court

• Says Igbo-Efon Land Is Not Under Ojomu Chieftaincy Family

Reprieve came the way of Igbo-Efon community in the Lekki area of Lagos State, when the Lagos High Court declared it an autonomous community. This came after years of forceful annexation of the community, by the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family, supported by the Lagos State Government. In or about 1989, the Ojomu Chieftaincy family sued the Lagos State Government over the compulsory acquisition of their family land in Ajiran.

Judgment was delivered in favour of the family, whereupon it entered an agreement with the Lagos State Government, for a fresh acquisition of the land and a further excision of a portion of the family land, leading to the promulgation of Lagos State Official Gazette, in 1994, detailing the communities excised from the acquisition. Igbo-Efon was wrongly listed in the 1994 Gazette, whereupon Ojomu Chieftaincy Family annexed all other villages and settlements listed in the 1994 Gazette, as belonging to Ojomu Chieftaincy Family, claiming that Igbo-Efon community is a customary settlement of the Ojomu family, selling portions of the community land, which had been cleverly designated as part of the Ojomu family lay out plan.

The dispute came to a head when in 2007, Igbo-Efon community resisted the attempt by the one of those who claimed to have bought a portion of Igbo-Efon land from Ojomu family, from taking over the said land, leading to a court action, in Suit No.LD/826/2007, Bamidele Jemiyo v Atiku Abogun & Anor, in the High Court of Lagos State. Whereas it was the case of the claimant that Ojomu chieftaincy family is the overlord in respect of all land described in the official gazette of 1994, the Igbo-Efon community stated their radical title of the founding of Igbo-Efon land by their progenitors, maintaining that since Igbo-Efon community was not part of the original acquisition of land in 1981, it could not be lumped together under a private agreement between Ojomu chieftaincy family and Lagos State.

After a trial that lasted almost ten years, the Court, coram K.O. Alogba, J., in a well considered judgment, delivered on December 22, 2016, declared that the forceful annexation of Igbo-Efon community land under Ojomu Chieftaincy family was improper, since they are not customary tenants of the Ojomu family. The judge stated as follows:
“In my humble conclusion therefore and particularly in view of my finding above that the plan used in the Exhibit D6 case of AJETUMOBO V A/G LAGOS STATE was not tendered in this case, and in that judgment too, no mention was ex-facie made of Igbo-Efon land. If therefore the judgment which is the mother of the agreement exhibit D7 and the grandmother of the Gazette exhibit C3 itself did not mention Igbo-Efon, reference to Ojomu Chieftaincy family as holder of title on Igbo-Efon land cannot automatically confer title to that land on the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family and I so hold.

In all therefore the claimant failed to prove that the Ojomu Chieftaincy family is the owner of Igbo-Efon land as contended.”
The landmark case was prosecuted on behalf of Igbo-Efon community by eminent Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, who has had a running battle with all overlords in the Eti-Osa/Lekki areas, to free the real indigenes, who are the original owners of land, from the stranglehold of royal fathers, who have virtually annexed all villages and settlements, with the tacit support of the Lagos State Government.

It will be recalled that earlier in the case of Elegushi v. Oseni, the Supreme Court rescued the entire Maiyegun Community, from annexation by the Elegushi Royal Family. Later on in the case of Gbadamosi v Akinloye, the Supreme Court also excised the entire Osapa Village, from the holding of Ojomu Chieftaincy Family.
This case is significant because of the strategic position of Igbo-Efon community in Lagos State, as the hosts of the headquarters of Chevron Nigeria Limited, the Nigerian Conservation Fund, the Twin Lake Town Project, Alpha Beach and other strategic developments.

The trial court did not mince words in separating Igbo-Efon from Ojomu Chieftaincy family, when it stated further as follows:
“In all, I agree with the submission of learned defence counsel that Igho-Efon was not acquired and is not under customary tenancy of Ojomu Chieftaincy Family. The traditional evidence of the defendants as owners of Igbo-Efon land was not discredited by the claimant at all and I believe it.”

Having declared the defendants (Igbo-Efon) community as the holders of statutory right of occupancy on Igbo-Efon land, I am satisfied that they have sufficiently identified the land being claimed and not only that, proved their presence thereon. Accordingly, the counter-claim succeeds, the defendants/counter-claimants are declared to be the ones entitled to a statutory right of occupancy over the land in dispute.”

Reacting to the judgment in his chambers in Lekki, Mr. Adegboruwa commended the courage of the judge and urged Nigerians to always have hope in the judiciary, as the last resort for justice, notwithstanding its recent challenges. Although he regretted that most of the chiefs of Igbo-Efon who started the case have since died, having suffered untold persecution from their adversaries, he said his law firm will meet with the accredited representatives of Igbo-Efon community, to fine tune ways of enforcing the judgment. He urged the Lagos State Government to stop supporting medieval and predatory strong and connected royal families, from annexing innocent and helpless communities, under the guise of customary tenancy and overlordship, in a free society.

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