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Soka hits the news again over raging land ownership dispute

Just when its metamorphosis from being Ibadan’s ritual killers’ den to possessing imposing educational infrastructures was being celebrated, Soka area of Ibadan has again hit the spotlight over a raging land ownership dispute threatening peaceful coexistence in the area. In the past two weeks, the dispute has gravitated to the destruction of structures, marking of houses for demolition, locking up of houses, protest by affected residents and alleged threat to lives in the area. The evolving scenario in the area stemmed from a warrant of possession of the land expanse obtained by one Anlamole family in May 2017. In particular, the landowner family has given Sunday March 25, 2018 as ultimatum to live up to given terms of settlement or have their houses locked or levelled.

With fear of continued loss of their properties and palpable fear gripping them, residents of the community led by Mr Ayo Akinsola had on Monday embarked on a protest to Governor Abiola Ajimobi seeking his intervention. Speaking on behalf of others, Akinsola had alleged that about 50 uncompleted structures had been pulled down while thugs had taken over the area. While he said the affected landlords were willing to pay settlements, Akinsola said there was confusion over whom to pay to, with more than one person claiming to be the original landowner.

“They gave us two weeks ultimatum, serving us letters that at the expiration of the ultimatum, they will begin to destroy properties. They locked up houses that have been built and levelled houses that have been taken up to lintel level. The first time, they came with policemen; the next time, they came with thugs. Between 40 and 50 uncompleted houses were destroyed. I have information that when their caterpillar was bulldozing, it exhumed a corpse and they pressed it to ground.

Of Lagos and land use charge

“We are here to notify the government that these people have begun to demolish fences for the past two weeks. They also brought in thugs to intimidate us. Our rights were trampled upon. They destroyed our properties and we restrained from attacking them.”

“The Anlamole family claimed to be owners of the land in Soka area having gotten warrant of possession from the court. This is a land that we have bought several times from one man called Waheed Olatunji. We agreed to pay settlement, but who do we settle? A set of people claimed to be in possession of the judgment. We now went to verify from the lawyer of Anlamole family which is authentic to pay to. They claimed to be authentic and there is the probability of paying to one side and another wanting us to pay them the next time,” Akinsola said.

The dispute had spanned several years with Supreme Court judgment delivered in a case Appeal No. CA/I/252/2009, between Ikeji Real Estate Company standing on behalf of residents as appellant and Alhaji Raimi Oladimeji Oni; Amos Olunuga; Lateef Adeogun, on behalf of Oladokun Anlamole as Respondents on May 23, 2017.

According to representative of the Anlamole family, Mr Waheed Olatunji, residents must respect the judgment and provide settlement or lose their properties.

“The ultimatum lapses on Sunday. We have judgment from High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court giving us warrant to take possession of the land. For over a year that we obtained the judgment, we failed to act, we met with so many community elders, President of the CDA and advised them to ensure the affected people reach a settlement with the family but they went to court. About a week ago, the court rejected the application noting that we had obtained warrant of possession. Instead of the people to negotiate with the family, they are moving from one place to the other,” Anlamole said.

Speaking in the same vein, another member of the family, Mr Akanni Anlamole said many of the current landlords obtained their land from illegal sellers and not the Anlamole family. Noting that over 1,000 buildings apart from undeveloped land were under dispute, he said the family abided by legal means to get its land, was keen on settlement and not using thugs to get justice. So far, he said the family demolished fences on vacant land and did not bring down existing structures. He affirmed that some landlords had begun to subscribe to paying settlement.

“The judgment favours Anlamole, while asking that the family reaches settlement with the occupants. Many of the occupants did not purchase land from Anlamole family and got it from illegal sellers. We do not wish to demolish any house. What we expect from them is to reach settlement with us on how much they can pay.

“We have not slapped anyone, used machete on anyone. Yes, some fences have been demolished, but those fences are those around vacant land not existing structures. After we locked up many houses, in compliance with the judgment, the people have gone to break the locks and open the house and this is contempt of court. In the interest of peace, we have continued to watch them.”

“Over 1,000 buildings apart from undeveloped land are on the land being disputed. We are willing to accept settlement, even in installment. Those who understand the situation have begun to meet with our lawyer to settle and reach terms of settlement, while some others have continued to move around with their own campaigns,” Anlamole said.

According to community head of Farook, Baale Isiaka Bello, some landlords may have purchased their land from different sellers within and outside the Anlamole family. He, however, said the community was bound to comply with the court judgment. On its efforts, Bello said community leaders had pleaded with the Anlamole family not to demolish houses. He however said he observed that there was demolition of fences on parcels of land which have no developed structures on them.

“We have appealed to them to embrace settlement since they obtained court judgment. They won the case which had lasted 25 years and they started to seal and mark houses recently. We met with them to get some money as settlement from the landlords currently on the land and they accepted this plea not to demolish houses. I am not aware if any landlord has paid settlement. But, what we observed is that they are demolishing fences of land which have undeveloped structures. They are not demolishing houses,” Bello said.

In the same vein, President, Community Development Association, New Felele, Soka and environs, Runsewe Omotayo said it had continued to mediate to ensure that the dispute does not spiral into crisis. He however decried that some of its efforts were yet to materialise fully. He prayed that the Anlamole family be united to ensure that the people pay to just one source.

“When they got court possession, they came with court officials and security agencies to lock up the houses. We urged them to only mark the houses and not demolish and they heeded us. They had locked some houses and we urged them to open them which they also heeded to,” Runsewe said.

A landlord, Hamzat Kamal lamented that his fence was demolished twice, urging the “Omo Oniles” to be more humane in attempting to obtain possession of the land.

“I don’t work here, I work in Ghana. I was hurriedly told to return home that my house was about to be demolished. My fence was cut because they alleged that I had encroached beyond my allocated one plot. I got this land in 1995 and showed the agreement to the person whom I purchased the land from, and the issue died down. I made another fence spending about N500,000 and the fence was brought down a second time. I told them that the amount I have spent twice was handsome enough for me to give them. It’s not easy to make money. About 1,500 blocks was demolished. We shouldn’t continue to make life difficult for one another,” Kamal said.

Addressing the protesting Soka residents, Oyo Commissioner for Lands, Housing and Survey, Isaac Omodewu has said the state government had ordered its task force to visit Soka area and stop all forms of demolition carried out by the Anlamole family.

He also assured that the state government will ensure that the settlement sought by the Anlamole family is reasonable and convenient.

Omodewu hinted of the state’s Real Properties Protection Law, 2016 which protects the rights of property owners and prohibit forceful entry, illegal occupation, violent and fraudulent conducts, in relation to real properties in the state.

“We have resolved about 20 cases that are this related, even up to Supreme Court. We then reduced settlement cost. We will resolve this issue in like manner. As of now, I will ask our task force to visit Soka area to stop any form of demolition and invite the said individuals.”

“You will make your complaint formal to the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey upon which we shall act. In the letter of complaint, you will indicate the name of the persons that you have issues with. We will then invite all concerned parties. Don’t be violent and live in peace,” Omodewu said.

Credit: Nigerian Tribune

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