By Ezra Odogu
Why should Nigeria’s Chief Law Officer and the head of the Nigerian police mobilise two hundred men from Abuja for an obvious illegal execution of judgement in Lagos?
That the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba as well as the Minister of Justice/Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, mobilised this number of policemen for an unlawful enforcement at the Magodo 11 residential estate in Lagos, is despicable and portrays the Buhari-led federal government as reckless.
The police officer leading the operation, CSP Abimbola Oyewole confidently told Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu that he and his armed colleagues were at the estate on the orders of IG Baba and Malami. For over three weeks, the army of occupation from Abuja has been assisting the initial land owners to inflict pain on the residents of Magodo 11, with threats to demolish their houses, based on a purported judgement of the Supreme Court.
There is only one Supreme Court judgement in this land case between the Shangisha Landlords Association (the initial owners of the land Magodo 11 sits today) and the Lagos State Government. I am sure Malami and Baba have the Certified True Copies (CTC) of this judgement. So, if these two federal law officers have the CTC, then, they have no business sending this army of occupation to Magodo 11. There is no justification for the invasion of Magodo 11 by IG Baba’s boys.
I have spent quality time reading this judgement in favour of the Shangisha Landlords Association, who, no doubt were unjustly treated by the military administration of late Air Commodore Gbolahan Mudasiru in Lagos State.
The then military administrator in 1984 demolished their houses and seized their land with the claim that they were squatters and that they erected buildings in Shangisha without the knowledge and approval of the Lagos State Government.
Lagos State further claimed that Shangisha village was a part of the 7,300 acres of land compulsorily acquired by the Lagos State Government in 1969, and “as a result of the acquisition, the land became vested in the Lagos State Government by virtue of the public Land Acquisition Vesting order of.” In addition, it claimed that the plaintiffs were not physically on the site at the time of the acquisition of Shangisha village in 1969.
After the 1984 demolition of Shangisha village, a residential estate (Magodo 11) was later created there by the state’s government and sold. Following pressure from the initial land owners, the Lagos State Government agreed to give them fresh land but reneged. That was why the oppressed Shangisha landlords went to court. The case resolved in court was not over ownership of Shangisha village. It was over the failure of Lagos State to compensate Shangisha landlords with new land as agreed.
But the fact remains that the Supreme Court judgement did not grant approval to the Shangisha Landlords for the repossession of their land at Magodo 11.
This is the crux of the matter.
Malami and Baba should know that it is the heart of the matter. There is no judgement supporting retrieval of the land. The Supreme Court didn’t grant any approval to the oppressed Shangisha landlords to take possession of properties of individuals in Magodo 11. So, sending an army of occupation to Magodo 11, to assist the original owners regain possession of the land is an illegality. I’m not sorry to say that Malami and Baba went on an illegal enforcement for personal gains.
The battle in the various courts was not over the ownership of Shangisha village, but over the fact that Lagos State Government reneged on its promise to provide land for the displaced initial land owners.
Lagos State Government offered the appellants plots of land in substitution for the one from which they were evicted, but failed to deliver. The copy of the Supreme Court judgement in favour of the Shangisha Landlords declared that members of the Shangisha Landlords Association, whose lands were taken and buildings demolished at Shangisha village 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 the Lagos State Government before any other person(s) in the allocation or re-allocation of plots in Shangisha village scheme.
Put succinctly, the Supreme Court ordered that Lagos State should, as a matter of first priority, give 549 plots of land to the original land owners in the Shangisha Landlords Association. Malami and Baba know that the declaratory judgment of the Supreme Court only recognised the Judgment Creditors as being entitled to first choice preferential treatment “in the allocation and or re-allocation of plots in Shangisha Village.”
The Supreme Court also did not in any way grant any land title to the Shangisha landlords in Magodo 11. There is evidently nothing to back their drive for repossession because none was granted by the court.
Another illegality promoted by Malami and Baba in this Gestapo operation was that the Sheriff of the High Court of Lagos, where the Judgment first emanated, was not responsible for the purported execution ongoing at Magodo 11. These two law officers know that it is contrary to Order 8, Rule 17, of the Supreme Court 2014 Rules and Section 37 of the Enforcement of Judgment and Orders, Part iii, of the Sheriff and Civil Process Act, LFN, 2004.
Malami, in his response to his lawlessness last Wednesday, carefully avoided the fact that land repossession was not part of the judgement obtained by Shangisha landlords.
He was quoted as saying, “Some of the cardinal pillars of democratic government are the doctrine of separation of powers and obedience to the rule of law, inclusive of court orders… the office of the Attorney General wonders how maintenance of the law and orders in the course of execution of the judgment of the supreme can be adjudged by the imagination of the governors to be unruly. We want to restate that the sanctity of the rule of law is not a matter of choice.”
Haba! What rubbish! How can Malami be talking about enforcing what was not ordered by the Supreme Court? This is plainly the Rule of Malami, not Rule of Law. It is preposterous. There is a personal agenda here.
Honestly, I’m in support of justice for Shangisha Landlords, whose land and house were forcefully taken 37 years ago by the Lagos State Government. Houses were confiscated and demolished without compensation. Some of the landlords could not bear the pain and died after the demolition. However, Malami and IG Baba can’t be fighting to enforce a recovery that was never ordered by the court.
Magodo 11 residents are not responsible for the unfortunate pain inflicted on Shangisha land owners and should be allowed to live in peace. The past military administration in Lagos State is clearly culpable. For me, the original Shangisha land owners deserve not just fresh land but massive financial compensation.
This is what Malami and IG Baba should be fighting for. I challenge Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to do the needful swiftly.
Shangisha landlords should be given land in locations commensurate to what they lost. This offer of land in Badagry and Ibeju is clearly not it.
Also, the Supreme Court judgement did not say anything about compensation for those whose houses were demolished. For me, beyond providing appropriate fresh land, Sanwo-Olu should also provide immense compensation to those whose houses were demolished. It is heartwarming that the Lagos State Governor met with the Shangisha landlords on Wednesday and resolved to ensure that 549 plots of land are allocated to them.
The governor directed the state’s Surveyor-General, the Permanent Secretary Lands Bureau and the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, to immediately identify available plots of land within the Shangisha village scheme for the oppressed Shangisha landlords. T
his is a task that must be done by Sanwo-Olu. This governor has so far shown courage and commitment. He deserves the support of all.
For the army of occupation from Abuja, IG Baba and Malami should ensure their swift removal from Magodo 11 and rapid posting to Borno State to help in the war against Boko Haram and ISWAP.
Enough damage has already been done to the image of the police at Magodo. It was so easy for IG Baba to moblise policemen to Magodo, but he finds it difficult mobilising his men to crime scenes. The IG could not deploy his men in Anka and Bukkuyum local government areas of Zamfara State when terrorists slaughtered scores of people in last Thursday. What a country!