The Lagos State government has finally spoken on the demolition of the property at 1 Kuku Street, Opebi, which led to the ejection of hundreds of families and mechanics occupying the land.
In a statement released by Gbenga Omotosho, Commissioner for Information, on Sunday, the state confirmed that the Lagos State Special Task Force on Land Grabbers (LSSTF) carried out the demolition ”based on the petition received from the Meadows family, to eject the occupants of the land”.
Mr Omotosho, in the statement, said the task force obtained approval to embark on the enforcement, in conjunction with other government agencies.
He added that the demolition was an “execution of the judgement of the High Court of Lagos State”.
PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported how hundreds of people who resided at Monkey Village were rendered homeless and auto mechanics also dislodged from their compound at Opebi area of the state on December 31, 2020.
A bulldozer, accompanied by officials of Lagos State agencies and police officers, arrived at the scene unannounced to demolish all structures erected by the residents, destroying several properties.
The residents, who expressed trauma over the demolition narrated how they were caught by surprise as no notice was given by the state government.
The manner in which the demolition of the property at No, 1, Kuku Street, Opebi, which was occupied by a mechanics’ association and Monkey Village, an expanse of land behind, took place prompted an investigation into the incident.
Although the exercise was carried out by government agencies, provisions for demolition exercise in the laws of the state were not followed.
Mechanics occupying the land at Kuku Street, having paid rent to the said landowner and adequate dues to the state government, were dislodged.
The activity was extended to Monkey Village, an informal settlement which sat on about seven plots of land without any prior notice – a gross violation of human rights and provisions of the Lagos state urban planning law, which was said to have been followed in the demolition.
Although it is common for the Lagos State government to carry out the demolition of shanties and illegal settlements across the state, due notices are often served to the occupants, months or weeks before the demolition/ejection takes place.
In the case of the mechanic yard and Monkey Village, no notice of demolition was served on the occupants, despite the clear provisions of the state laws.
The exercise was also carried out on December 31, 2020, which was new year’s eve when several occupants were away and unaware of the intended demolition.
State government reacts
But in a statement released by Lagos state government on Sunday, it said the demolition was due to a petition on land-grabbing written by the Meadows Family and several court documents provided by the petitioner.
“The petitioners tendered copies of judgements obtained from various courts (High Court – Suit No. LD/513/80. Court of Appeal – Appeal No. CA/1/92 and the Supreme Court – SC/146/1995) and other documents showing their title to the land to substantiate their position,” the statement partly reads.
The state government said following the demolition on December 31, 2020, allegations were made by Monday Ubani, lawyer to the acclaimed owner of the land over a land dispute and the role played by government agencies in illegally demolishing properties.
A committee was, thereafter, set up to investigate the matter, the statement contained.
“The Committee of Inquiry set up by the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN) to look into the complaint of a lawyer, M.O. Ubani (Esq.), published on social media on the 31st December 2020, in respect of land situate at 1, Folorunsho Kuku Street, Opebi, Ikeja, Lagos, has submitted its final report.
“In order to investigate all claims, the Committee invited all the parties involved to its sitting which commenced on 4th January until 1st of February, 2021, to ascertain the identity of the land upon which enforcement was carried out and determine the present legal status of ownership as well as the level of involvement of the State Government Agencies.
“It was established that the Lagos State Special Task Force on Land Grabbers (LSSTF) took its action based on the petition received from Messrs Millan Solicitors, on behalf of the Meadows family, to eject the occupants of the land in contention, which harbours shanties, mechanics and miscreants.
“Consequently, the Coordinator of the Lagos Task Force confirmed the authenticity of all documents presented by the petitioner and obtained approval to embark on the enforcement, in conjunction with other government agencies whose representatives were part of the Committee set up to establish facts of the matter – Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Ministry of Transportation and Office of the Surveyor-General, Lagos State,” the statement reads.
The government claimed that before the task force embarked on the enforcement, “steps were taken in compliance with the relevant laws guiding removal of vehicles of the mechanics illegally operating on the land; removal of the shanties and ejection of the hoodlums from the site”.
“The Meadows Family (the petitioner) was also invited to the Committee and it was established that after the execution of the judgement of the High Court of Lagos State, some mechanics and miscreants dislodged them from the land and all efforts to remove the trespassers had proved abortive until the petition to the Lagos State Special Task Force.”
The state said the committee ascertained that the ex-parte order submitted by Mr Ubani was in the name of Circle Nigeria Limited but the C of O attached thereto in the name of Kayode Owoseye Akingbade – two different entities ”and Mr Ubani did not provide documents to justify which of the parties the land belongs to”.
The findings of the committee further indicate that “all the Survey Plans from both the Meadows family and that of Mr Ubani’s Client revealed that the subject land falls within the Meadows’ family land; and that the land on which enforcement was carried out by the LSSTF falls within the parcel of land for which Meadows family obtained a judgement in their favour in Suit No. LG/513/80.
“The social media publication made by Mr Ubani was to get public sympathy and blackmail the government and its agencies from carrying out their legal functions. The claim of Mr Ubani cannot be substantiated with cogent facts,” the statement reads.
It further assured that “no illegal takeover of the property will be allowed by the government”.
”The Special Task Force on Land Grabbers Law will be strengthened to grant the body power to remove trespassers from any land and put the rightful owner in possession of the property.”