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Restoring law and order in Magodo

By Editorial Board
05 January 2022   |   4:13 am
The anxiety and fear generated between members of the Shangisha Landlords Association on the one hand and members of the Magodo Residents’ Association (MRA) on the other over the ownership of landed properties on the highbrow Magodo area of Lagos ...

Magodo

The anxiety and fear generated between members of the Shangisha Landlords Association on the one hand and members of the Magodo Residents’ Association (MRA) on the other over the ownership of landed properties on the highbrow Magodo area of Lagos State are totally uncalled for and should have no place in a lawful society.

The feud in the past weeks led to heightened tension in the area with threats of breach of the peace and destruction of property. The Lagos State government should take greater control of the situation before it degenerates any further. Its statement assuring residents of its intervention and decision to investigate the alleged illegal execution by a party to the dispute, aided by thugs and armed policemen, has done little to either calm the nerves of the aggrieved landlords or the worried residents who have continued to protest the presence of police officers allegedly stationed by the landowners.

This has left stakeholders concerned to surmise that the issue is not yet over. Considering that the dispute has dragged for many years and that efforts of the Lagos State government to intervene have so far been ineffective, the residents’ worries are not out of place.

Central amongst the many questions posed by the situation is one of whether members of the Landlords association are truly entitled to the lands to which they now lay claim based on a Judgment that was affirmed in their favour by the Supreme Court as far back as 2012.

In the controversial judgment, the court granted: “A declaration that members of the Shangisha Landlords Association whose lands and or buildings at Shangisha village were demolished 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 Lagos State Government before any other person(s) in the allocation or re-allocation of plots in Shangisha village.”

The order was made against the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants (particularly the Lagos State Government and Land Use and Allocation Committee) as agreed in the meeting held on 16th October, 1984 with the Ministry of Lands and Housing and Development Matters, Lagos State.

The Supreme Court also granted an order of Mandatory Injunction for the said defendants to “forthwith allocate 549 (five hundred and forty nine) plots to the plaintiffs in the said Shangisha village scheme in the Shangisha village aforesaid.”

As argued by the Lagos State government, the judgment indeed made no mention of the specific plots of land to be allocated to the aggrieved landowners in the area, and as such they could not unilaterally invade the private residences to lay claim to structures already allotted to innocent third parties for value.

However, the current imbroglio could have been averted had the government at the material time, complied with the judgment of the Court. It is unjust for the government to seek to excuse its culpability by hiding under the cover of an impediment brought about by its commission and omission by simply playing the ostrich over the years. Moreover, the properties were allotted to these third parties while the case was sub judice and in spite of an injunction by the court.

There can be no right without responsibilities; so before asserting its authority and rightness in all its might, has the Lagos State government lived up to its responsibilities on the issue of allocation of landed properties in the Shangisha scheme to the original landowners?

It is not sufficient for the government to claim to have offered to relocate these landowners or that some of them had indeed accepted alternative plots while others refused. The decision to waive a personal right or an entitlement is at the holders discretion, and cannot be compelled otherwise it becomes oppressive. The government is in a better position to appeal to the aggrieved landowners, and not make demands of them. Some of the landowners have indicated willingness to negotiate.

The unfortunate incidence is a manifestation of the unjust leadership style of most of the nation’s elected public office holders and their insensitivity to the plights of the ordinary Nigerian. It once again brings up cases of disobedience of court orders by the executive arm of government and its consequences.

The attitude of a government deciding on what version of a court’s judgment to heed has been rightly declared as executive rascality; and it constitutes an affront on the judicial arm of government and a violation of the principle of the rule of law. If a constituted authority cannot be held bound by its own laws, on what premise does it derive its authority to compel the common citizens to be law abiding?

The country’s Constitution guarantees citizens the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria, subject to overriding public interest and reasonable compensation in the event of compulsory acquisition by government. The question is how come the original landowners have not been compensated since the judgment was awarded? What’s the plan by government to provide compensation to these persons?

The Lagos State government has by its ineptitude over the years and perhaps irregular conduct of its officers further compounded the situation, therefore it cannot be seen to be helpless. A government alive to its duty would have indeed treated these aggrieved residents preferentially.

Until aggrieved members of the Shangisha Landlords Association are compensated, they will be justified to see the Lagos State government as having violated their right to property and disobeyed the order of court.

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