was growing up, we used to fish here. Most of the properties you see in this area were built on swamp.” He continued: “Adeniran Ogunsanya, Bode Thomas, all those areas, including all the areas back here were all LSDPC(I can’t remember what they were called those days) properties.This was the GRA of new Lagos in those days.

The first principal of Ahmadiyya Secondary School, Gbadamosi, lives right here. Are you telling me the intelligentsia would buy property from someone that doesn’t know where the genesis is from? “And you have a case that came up in 1975, you never notified anyone. My father died 26 years ago and I was married when he died. So, I knew my left from my right. My father never mentioned it. So, when all this stuff happened, I was flabbergasted.” Ogunsanya argued that the Onikate was fighting a wrong battle by seeking compensation from property owners.

Rather, he add- ed, the king should have filed a suit against the Lagos State government. “Go and look at the junction there now at Masha Roundabout. These are LSDPC shops. So, are you going to say LSDPC built on your father’s land. If you talk about the history of Surulere, we know the history. A king that was installed about six years ago is the one performing all this rubbish. And I can bet the reason they are doing this is that a lot of people ran away during the civil war but came to repossess their land without the paperwork.

There are some houses right there; the families are fighting themselves but none of them has their document. “I have a house my mother left for me somewhere on Lagos Island. The lease of the tenant there would not expire till next two years. The house has no papers. If a person now claims, we would be at loggerheads. So, I know quite a number of people like that here. This is the reason they are doing this. It was when Federal Government left and went to Abuja that they handed over their properties to Lagos State Government (LASG).

So, if you negotiated with LASG and the LASG refused to pay you compensation, are we the ones that are going to be responsible for that? Why don’t you file a suit against the LASG? Well, we have a lawyer in the area that is handling the situation to see what the hell is going on because I’ve never heard of this before.” He further stated that given the influence and the sophistication of property owners in his neighborhood, it was not possible for them to keep mum for decades as major stakeholders. “Look at the whole area.

Look at the people living here now, and they wouldn’t have talked? They wouldn’t have done something? Come on now! The first principal of Ahmadiyya Secondary School is 97 years old. He is still here. He bought his house here and he’s also shocked. So, where is this man from? I grew up in Surulere now. These people have destroyed everything. They gave touts chieftaincy titles and they expect the country to progress. I’ve never heard of Oba of Ikate. I’ve heard of Oba of Itire. I think Ikate is in Lekki. I don’t know where this one came from,” he said.

From Obasanjo, Tinubu, MKO’s tailor to Palace…Onikate revealed

When Sunday Telegraph visited the Palace of Onikate of Ikate, a beehive of activities was expected. But on the body of the black gate leading to the palace were padlocks, indicating no one was in the palace. But a Good Samaritan, who did not want her name in print gave descriptions leading to where to locate Engr. Lekan Yusuf, the contractor currently handling the construction of the Onikate’s Palace, who later ushered Sunday Telegraph into a palace under construction. Engr Yusuf, boasts of a 30-year-old relationship with the king. “He lives in Lekki. His temporary place is at Kilo but his Ikate Palace is uncompleted.

He wants to celebrate his 70th birthday here. It’s October but I don’t know if he will shift it to December. He’s bankrolling this project himself. He’s not getting support from anyone. I know a lot about him. I’ve been building for him for 30 years. He’s a fashion designer. He trained Vivid Imagination and other big shots in the fashion industry. He’s a big tailor. He has sewn for the late MKO Abiola, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and many other influential Nigerians. “My father was building for him but when he could no longer work, he handed me over to Onikate.

I have an HND in Architecture and I’m also a Civil Engineer. So, I build his houses for him. But I didn’t start this construction. A shoddy job was done here. I travelled to Dubai when this project started. It was just three days after I returned that I got a call from him. I discovered flaws and had to do some corrections.This year would make it seven years since he got here.” Commenting on the judgment that has sparked reactions, Yusuf said: “I don’t know much about the judgment but from what I gathered, people say if anyone claims not to know that there’s a case in court, it’s a lie.

They said from this Ikate to Itire, the land document reads ‘Leasehold’. In those days, swampy areas used to be leased. “But some came to the Onikate to discuss how it could be changed to freehold. When a land is leased, you are constitutionally required to pay a certain amount of money every year. “Some people paid and some didn’t. There are some people that have been paying for the past 20 years. I’ve seen people bring such money to the king. If the land were freehold, they couldn’t have paid.

The king is not ready to take possession of any property. Look, it’s the money he gets from those that want to convert from leasehold to freehold he funnels into the construction of the Palace. The houses have been marked now for over a month and nobody has been driven away.” On what the king expects from those whose houses were marked, he said it was not in the character of the king to take over other people’s property. “Ever since the judgment was delivered, he expects those whose houses have been marked to meet with him.

He has instructed his chiefs not to harass anyone. He won’t take anyone’s property.Those who don’t have their papers can meet with the king and reach a compromise. The woman opposite does not have her complete papers. I told her to call the king and she did. “She later called me to thank me, saying Kabiyesi was kind to her. She said she was only told to bring a token. The Kabiyesi is extremely comfortable. Whatever he gets from his subjects is funnelled into the construction of the palace,” he added.

Tough battle ahead

On efforts to reverse the judgment of the High Court, the Chairman, Godwin Okigbo Landlords Association, Basil Odumah, told Sunday Telegraph that plans were under way to seek redress in court, wondering why properties bought over 50 years would raise so much dust. “This thing is not just about our street. I’m the Chairman of Godwin Okigbo Landlords Association. It’s beyond Godwin Okigbo. It’s a big issue. We (Godwin Okigbo and Bola- shade) are coming together to see what we can do. We wrote a petition to the Attorney General on the issue because most of these properties were bought from Lagos State government and we all have registered title.

I mean most people have registered title. These are like Certificates of Occupancy from the government. These are not family land. Ideally, this is a Lagos State matter. If you have an issue with the Lagos State government, you should sort it out with them. Most of us that bought from the Lagos State government have legitimate title. This actually took us by surprise because most of these properties were passed from fathers to their kids over 50 years ago. This is not a new area. From what we gathered, this judgment is not too legitimate but it was issued by the High Court.

So, in a way , it is a legitimate judgment. We have written a petition to the government and they have not responded. “The best thing we can do now is to put a stay on it. Like I said, it’s a legitimate judgment.” On whether he would reach out to the King as requested, he said:”And on what basis would we be reaching out to him? There’s a judgment by the court and it’s appealable. We didn’t buy this land from his family. We bought from from the Lagos State government. People have title to the document. Do you know what it means to have a titled document? That’s the strongest thing you can have for any land.

This is a new development. We are talking about a development of about 50 years. Even if there’s a case 50 years ago,is it now they want to execute it?” The architect, however, dismissed the allegation that the Igbo were being persecuted. “There’s something very mysterious about this whole thing and even the Lagos State government is looking into it. It’s normal for them to do that. Whether it’s right or wrong, it’s a whole different issue.These are people that own legitimate land. Come on, let’s be factual .

Before people talk, they should look at history. They should look at facts on the ground. What we are waiting for is how Lagos State plans to address this issue because they are a major player in this. They can’t stand by. They have to see how they can address it. And that’s why we filed a petition to the Attorney General and we are waiting for a response. “Meanwhile, we would also seek legal redress. I don’t really think it’s an attack on the Igbo. If you look at the majority of those that own these properties, they are not Igbo.

From the several meetings we’ve held as a street, I don’t think there’s an Igbo among the title holders. I don’t think that’s the case here. Initially ,it was all those that got most of these allocations that built these houses. It was like a GRA in those days. I don’t agree the Igbo are targeted because they are not mainly land owners. Most of these properties were not resold. They are still in possession of the original families. People like Adeniran Ogunsanya; so many of them. They are very powerful Lagos families and that’s why this is going to be a tough one. ”

Go to court!

In a chat with Sunday Telegraph, Oba Adamu said an open invitation had been sent to those affected, denying plans to acquire properties marked for possession. He, how- ever, confirmed to Sunday Telegraph that payments are being made , especially by the Igbo to retain their property. “We are not possessing any property.It’s an issue that’s been over flogged. We’ve invited those affected to see us for settlement.” Reacting to the allegation that the Igbo are being persecuted, he said:”Are the Igbo only the people affected? Are the Yoruba not affected?

The Igbo still come to pay me. If I wanted to send them away,would I collect money from them?Are the Yoruba not the ones selling land to them? He added that aggrieved people were free to choose the court option: “They can go to court. Let them go to court. If they win, good luck to them. It’s not your business if they go to court. You said you’re a journalist. That should not be your business.” Meanwhile, in a statement signed by Grace Alo, Director of Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, on the matter, the Lagos State government said it had become imperative to listen to the yearning of the people and take immediate and appropriate steps to ensure that the rights of the people were well protected.

According to her, the Office of the Attorney- General was investigating the matter and would take necessary steps to protect the rights of the people of Lagos State. She, however, urged members of the public to remain calm and law-abiding and maintain peace and order within the state.

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