Pandemonium broke out at Mafon in the Egbe-Idimu Local Council Development Area of Lagos State last Friday when armed land grabbers, who were allegedly accompanied by policemen from the Idimu Police Division, sacked many landlords and tenants from their homes.
The action was said to have followed purported court judgment granting ownership of the land to the Frederick Ogundimu family after a 10-year tussle.
PUNCH Metro gathered that the land grabbers, while being supported by policemen, allegedly broke into houses, chased the occupants out, brought out their belongings and locked the buildings.
It was learnt that some landlords and residents, who tried to resist the land grabbers during the operation, were assaulted.
According to eyewitnesses, ever since the invasion of the community, the residents have been living in fear as the land grabbers have been doing night shifts to prevent people from gaining access into their buildings.
When PUNCH Metro visited the community on Tuesday, it was observed that many houses, shops and schools on Adekola, Akinwunmi, Monsurat Okunleye, Yomi Sofunmade and Owonikoko streets as well as adjoining streets were under lock and key.
Some displaced landlords, tenants and youths in the community were seen using the frontage of their buildings and shops as temporary abode.
A resident, Jamiu Adeyanju, alleged that a member of the Ogundimu family mobilised thugs and policemen to take over the houses, adding that landlords and tenants in the area could no longer gain access to their homes.
He added that no document was provided to back up the claim that the family had a judgment in its favour over the land.
The Oyo State indigene said, “All of a sudden, the land grabbers invaded the community with policemen from the Idimu Division and started terrorising us and said no one would enter the houses, because the land belonged to them. They chased landlords and tenants out of their houses, packed their belongings out and locked them out.
“Since Friday, we have been sleeping in front of the shut houses and shops on our streets without having access to our homes to prepare meals and bathe. The land grabbers are also watching over the area to see if anyone will act against their instructions.
“A hypertensive landlord has been hospitalised because of this issue. The Ogundimu family, which brought the land grabbers and policemen, said it had a judgment on the land, but provided no document to back up its claim. An old landlady was locked inside her house and a landlord, who was shocked by the invasion, has been hospitalised.”
Another resident, Karim Habeeb, said the land grabbers threatened to shoot anyone who dared to record the operation.
“They have been terrorising us for so many years and whenever they come, they tell us that they have taken possession; they come with thugs and the police to create tension in the community,” he stated.
Frustrated by the situation, landlords, tenants and youths in the community staged a protest on Tuesday against the uncertainty created by the land grabbers and their alleged sponsors.
A landlord, Isiaka Adeyanju, said the Ogundimu family demanded N8m from each landlord and gave a deadline of the weekend to pay N4m before they could be allowed into their homes.
The 60-year-old said, “I bought my land from the O sailorunfunmi family of Idimu and I have been living in my house for over 27 years. We were few in the community before development came to the area and it was during this period that we started hearing that another family was claiming ownership of the land. They brought a survey as proof, but when we went to check it at Alausa, the survey did not cover where our land is.
“These land grabbers and their sponsors know that we are powerless and are using their influence to torment us. They said each landlord should pay N8m or make half payment before we would be granted access to our houses. We were given this week as the deadline. We want the government to come to our aid.”
A school owner, Atinuke Adeniji, while condemning the development, said the land grabbers invaded her school premises, chased out the pupils, locked the gates and put the building up for sale.
“I was called out of my school premises to send my pupils home. I pleaded with them to allow us to close officially so that their parents could pick them, but they refused and placed the school under lock and key and mounted a banner indicating that my school building was up for sale,” Adeniji stated.
A notice on one of the affected buildings read, ‘Possession taken today, Friday, November 1, 2019, by court order,’ while another stated, ‘This is to notify the entire public that this property is hereby put up for sale by the legal owner (the estate of the late Pa Frederick Olabode Ogundimu)’, while directing further enquiries to Michael Ladipo and Co.
When PUNCH Metro contacted the Principal Partner of the legal firm, Mr Michael Ladipo, he said the due process was followed to execute the judgment after his client obtained a warrant of possession on the land.
Ladipo said, “There was a matter that was instituted in 1993 between Frederick Ogundimu and Mudasiru Amusa and four others in respect of the land in question. We got a judgment on March 15, 2002, and after the judgment, the enforcement was done in 2009.
“Everybody in the community knows about this matter. After 2009, the landlords returned and nothing happened, so we reported back to the court and got another warrant to execute, which was in 2017.
“The gates of the houses that were locked up were pasted with the second execution notice dating back to 2017, but nothing was done. So, we headed back to the court so that we could execute our warrant of possession, which was granted to us earlier this year. It was the warrant of possession that was executed on Friday and the due process was followed.
“After the execution, about 80 per cent of the landlords came for a meeting and we demanded N8m for regularisation, but they came with a counter proposal and we gave our final position to be N5m with the option of 50 per cent upfront payment.”
When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Bala Elkana, said he would get back to our correspondent but had yet to do so as of the time of filing this report despite reminders.