…..As community asks court to revert land ownership back to them
|Chief Olusegun Obasanjo|
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s pet project, the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) is now at the risk of being forfeited to the original owners of the land upon which it is built.
A vast expanse of land approximately 179.89 Hectares (444.52 acres), which reportedly belongs to Ijeun-Lukosi Community of Abeokuta, Ogun State, is now a subject of litigationatthe High Court of Ogun State in the Abeokuta Judicial Division in suit No:AB/442/2016.
Already the court on January 10th granted the community through their counsels Fatai Erewunmi and Chief Wakeel Olawale Liady, an interim injunction restraining the defendants, Obasanjo inclusive, from destroying the Claimants’ shrines on the land until the hearing and determination of the suit.
In a 50-paragraph affidavit, the Baale of Ijeun-Lukosi Community, Chief Benjamin Ogunbona, claimed that Ogun State Government compulsorily acquired the land in 1976 for the purpose of building the state Secretariat complex.
Ogunbona said the state government did not use the land for what it initially acquired it for but rather stated re-allocating the same land to private individuals for private uses.
According to him, more than 100 (hundred) individuals have now erected private properties on the land among whom were Obasanjo’s Presidential Library, Dr. Kunle Salako (former SSG, Ogun State); Dr. Adeleke Adedoyin, Chief Yomi Majekodunmi among others.
The Presidential Library was said to be a private property of Obasanjo as contained in a letter written to the community by the National Library of Nigeria on 2nd February 2016 and signed by the Secretary to the board/Legal adviser, Alhaji Aminu Ojaj.
Ogunbona disclosed that after the community mounted pressure on the government, it (Ogun State government) excised 33.253 hectares out of the land to the community in 2011.
He stated that as provided by law, government did not pay any compensation to the people of Ijeun-Lukosi community for the compulsory acquisition of their land.
He said: “Our land measured approximately 178.89 hectares, which amounted to 444.52 Acres of land from time immemorial and we have exercised undisturbed act of ownership of same without let or hindrance from any quartres until 1976 when the newly created Ogun State government compulsorily acquired part and parcel of our land.
“Although the notice of the acquisition stated that we shall have access to the survey plan showing the boundary of areas so acquired but the 1st and 3rd Defendants (governor of Ogun State and. Director-General bureau of Lands and Survey respectively) never obliged us with a copy and given access to any to sight the said copy.
“As provided for under the law with regard to compulsory acquisition, the 1st and 3rd defendants never paid compensation to the community for the acquisition of Ijeun-Lukosi Land.”
He added that government kept the community in the dark as to the size of the land so acquired from them until 2015 when hundreds of private individuals invaded the land, claiming they have been allocated parcels of land by the governor and the Bureau of lands and Survey.
He averred that findings by the community however revealed in the only gazette available, relating to their land, from 1967 to 2010 that only 62.99 acres of the land was actually acquired as published on July 1st 1976 in gazette No 11 Vol. 1.
Ogunbona also recalled that when former Governor Olusegun Osoba visited the Ijeun-Lukosi Community on 18thJanuary 2003, he told the community that government had released the land from Secretariat acquisition.
He noted that this situation was reversed by Governor Gbenga Daniel immediately after Osoba left office, that he eventually equally authorised the excision of 38 hectares of the land back to the community.
Ogunbona and the entire Ijeun-Lukosi community are praying the court for the reversion of the land to the community as the bonafide owners, since it’s no longer used for the original purpose of the acquisition but shared to private individuals.
The government in its response through Mr. Omilana Korede of the Bureau of Lands and Survey, confirmed the acquisition of the land by Ogun State Government in 1976.
He however argued that the land was validly acquired, crops properly enumerated and the compensation deposited with the Bureau of Lands and Survey a long time ago.
He also claimed that the 38.253 hectares the community said was returned to them in 2011 had also been cancelled by a panel of enquiry set up by the current government.
His 12-paragraph affidavit read in part: “That sometimes in 1976, the Ogun State government acquired a large area of land which forms part of the large expanse of land measuring 3, 674 hectares for public purpose; to construct State Secretariat.
“That the land was validly acquired by the enabling law. That copies of notice of acquisition were served on the affected land owners and villagers and where they were hostile, the notices were posted on conspicuous objects like trees and rock.
“That the 38.253 hectares that was claimed by the defendants to have been released to them has since been cancelled by the Panel of enquiry on Lands headed by Justice Abiodun Akinyemi.”
The matter has been adjourned to the 23rd of March, 2017.