Land grabbers impersonate judgment creditors, demolish property, victims tackle Lagos task force

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Members of the Regun-Keyeolu Family have accused the Coordinator, Lagos State Special Task Force on Land Grabbers, Owolabi Arole, of conniving with certain persons to demolish structures on their land.
The Punch gathered that the land, known as Old Nitel in the Ikorodu area of the state, was acquired by the Federal Government for telecommunications development.A member of the family, Rotimi Dada, said the Federal Government refused to return the land despite not using it for the intended purpose.

He noted that the land was commercialised, adding that in a bid to reclaim it, the family instituted a suit against the government and other interlopers.

“The case was ongoing when some people who were not members of our family, mobilised land grabbers to chase liquidators wrongly selling part of the land.

“After the invasion, these unrecognised family members, alongside the land grabbers, also started selling part of the land and we informed the High Court in Ikorodu.

“In suit number: IKD/595LMW/2018, Justice, L.B. Lawal-Akapo, gave an order restricting construction or dealings on the land and mandated the state Commissioner of Police to station armed policemen on the land to prevent entry of intruders,” Dada said.

Despite Lawal-Akapo’s order, Dada said the land grabbers, alongside the alleged family members, continued to sell and facilitate building development on the land.

He added, “The court was informed and an order was given to mark all the structures built after the restraining order. About 53 structures were marked and afterwards, the judge gave an order to demolish the marked structures.”

The demolition order given by Lawal-Akapo in suit no: IKD/595LMW/2015 and IKD/1000LMW/15, was sighted by our correspondent.

However, another member of the family, Owoseni Atoloye, said plans were on to execute the order when alleged sponsors of the land grabbers impersonated the judgement Lawal-Akapo gave in their favour.

He said, “The people sponsoring the land grabbers impersonated our judgement and mobilised the police to demolish people’s property on the land. We petitioned the then Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, who invited all of us, and surprisingly, Arole also attended the meeting.

“At his office, Odumosu discovered that it was our judgement they executed but Arole insisted that the judgement was for all of us, including sponsors of the land grabbers. Odumosu expressed disappointment in Arole as only our family’s name was on the judgement.

“Another meeting was rescheduled, but Arole and the impostors never showed up. So, we wrote a petition for unlawful damage against them to the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Alagbon.”

One of the people whose property was demolished, Prof. Olayinka Adegbehinde, said, “My property on the Old Nitel land was not part of the ones marked for demolition, but other people that are not part of the judgement demolished it with a bulldozer.”

PUNCH Metro gathered that the FCID extended investigation to Arole and the people sponsoring the land grabbers, as the case was later charged to a magistrate’s court in Igbosere, Lagos.

However, Atoloye said the court proceedings were ongoing when the impostors filed a petition against the family and the police for breaching their fundamental rights during the investigation.

“We gave our defence before Justice A.F. Pokanu of the Ikorodu High Court. On Tuesday, June 15, 2021, the judge ruled in our favour in the case with suit no: IKD/9520MFHR/2020,” he added.

The judgment read in part, “The first and third respondents (Regun-Keyeolu Family) acted on reasonable suspicion in making a report to the police and the fourth and seventh respondents (police) have acted within constitutional and statutory limits in making the lawful arrest, detention and charging the accused persons to court.

“Consequently, the applicant’s motion on notice for enforcement of fundamental rights lacks merit and the same is dismissed accordingly.”

Atoloye lamented that the Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecutions, after the ruling, started circulating notices to take over prosecution of the unlawful damage case ongoing in court.

A letter drafted by the state counsel for the DPP, Mr A. Araba, on January 5, 2022, and another letter with no: LJF/710/IKD/01/01/09/2021, by the senior state counsel, O.A Ikwenobe, on December 8, 2021, confirmed the development.

“It is our belief that the notice is an attempt by Arole, whose office is under the Ministry of Justice, to subvert justice.

“We believe in the integrity of the DPP and the Attorney-General of Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo, to deliver justice in the matter,” he added.

Arole, when contacted, said, “I am not obliged to speak to the press. I have a superior as I work with the ministry of justice. The issue alleged by the family is unknown to me as I have never been involved in any matter related to that.”

Asked if he was invited by the police regarding the case, Arole said, “I have never been invited over a matter before FCID Alagbon.”

However, a spokesperson for the FCID, Alagbon, Niyi Ogundeyi, said Arole, alongside the suspects, were invited during the investigation.

Ogundeyi said, “When an invitation was extended to him (Arole), he told us to address the letter to the attorney-general, as he is not acting on his own.

“But in his response, he said they acted on the judgement the suspects brought without knowing that they were not beneficiaries of that judgement. He said it was in that light that they empowered the task force to come for demolition.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice, Grace Alo, said she had directed our correspondent’s request to Arole and the DPP, but had yet to get an appropriate brief for a reaction.

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