Anger over land in Ayobo
As early as 7.00 a.m., the angry residents headed to the King’s Palace, Alayobo of Ayobo, Oba Idowo Ojo-Ijo from there to Ipaja-Ayobo Local Council Development Area (LCDA) and the State House in Alausa, Ikeja.
Their popular tunes included: ‘We want to know who owns the land’, displaying
banners and posters with inscriptions: ‘World human rights Day 2009, Ayobo marches against injustice, violence and criminality’, ‘No court of law can order our land away without giving us a hearing’, ‘Ayobo land crisis, Governor Fashola- Mega-City and land grabbing, thuggery are incompatible, act now, act fast’.
For the past 10 years, the communities had known no peace. Year after year, innocent people are killed and property worth millions of naira destroyed.
Last year, no fewer than five people were killed when the crisis started. One of the landlords, Ajadi Rafiu Ogbayi, was killed while many women were allegedly raped by thugs that invaded the community.
In May this year, a resident, Mrs. Taiwo Alausa, was also shot in the head and leg when another group of thugs invaded the community. Last year’s assault on women was also carried this year coupled with wanton destruction of property worth millions of naira.
In July last year, the 15 communities comprising Isokan, Lala, Koloba Central, Otitoloju, Onikanga, Bada, Megida and Megida-Kufor among others were invaded by thugs and land grabbers.
One of them, Pa Benson Ogumola bought two plots of land in 1992. He said his major concern before he started to develop the property was to acquire the necessary documents from the state government, including the Certificate of Ownership (C of O).
He said: “There is no longer peace in Ayobo.”
The situation has become so tense that Pa Ogunmola, despite his age and poor state of health, had to come out on Friday amidst thousands of others to protest the insecurity and threat to their lives and property.
Displaying a placard above his head with the inscription: ‘Gov. Fashola, save us from land warriors’, Pa Ogunmola lamented that the perpetrators has made life so difficult for them in Ayobo who have resorted to violent means of evicting on their land.
With tears, the octogenarian told The Guardian that he was fortunate to be alive and participate in the protest.
“Last year, I ran away when thugs invaded Ayobo with arms and ammunition and other dangerous weapons. They alleged that their master had won a court case over the land we live in, saying we must leave or come to re-negotiate with them,” he bemoaned.
Another protester, Mrs. Taiwo Makanju also pleaded with the Lagos State and the police authorities to come to their rescue as their lives and property were in danger.
With a leaflet in her hand, stating: ‘Ayobo people, say no to the violence of land recovery warriors’, Makanju said unless government intervened quickly and resolved the matter, the situation might get out of hand.
“We do not want to take laws into our hands. But if there is need for us to defend ourselves as it is at present, then the entire Ayobo may one day be set ablaze. Let Governor Babatunde Fashola look into the matter on time,” he said.
Among the protesters was a 55-year-old Kikelomo Ojuolari. She had developed her property in Ayobo about 20 years ago and obtained all the necessary documents from the state government after buying it from the owners.
According to her: “When we bought the land from the owners, nobody contested the land then. To avoid trouble, we went to the Ministry of Lands to verify before we started developing it. It is now strange to us for these people to come up to lay claim on the same land after 20 years.”
She was angrily flaunting a leaflet with the inscription: ‘Gov Fashola, police and judiciary, save Ayobo people and their land from violence of thugs’.
While the trio of Ogunmola, Makanju and Ojuolari were fortunate to be alive to protest the threat to their lives and property, Mrs. Taiwo Alausa and Chief Najimu Bada, the traditional ruler of Bada Village and the host of others were not so lucky. They were among those that died as a result of the frequent crises.
In a separate petition to the Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Adeyami Ikuforiji, Ipaja-Ayobo LCDA Chairman, Prince Bisi Yusuf, leader of the protest, Mr. Oluwasegun Sonibare lamented that unless something is done urgently to the perpetrators, they might soon resort to setting the entire community ablaze.
He noted that members of the community could no longer fold their arms and allow their lives and property to be destroyed.
He regretted that the police has not done enough to protect them while the state government seems to show little interest on the matter since it started.
Sonibare, particularly made reference to the murder of Mrs. Alausa, who was shot dead last year, when thugs invaded their community, as the crisis has been taken over by thugs.
In another petition to the state governor, the lawyer to the community, Mr. Jiti Ogunye, stated that trouble started when one Ekundayo Arimiyau Bello obtained a court judgment in an undefended suit before Justice O.A Williams of the Ikeja Judicial Division of Lagos High Court. Bello had claimed that he was the owner of the 98 acres of land comprising 12 communities at Ayobo.
The suit, filed in 1992 before the court passed through three judges – Justice Sikiru Adagun, Justice Yusuf, and Justice Williams – who eventually delivered judgment on October 24, 2004. Dissatisfied with the judgment, the Alayobo of Igbo-Ologbo, Oba Arole Idowu Ojo-Ijo approached Justice Lawal Akapo of Ikeja High Court where he contested the claims of Bello.
Justice Akapo, subsequently, granted an interim order restraining Bello to execute judgment pending the determination of the suit before him. But the residents claim that rather than wait till the end of the suit, thugs were hired to unleash pain on the resident of the community since June 2009.
However, when The Guardian spoke the other party Ekundayo Bello that won the case, he had denied sponsoring thugs to foment troubled in the communities.
The Chairman, Ipaja-Ayobo LCDA also enjoined the angry protesters to keep calm allow the state government to look into the matter.
In reaction to constant crisis caused by land speculators within the metropolis, the state government has warned repeatedly against their activities, especially at Ayobo.
However, a recent document signed by the Permanent Secretary, Lands Bureau, Mr. Gbenga Ashafa, had warned against the activities of individuals who embark on violent means to acquire lands of innocent citizens who deliberately cause chaos that can culminate into wanton destruction of lives and property and slow down the pace of development in the state.