Land-grabbing Allegation: Osun community absolves Nigerian Army of wrongdoing
The leaders of Ilobu, headquarters of Irepodun Local Government Area of Osun State, have reacted to the allegation of land grabbing levelled against the Nigerian Army by its neighbouring Ifon-Osun town, headquarters of Orolu Local Government Area.
This is in addition to a public statement issued by the Nigerian Army on Tuesday night debunking the allegation, while also explaining its role in securing every part of Nigeria against internal and external aggression.
Ifon-Osun had earlier on Tuesday staged a protest accusing the Nigerian Army of plotting to take over its land for the alleged purpose of building a facility for the said area.
Led by its regent and Eesa of Ifon-Osun, Babatunde Oyetunji, the people of the community on Tuesday staged a protest and addressed the media, accusing the Nigerian Army of possible hijacking their community’s parcels of land allegedly in connivance with Ilobu community.
The protesters said as an indigene of Ilobu community, the Chief of Army Staff, Taoreed Lagbaja, was planning to use his position to forcefully take over the community’s land.
But in its reaction on Wednesday, the palace of Olobu of Ilobu, Oba Ashiru Olaniyan, debunked the claim by Ifon-Osun, describing it as an attempt to cause trouble within the area.
Addressing reporters on behalf of the palace, a senior chief and legal practitioner, Adegoke Ogunsola, the Otun Jagun of Ilobu, said the community was surprised to hear the news of the protest against an “innocent army chief” whose appointment, he noted, has been hailed by many Nigerians as the right peg in a right hole.
Mr Ogunsola said it was important to clarify the controversies surrounding the land issue, noting that several court cases already determined have consistently giving verdicts in favour of Ilobu.
He also said the community’s royal father was visited by a retired soldier and an old friend, who was said to have discussed possibility of facilitating a development centre for the town, and was taken to a possible location to confirm suitability.
The chief said: “On Monday 28 August, Olobu of Ilobu, His Royal Majesty Oba Ashiru Olatoye Olaniyan II (J.P) received a retired military personnel as a guest. In the course of the visitation, the Olobu of Ilobu suggested a project under the Military-Civil Relationship of the Nigerian Army. The retired General, who is a friend of Olobu of Ilobu was then taken to parts of Ilobu community where people are in need of the project.
“The places visited are without mincing words, parts of Ilobu Community. Court judgements and Osun State Gazette have, for the umpteenth time, confirmed this assertion.”
He listed various cases to include those in cases with suit no: HOY/20/70 between Oba J. O. Akinyooye II, the Olufon of Ifon Osun, Oba Aminu Siyanbola, as delivered on 17 July, 1973; judgement in Appeal No FCA/I/1978 between Oba J. O. Akinyooye II, the Olufon of Ifon Osun, and Prince Salami Adesina and Prince Kola Oyewumi delivered on 22 September, 1981.
Other judgements as listed by the chief included those with Suit No: HOS/22/86 between Jimoh Adigun & Amusa Akanni and Oba Asiru Olaniyan, as delivered on 18 October, 1991, and Appeal No CA/I/153/98 between Amusa Akanni and Oba Asiru Olaniyan delivered 7 July, 2005, among others.
Mr Ogunsola, the immediate past chairman of Irepodun Local Government, also listed the judgement with Suit No: HOS/40/2015 between HRM Oba A. A. Magbagbeola (OLufon of Ifon) & Orolu local government and the Governor of Osun State & five others, which was said to have been delivered recently on 13 July, 2018.
“Don’t distract army chief”
Mr Ogunsola, who described the protest by the palace of Ifon Osun as mere rantings, said a review of the past conduct of the community would reveal that it is out of envy and desperation.
He said: “The recent rantings by Eesa of Ifon-Osun and Jide Akinyooye were not different from their past lies. The Olobu of Ilobu, Chiefs and people of Ilobu once again appreciate the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Asiwaju Bola Hammed Tinubu for finding worthy for national assignment, a prominent son of Ilobu, Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja.
“We want to reiterate that the claim by Ifon-Osun community is an attempt to distract the Chief of Army Staff and the president from pursuing the Renewed Hope Agenda for Nigeria.”
Earlier on Tuesday, the spokesperson of the Nigerian Army, Onyema Nwachukwu, described the allegation as malicious and false, calling on the public to disregard it.
He said the Nigerian Army was not yet involved in any process regarding acquisition of any piece of land for any project whether in Orolu or elsewhere, but that the protesters were “only out to tarnish the good image of the army chief and the institution it represents.”
In its statement published on its official Facebook page, the Nigerian Army wrote: “The Nigerian Army ( NA) has been notified of malicious allegations reportedly peddled in a press statement by one Chief Babatunde Oyetunji, Eesa of Ifon in which he levelled allegations that the Nigerian Army (NA) has decided to forcefully acquire land for a proposed project in Orolu Community of Orolu Local Govt of Osun State.
“Without mincing words, the NA wishes to clarify, that the report is entirely false, malicious and an effort by some vested interests to tarnish the good reputation of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and drag the name of the institution in the mud.”
Possible reason for allegation
Mr Nwachukwu explained that part of the measures taken by the Nigerian Army to boost the trust of the populace in the Nigerian Army is “through the instrumentality of Civil-Military Cooperation activities or programmes of the Nigerian Army.”
“This effort is fundamentally geared towards fostering cooperation and galvanising support of the civil populace for NA’s diverse operations to mitigate security challenges across the country. Hence, the NA usually executes special community intervention projects, such as hospitals, boreholes, electrification amongst others based on needs assessment, after consultations with the leadership of such communities, at the behest of senior officers, who hail from the benefiting community,” the army spokesman said.
He, however, added that the particular case is only being conceptualised by a retired senior officer and to be proposed to the Nigerian Army. He said the proposal has not been made.
“The Nigerian Army hereby absolves itself of any involvement in an attempt to confiscate any community land. The Nigerian Army is a professional and law-abiding institution that has always followed due process in all her intervention projects, so far undertaken. Therefore, members of the public are enjoined to discountenance the allegations and continue to support the Nigerian Army and its Kinetic and Non-kinetic operations across the country,” the statement concluded.
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.