Houses owners and residents of the Mesiogo Estate in Akobo area of Ibadan, Oyo State, on Sunday raised the alarm over an alleged plan by the Nigerian Army to invade the estate and forcibly eject them in contravention of a court order that the status quo should be maintained.
In October last year, the residents had drawn attention to the fact that their houses were marked for demolition by soldiers from the 2 Division, Nigerian Army, Adekunle Fajuyi Cantonment.
The landlords said the soldiers informed them that the land on which the estate was built fell directly on the military barracks’ boundaries.
The residents said they were told that their buildings encroached on military land and that they must pay a fine or the houses would be demolished.
The spokesman for the community, Amos Ishola, said the estate was one of the private estates built by a former Oyo State Governor, the late Kolapo Ishola, and that there were documents that showed that the community did not encroach on the military land.
The residents said they had been under continuous harassment and threat by men of the Nigerian Army, who had been laying claim to the estate’s land.
They claimed that the army erected a fence along their beacon pillars, which are still visible, and wondered why the soldiers chose to annex their land.
This, according to the residents, is at variance with the Ministry of Defence’s directives that eight communities, excluding Mesiogo Estate, which trespassed on its land, be made to regularise their stay on the land they encroached on.
Our correspondent learnt that the military, in its latest letter to the residents, claimed that some fraudsters and land speculators had encroached on the undeveloped and unfenced portions of the entire land in the estate and were selling same to unsuspecting members of the public.
Notwithstanding the military’s position, Ishola, told PUNCH Metro that the claim by the army that the land in question belonged to it was false, stressing that the Nigerian Army was trying to circumvent the ongoing court process.
Ishola said the army’s letter entitled: ‘Final quit notice of possession of Nigerian Army land at Adekunle Fajuyi Cantonment, Ibadan’ dated November 12, 2018, demanding various sums of money from the landowners in the area was an effort to take laws into their own hands and use coercive power on residents of the area.
A letter written to one of the property owners in the estate, Yinka Oyeniyi, and signed by Colonel E. M. Mafuyai, on behalf of the GOC, 2 Division, stated that the affected landlords must quit within 14 days or be ready to pay N780,000 to the Recovery Committee of the Nigerian Army at Adekunle Fajuyi Cantonment, Ibadan latest November 26 (today) or risk being “forcefully ejected from the land and all rights of allocation made to you shall be revoked.”
Ishola said the Nigerian Army was hell-bent on oppressing the hapless residents and further subject them to undue trauma by its latest letter, adding that many residents had been sent to their early graves through the earlier threats.
He appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the military authority to abide by the law and to allow the ongoing court case to be dispensed with in the spirit of equity, justice and fair play.
Ishola added, “Many of us are jobless. We are not taking up arms and we are helpless and harmless, but we still have our rights in a democratic dispensation; our right to fair hearing and justice should not be taken for granted. We are already before a court of competent jurisdiction and they should allow equity, justice and fairness to prevail in determining the matter purely on its merit.
“They have their claim and we have our own claims too, let the court decide the matter on its merit. We are a set of defenceless people and we don’t want any trouble to be visited on us and our family members.
“We procured all the necessary documents for the acquisition and development of our properties and they were duly registered with the appropriate authorities. They are with both the state and local governments. Some of us had Cs-of-O signed by a military administrator, a solider himself, who would never have appended his signature on any document for a military land to be taken over by civilians.
“He must have ensured that all due processes were followed and the professionals in the land ministry, especially the surveyor-general, would have ensured that there was no encumbrance before the military administrator gave out the Cs-of-O to some of our members.”
The Oyo State High Court 11 presided over by Justice Ladiran Akintola had last year ruled that the status quo be maintained on the land pending the final determination of the case instituted by the Mesiogo Landlords Association.
The community had also written a letter dated November 19, 2018 to the state Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey requesting for an urgent intervention and clearance of Mesiogo’s Deed of Conveyance dated March 3, 1965 and registered as page 60 in volume 826 at the Lands Registry, Ibadan.
Responding, Lieutenant S. O. Ilufoye, whose contact appeared on the letter for enquiries on the army’s plan to eject the landlords, told our correspondent on Sunday that he was not the signatory to the letter and that Mafuyai, who signed the letter, did so on behalf of the GOC.
Ilufoye said even the GOC was taking authority from the Chief of Army Staff, adding, “The letter was directed to the communities that encroached on the army’s land. For Mesiogo, we served them a quit notice and the case is in court. It is not all of them (residents) that are with the lawyers, who initiated the legal tussle.
“Some of them have been cooperating and paying to the army the prescribed amount. The army is a respecter of the rule of law. It is when the court determines the case that we will know what next to do. For those of them that initiated the case, we have their names and we will await the judgment.”