Court backs Lagos on Ajiwe community acquisition
In a landmark judgment delivered recently by Justice Ronke Harrison, the court held that there was no basis in law, upon which Chief Olumegbon of Olumegbon family could lay claims of an overlord over Ajiwe community, based on developments of acquisition and excision of land by the Lagos State Government.
Consequently, the court issued an order directing Chief Fatai Abiodun Olumegbon to forthwith refund all money forcefully collected from the claimant as overlord, as such title could not operate to override the one created by government through the excision.
According to the matter, the claimant, Mr. Emmanuel Bajulaiye had bought two plots of land situate at Cele Bus Stop, Ajiwe Village by Liberty Square, along the Lagos Epe Expressway in year 2001, from the Afini family of Ajiwe, who are beneficiaries of an excision granted by Lagos State pursuant to Lagos State Official Gazette No. 9 Vol. 29, issued at Ikeja on March 28, 1996.
The claimant took steps by fencing the entire land and was in active possession until some armed thugs claiming to be under the instruction of Chief Olumegbon, confronted the claimant with a claim of title to the land.
These individuals demanded a re-purchase of the land from Chief Olumegbon, whom they claimed is the overlord of Ajah and all adjoining land and villages.
Out of fear and to avoid the destruction of his property, the claimant paid various sums demanded, but Chief Olumegbon only allowed him possession of one plot, claiming to have sold the second plot to another person.
Claimant’s fence was allegedly pulled down and the second plot was forcefully excised for the new buyer that Chief Olumegbon sold the land to.
Dissatisfied, the claimant commenced an action at the Lagos High Court, against Chief Olumegbon, through his lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, in year 2005.
The case however suffered a chequered history due to the retirement of the trial judge.
In her judgment, Justice Harrison agreed with the claimant that once land has been acquired by the government and subsequently excised, the excision creates a new title, as the acquisition has successfully extinguished the previous title.
To that extent, the court held that the Supreme Court judgment of year 2002, being relied upon by Chief Olumegbon to claim overlordship over Ajiwe land, cannot avail him since the excision specifically creates a new title in favour of Ajiwe community.
The court however agreed with the defendants that the claimant did not establish the essential link between the Afini family and the Ajiwe community and held that she could not be persuaded by the recitals contained in the deed of assignment executed in favour of the claimant by the Afini family.
The court held further that the claimant was bound to prove the extent of the land holding of the Afini family within the excised land but having not done so, it could not ignore the evidence adduced by the claimant to dismiss his case but would rather consider the option of a non suit, under Order 34 or the Rules of court, to enable the claimant have another bite.
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