Residents of the Amuwo Odofin Low-cost Housing Estate have accused the Lagos State Building and Investment Company of selling a piece of land reportedly earmarked for recreation.
The residents, who protested on Saturday against the decision, said the land served as a playing ground for children and a venue for public functions in the community. They added that they were recently told by LBIC to stay away from the land.
The community alleged that LBIC had made a similar move in 2001 when a woman claimed the agency sold the land to her. It was learnt that some residents petitioned the state government, which stopped the move then.
Some of the residents – J.A. Akinbohun, D.O. Ojelabi, S.A. Elegbede and one Olatunji ─ had, in a suit no ID/674/01, sued the woman, Lagos State Ministry of Youth, Ministry of Lands, LBIC and the Attorney General of the state in respect of the land.
But the LBIC said the land was allocated to it by the Ministry of Lands and Housing. It said the ownership of the land had been transferred to the woman, Mrs. Mopelola Igbalajobi, after obtaining a sub-lease, adding that she had won the case at the court.
The protesters on Saturday carried placards with inscriptions such as, “The land is not for sale, beware of 419” and “Government should probe LBIC and Ministry of Lands over illegal occupation of playing ground,” among others. The protesters forced workers on the land to abruptly stop work.
A resident, Alhaja Ganiat Ajayi-Bembe, said the agency had yet to justify the sale of the land. “We went to the LBIC office and they told us that the land had been sold, but they refused to tell us who sold it. This is a piece of land provided by the government for recreational activities. There is something fishy, which LBIC needs to explain.”
A community leader, Dominic Ojelabi, said, the property was sold without the consent of the government. He added that they stopped pursuing the case in the court when counsels for the defendants did not show up. He said, “That land has been earmarked for recreation. We are not fighting anybody. But why is it that somebody will come from nowhere and sell the land without the knowledge of the government? That is what we are fighting for. That is where our children play and we use it for any function in the community.
“Our lawyer advised us in 2004 to drop the case when the counsel for the woman and other defendants did not come to court. The judgement they said the woman got is suspicious.”
Another protester, Wasiu Iyiola, a mechanic, said, “Last year, a group came and said they wanted a police station here. Many people kicked against it on the grounds that it is a recreation ground.”
The Estate Head of the LBIC, Mr. Tosin Olugbile, said the land was not a playing ground. He said the woman had proposed to build a medical centre on the land. He said, “That place is not a recreational ground. The woman is a medical practitioner and a resident in the estate and she has been using her flat as a clinic. Since she is helping the community, there is a need to take her out of the flat.
“She forwarded an application to the Ministry of Lands and the ministry sent the application to us, being the one vested with certificate of occupancy of all low-cost housing estates. So, we looked into it and gave the land to her.
“But the residents refused to let her take the possession of the land. They took her to court and she won. That the structure was once demolished is immaterial. The fact remains that the woman owns the land.”
The LBIC secretary, who did not want his name in print, showed a copy of the judgment which indicated that Justice D.O. Oluwayemi of a Federal High Court in Lagos, had ruled in favour of Igbalajobi on the grounds that the claimants had not pursued their claim diligently.
The judgement dated February 4, 2014, read in part, “That this suit is hereby dismissed in favour of first defendant (Mrs. Mopelola Igbalajobi).
“The writ and the amended statement of claim are defective and the claimants have not pursued their claim diligently.”