How the decades old Magodo land tussle began

How the decades old Magodo land tussle began

For the past few weeks, there has been heightened tension in Magodo Phase II Estate in Lagos State as residents and house owners panic over the fate o

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For the past few weeks, there has been heightened tension in Magodo Phase II Estate in Lagos State as residents and house owners panic over the fate of their multi-million naira investments as the Shangisha Landlords Association renew the battle to reclaim the land on which the estate is sitting from the Lagos State government.

Considering that the dispute has dragged for many years and that efforts of the Lagos State government to intervene have so far been ineffective, the residents’ worries are not out of place.

An inquisitive mind would ask, what is the genesis of this debacle?

According to the Chairman of Shangisha Landlord Association, Alhaji Adebayo Adeyiga, the issue started in 1984 when the Lagos State government “forcefully” took the parcels of land belonging to members of the association with claims that it will be used for the construction of an international standard hospital but was sold to “some high and mighty people in the society”

In his words, “The judicial struggle for Magodo land started in 1984 when the then military government of Gbolahan Mudashiru demolished our houses after forced acquisition of the entire land area for public use.

“Between 1984 and 1986, the government fraudulently took the parcel of land belonging to us, members of the landlord Association of Shangisha/Magodo, the area occupied by us, under the pretext that the acquired land would be used for the construction of an international-standard hospital.

“We the landlords were forcibly evicted from the land in dispute. The government went ahead to pull down all our houses, taking the entire area which was not what they had asked for in the first place.

“After the pulling down of our houses, we were embarrassed to find out that government officials involved had converted the land for their selfish interest, allotting the said land in plots to their friends and cronies and some of high and mighty people in the society.”

Adeyiga added that when the state government was approached with proof of the fraudulent allocation, the two parties resolved that members of the association were promised plot allocation in Magodo Scheme two and it was when the government broke this arrangement, the matter was taken to court.

His words, “We approached the Lagos State government, armed with facts of the fraudulent allotment, and it was resolved between us that members of the Association would be given plots of land from the then new Scheme known as Magodo Scheme 2.

“It was when they failed to do so, that we were forced to sue the Lagos State government through the executive officers sometimes in June 1988 in suits ID/795/88 Chief Adebayo Adeyiga and six (6) others versus Military Governor of Lagos State and four (4) others in Lagos State High Court, Ikeja.”

This began the protracted legal battle with various injunctions, suits, appeals.

For example, the Lagos State government refused to obey the Court order to maintain the status quo which forced the Shangisha Landlord Association to apply for an interlocutory injunction that was granted by the late Justice A. L. Balogun on October 19, 1992.

The injunction was however disregarded as allotting and further development on the land continued.

In May 1993, the then civilian Governor of Lagos State, the late Sir Michael Otedola gave the Executive Order for the release of our land to the Shangisha Landlord Association, which was not also complied with by the state government officials.

In December of 1993, the court granted ruling in favour of the Shangisha Landlord Association with a mandatory injunction order on the Lagos State government to allocate 549 plots on the land in dispute as first choice preference to the association.

The Lagos State government appealed the ruling. In March 1994, the government applied for a stay of execution which was granted by the late Justice Rosaline Omotosho, who ordered both parties to maintain status quo. This order was also flouted by government officials.

In 1999, the late Honourable Justice Akinola Aguda Tribunal on the allocation of land and Lagos State also gave an order against developers of all the lands in dispute and Shangisha/Magodo and Ikosi GRA to suspend work pending the determination of the suit ID 795/88 in the Court of Appeal but they did not obey the Order.

On September 25, 2001, the Court of Appeal gave judgement against Lagos State and reaffirmed the judgement of the lower Court.

The Lagos State government dissatisfied with the same appealed to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, which finally affirmed the judgment of the lower Courts on February 10, 2012.

In the judgment, the apex court granted, “A declaration that members of the Shangisha Landlords Association whose lands and or buildings at Shangisha village were demolished by the Lagos State Government and/or its servants or agents during the period of June 1984 to May 1985 are entitled to the first choice preferential treatment by Lagos State Government before any other person(s) in the allocation or re-allocation of plots in Shangisha village.”

Armed with this judgement, the Shangisha Landlords Association proceeded to audit the remaining vacant land in Magodo Ikosi GRA but all to no avail.

The Lagos State government argued that the judgment made no mention of the specific plots of land to be allocated to the aggrieved landowners in the area, and as such, they could not unilaterally invade the private residences to lay claim to structures already allotted to innocent third parties for value.

It is this disagreement that has fueled the contestation for the past 10 years.

Attempts at reclaiming the land by the alleged owners have been coming up regularly but it took an unprecedented leap on Tuesday, December 21, 2021, as they were being backed with more than 100 policemen from the Inspector General of Police to execute the ruling in their favour.

Save for the intervention of the estate dwellers who had to lock the gates and use their bodies as a human shield that night, a bulldozer was also employed to begin the demolition of the estate.

However, the heavily armed policemen continue to roam the estate.

The defiance of Abimbola Oyewole, a Chief Superintendent of Police to the order of the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Samwo-Olu to vacate the estate has got many people thinking about the nature of the backing the alleged owners now have.

As The Guardian reported, this whole debacle could have been averted had the government at the material time, complied with the judgment of the court.

The properties were allotted to these third parties while the case was sub judice and in spite of an injunction by the court.

It is not sufficient for the government to claim to have offered to relocate these landowners or that some of them had indeed accepted alternative plots while others refused.

The decision to waive a personal right or entitlement is at the holder’s discretion, and cannot be compelled otherwise it becomes oppressive.

The government is in a better position to appeal to the aggrieved landowners, and not make demands of them. Some of the landowners have indicated willingness to negotiate.

Thankfully, Governor Sanwo-Olu has set up a committee in which all aggrieved parties were invited to fashion a way out of the whole imbroglio and it is hoped that a peaceful and amicable resolution is reached by all parties.