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Court grants four bail over Ipaja land tussle

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A high court has granted Prince Adeniran Owen Alao and three others bail over alleged stealing of 101 acres of land located at P&T Ipaja Akinyele area of Lagos state.

The other three are Kolusade Oluwafemi, Quadro Lookman and Atinuse Albert.

Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo in her ruling dated October 8, 2020 held that the defendants are presumed innocent until the contrary is proved and thereby granted them bail in the sum of N20 million with two sureties in like sum.

The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) had in charge number ID/12978C/2020 accused them of conspiracy to commit felony and stealing of land contrary to section 409 and 410 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011.

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The EFCC had alleged that the defendants sometimes in 2014 conspired among themselves to steal 101 acres of land at P&T Ipaja Akinyele, Lagos property of the Federal government.

Arguing their bail applications, counsel to the defendants, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) submitted that the grant of bail is at the discretion of the court and that such discretion should be exercised judicially and judiciously.

Ayorinde submitted that bail is a constitutional right and that the presumption of innocence lies in favour of the defendants and that being responsible individuals, they will not jump bail but submit themselves to the courts until the matter is finally disposed of.

He therefore urged the court to use its discretion in favour of the defendants and grant them bail accordingly.

Opposing the application, EFCC counsel, Ayanfeoluwa Ogunsina submitted that the offences against which the defendants were charged relate to economic sabotage; hence their bail applications should be refused.

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In her ruling, Justice Taiwo held that the defendants are presumed innocent until contrary is proved, adding that the offences they were charged with are bailable and thereby should be granted bail.

“In a case of an offence ordinarily bailable, it is the duty of the prosecution to show why the applicant should not be admitted to bail. It is not expected to oppose bail for the sake of opposing, there should be factual grounds for opposing bail and these facts have to be put before the court. Also, the applicant has corresponding duty to show that he is entitled to bail.

“Although, the prosecution has urged the court to consider the seriousness of the offence the applicants are alleged to have committed and has contended that if the applicants are admitted to bail, they would interfere with trial, from the counter affidavit, the prosecution has failed to give material facts to show that the applicants will indeed interfere with trial if admitted to bail,” the court held.

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It would be recalled that the first defendant, Prince Adeniran and five others had in suit number ID/5764/14 filed before Justice Ganiyu Safari of the Lagos high court, Ikeja sued Ministers of Land and that of Communication over the disputed land.

Other claimants in the suit are, Chief Abibu Ajibawo, Chief Sikiru Odede, Mr. Ayinla Falola, Mr. Babatunde Abiola, Chief Ajike Ogunbiyi for themselves and on behalf of members of Oguntoyinbo, Abiola, Falola and Ilo families.

They prayed the court for declaration that the purpose for which the 101 acres of land located at P&T Ipaja Akinyele, Lagos was acquired by the Federal government has failed.

They claimed that the land was compulsorily acquired from their families vide Government Notice 1881 published in the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No-60 Vol 61 dated December 12, 1974 and that no acquisition notice was served personally on the claimant’s families or their customary tenants.

Besides, the claimants told the court that no compensation was paid to their families by the federal government, while the specific purpose of the acquisition of the land, which is to be used as International Radio Monitoring Station, was not done.

The claimants further informed the court that the Federal Government rather than use the acquired land for the original purpose, handed the land to the ministry of land and later to the Ministry of Communication who then occupied the land through the defunct Nigerian Telecommunication Limited (NITEL).

They stated that the small portion of the land built on by the defunct NITEL is not in any way connected to the original purpose of the acquisition and that the same NITEL has been sold to private investors.

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They added that officials of the defunct NITEL and some unknown persons are selling off the land in dispute in bits and pieces to private individuals, contrary to the specific purpose for which the Federal Government acquired the land.

Justice Safari in his judgment delivered on May 19, 2015 held that the absolute purpose for which the parcel of land was acquired to wit- International Radio Monitoring Station has totally failed.

Consequently, the court ordered that the claimants should take possession of all the lands situate at Ipaja Lagos more particularly delineated on survey Plan No. PB 401 A&B dated 21/275 prepared by B.P Okuboye.

However, the court refused to grant the request to demolish all structures erected on the land pending when the claimants shall file a detailed particulars or inventory of such structures before the court.

Following the judgment, some members of the families, namely Chief Abibu Ajibawo, Ayinla Falola and Babatunde Abiola (applicants) urged the court to restrain Prince Own Adeniran, Chief Ajike Ogunbiyi and Chief Sikiru Odede (respondents) from further dealing on the disputed land.

They also prayed the court to order the respondents to account for all monies collected from the sales of the Oguntoyinbo family land and to set aside all sales, assignments, lease, tenancy made by them on the disputed land.

The applicants informed the court that since the delivery of the judgment on May 19, 2015, thugs were appointed to prevent them from entering the land.

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But, opposing the application, the respondents in their Notice of Preliminary Objection argued that once a court delivers its judgment in respect of a matter, it has become functus officio (has no power to make changes) and thereby precluded from reviewing or varying such judgment.

In his ruling, Justice Safari noted that both the applicants and the respondents were from the same family and judgment was given in their favour.

“It is to be noted that all the parties to these applications argued together were the victorious parties and claimant/judgment creditors in that judgment of the court delivered on May 19, 2015. The claimants after obtaining judgment have now turned against one another,” the court stated.

Justice Safari held that having given judgment in the suit and the judgment having been executed, the court lacks the power to make further orders in the suit as the two parties before the court are judgment creditors in the main suit Number ID/5764/14 and are entitled to the benefits of the said judgment.

Consequently, Justice Safari dismissed the application.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Communication has appeal against the judgment and the matter adjourned till December 1, 2020 for hearing.

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