Family battles govt over Lagos Island property

The affected site, recently

The affected site, recently

While officials are laying claim to the ownership of the property and that the bona-fide owners had been paid since 1951, the affected families are alleging that contrary to a valid court order restraining officials from doing anything on the property, the order is being gratuitously violated

IF found guilty, some officials of Lagos State Government, working with the Lagos State Urban and Renewal Agency (LASURA) and the State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) may be committed to prison over an allegation of disobeying a court in an ownership dispute of property located at number 49, Martins street, Lagos Island.

But the state government has debunked the claim of disobedience to any court order, saying it is still doing dealing with citizens within the confine of the law.

The aggrieved family, represented by Alhaji Fasasi Adesigbin Oluwole, Afeez Oladimeji Shitta and Alhaja Mutiat Olasumbo Hassan, has accused the agencies of erecting structures on a disputed land in spite of a court order restraining all parties from tampering with the res.

Although, Lagos has put a stop to the ongoing development on the site in difference to the court order, however, the family has filled Form 48, a “Notice of consequence of disobedience to Order of Court”.

The notice dated August 6, 2015, against the General Manager, Lagos State Urban Renewal Authority (LASURA) states: “Take notice that unless you obey the directive contained in this order, you will be guilty of contempt of court and will be liable to be committed to prison unless you purge yourself of the contempt”.

The notice was apparently to ensure that the order, earlier granted by Justice Hakeem Oshodi of the Lagos State High Court that all parties maintain the status quo, pending the determination of the case is acceded to.

In the said suit before a Lagos High Court sitting in Igbosere, an order had earlier been granted restraining the Lagos State government from further demolition and dismantling the property located at plot 49, Martins Street, Lagos through its agent, Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA).

In a subsequent motion on notice filed by the claimants/applicants, they sought for an order of court restraining the defendants “either by themselves, agents, privies or whosoever from erecting any structure, or alienating to the 3rd party (LASBCA) or further interfering in any manner on any part of the property situate at No. 49, Martins Street/30, Shitta Street, Lagos pending the determination of the substantive suit in this case”.

Granting the prayers, Justice Oshodi ordered the parties to maintain status quo while adjourning the matter for the hearing of the Motion on Notice as well as Forms 17 & 18 in line with the provision of Order 38 Rule 2.

The Judge specifically ordered that: “Due to the peculiar nature of the facts of this case, it will be prudent for the Court to maintain status quo of the Respondents. In this respect, the court, hereby order that parties especially the second and second defendants, do maintain status quo as at today”.

Embittered about the current development, expressed disappointment over what they termed as “illegality” on the part of the government, pointing out that they were surprised that the past abuse of powers could continue under the new administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.

The claimants wondered why the defendants would embark on construction on the landed property, despite the fact that they agreed through their counsel, Mr. K. A. Bakare to maintain status quo ante pending the final determination of the suit.

While appealing to the governor to use his good offices to intervene on the abuse by the state agencies, the family lamented that the poor man has no hope in this country if such development is allowed to continue.

But reacting to the violation of the court order as raised by the claimants, Mr. Benedict Kehinde, General Manager, Lagos State Urban Renewal Authority (LASURA), asked why the claimants did not challenge the violation order in court rather than complaining to the media.

“There is a court injunction binding on the state government, and if the state government has violated the injunction, instead of going back to the court, they decided to go to the press. Doesn’t that strike you? They ought to have challenged the violation order in court instead of complaining to you journalists. That should strike you”, LASURA boss said.
Explaining however why his agency is carrying out construction at the site, the GM noted that the property in question is not one, but plots 49 and 51, Martins Street, pointing out that before the state acquired properties on Martins Street in 1959, there were two properties on plots 49 and 51, but looked like one property because there was no clear demarcation between the two properties.

According to him, having acquired the plots, the government duly paid compensations to the property owners and the payments were duly signed for, brandishing a document in verification of his claims.

He added that the claimants had willingly withdrawn from pursuing the matter when they were told by the court that they had no case, as they were told that the site was acquired by the government and compensations paid to the owners.
Citing the official gazette No.13 Vol. 38, notice No 347, it stated that the property falls within sub-area 9 of the central Lagos Redevelopment Scheme of 1951, while payment was made to E.J. Minairse, of 30, Shitta Street and $9, Martins Street, Area in Square Yard, 633, with date of receipt for payment made 27/1/60.

Besides, the document stated that, one, Sanni Oyewole and Sikiru T. Dada of 36, Coastes Street, Ebute-Metta “are solely and sincerely declare that are freehold owner of ¼ share in the disputed landed property.
Also, another individuals, Lasisi Alli, Lawani Ajakaiye and A.A. Fashola of 75, Odunfa street, Lagos, is freehold owner of a ¾ share in the disputed property.

But contrary to the officials’ claim, the deposition by the Claimants who stated to have been in possession of the property for over 30 years up until October 24, 2014 when it was alleged the agents of the state government aided by security operatives, “invaded the property in dispute removing the burglaries, doors and windows affixed to the property forcibly evicting the tenants from their shops”.

According to them, despite the institution of the suit against the defendants (to which the defendants are yet to file a defence) and the order ex-parte restraining the defendants the demolition continued unabated.
“As at 26th of November, 2014 when this the court granted an order ex-parte, retraining the Defendants from further demolishing the property in dispute, the said property was yet to be fully demolished by the defendants.”

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