A contentious land ownership dispute in Lagos has caught the attention of the Nigerian public as documents dating back to the 19th century reveal evidence of a long-standing claim to a vast expanse of land by the trustees of the late Madam Iyalode Efunroye Tinubu. The matter has taken a legal turn, with the Lagos State Government accused of land-grabbing and disregarding court orders. As the controversy unfolds, historical records are shedding light on the true ownership of the contested land, raising questions about property rights and the government’s adherence to the rule of law.
Madam Iyalode Efunroye Tinubu, a prominent figure in Lagos since the 19th century, acquired a significant parcel of land in Lagos mainland in 1834. Historical accounts show that in 1834 Madam Tinubu purchased a large expanse of land from the Oloto family. According to history, Oloto Pawu, who died in 1627, was the first and original settler on a piece of land which included Ewe Agbigbo and Iwaya farmlands around 1592.
It was the 6th Oloto, Baalo Oriagbaya, who reigned between 1816 to 1859, who ceded to Madam Tinubu with the aid of Prince Akintoye, Ewe Agbigbo and Iwaya farmland, on behalf of the Oloto Chieftaincy family under Native Law and Customs. Tinubu paid 200 bags of cowries, 200 pieces of kola nuts, ten slaves and a ram to the Oloto family. The land from Oto, all the way to present day, Maryland once belonged to the Oloto Chieftaincy Family and these were granted to Madam Tinubu.
The legal battle
A certified true copy of a judgment from Suit No. 124/1912, Fafunmi vs. Osun Apena and title document registered as 45/45/ 2212, reveals the legitimacy of Madam Tinubu’s land acquisitions since 1834 when she bought a large expanse of land in Lagos mainland, some of which she used as her farm and warehouse The said land was surveyed by Late Surveyor Herbert Macaulay and tendered as Exhibit A in Suit 124/1912 between Fafunmi vs Osun Apena & ORDS and judgment was delivered on the 25th of October, 1912 by Justice Willoughby Osborne.
However, in recent times, the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family has laid claim to the entire land of Madam Tinubu, asserting that they received grants from the Governor of Lagos State, gazetted and recognized by the government. This claim has raised doubts about the proof of ownership by the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family, leading to a legal battle between the two parties.
On the 29th of April, 2002, Trustees appointed vide an ENROLMENT OF ORDER was granted by a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja in suit no ID/920M/2000, and there was no challenge from any quarter until the attention of the trustees of Madam Tinubu were drawn to the publication of both The Nations and Punch Newspapers of Monday, the 18th day of September, 2017 at page 37 and 19th September, 2017 at page 18 respectively that the OJOMU CHIEFTAINCY FAMILY now laying a claim to the entire land of Madam Tinubu by grants of Governor’s consents and same was gazette by Lagos State Government.
The legal representative to Madam Tinubu’s trustees has written the Lagos State Government to intervene into the matter to revoke any grants and or consent given to Ojomu Chieftaincy Family as same is illegal null and void ab initio. According to Madam Tinubu’s trustees, the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family have trampled upon the legal rights of the land rightly entrusted to them and affirmed by the decision of the Apex Court judgment of 1912.
According to documents, the land so ceded measured about four and half mile’s radius from Abule Tinubu. In modern landmarks, the land extended from Otto/Iddo to include the areas of Ikorodu road, Ilupeju, Iwaya, Yaba, Maryland, Magodo, Ojodu Berger. It also includes Gbagada, Apapa, Ijesha, Ketu, Isolo (originally Aso-Olo), etc.
Thus, all the villages listed by Ojomu Chieftaincy Family to sort for the grant and or consent of the Lagos State Governor falls within the land belonging to Madam Iyalode Efunroye Tinubu and there is no requisite proof of ownership by the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family who have turned themselves to be untouchable and emperor within Lagos State at the Land Registry, Alausa, Lagos State.
Accusations against the Lagos State Government
The trustees of Madam Tinubu’s estate have accused the Lagos State Government, under Governor Sanwo-Olu’s administration, of engaging in illegal land-grabbing. They argue that the government placed an illegal caution on the historic title, collecting penalty fees and disregarding court orders. This action, they claim, is an attempt to tamper with registered titles and displays the government’s disregard for the rule of law.
They said that the Lagos State Government who holds the land in trust for the people have not published in any gazette for the compulsory acquisition of the said land for public overriding purposes nor has any compensation being paid to the Family of Late Madam Efunroye Tinubu nor its attorney, Adamakin and Works Investment Limited and none of the aforementioned or any other family, persons known or unknown in Lagos and its environs has ever challenged the title of the Late Madam Efunroye Tinubu on all the large land expanse of land which cut across the vast Ewe Agbigbo and 4½ miles across the Island of Lagos and all adjoining lands, which were further purchased from Baloo Origbaja in 1834 for valuable consideration.
The Lagos State Government’s alleged disregard for court orders and failure to compensate the Tinubu family according to the provisions of the 1978 Land Use Act has further fueled the controversy. The trustees assert that no military administration in the past has dared to act in such a manner.
According to them, the reason for the caution illegally placed on the title by the Sanwo-Olu’s administration only exposes the massive illegal tampering of registered titles that preceded his administration, thereby showing the State Government’s disdain for court order in compliance to the legal position of the said land.
It was alleged that the government has continued to deny the trustees of Madam Tinubu’s estate access to their property in Lagos State without due compensation to the family according to the provision in the 1978 Land Use Act
Rather than compensate the family, Tinubu’s camp said, the Lagos State Government under Sanwo-Olu disregarded the court order and grabbed the family land unlawfully from Eti-Osa, Lekki to Yamaha in Abule-Egba and placed a caution on the registered title. This clear disregard for court order and the historical fact behind the true owner of the said land by the Lagos State Government is something no military administration dared.
Implications for property rights
The ongoing dispute over the ownership of the land raises significant implications for property rights in Lagos and beyond. If the government’s actions are proven to be unlawful, it could set a concerning precedent for landowners and citizens alike. The case may also bring to the forefront the need for transparency, fairness, and adherence to court orders in land-related matters.
The Lagos land-grabbing scandal involving the historic land ownership dispute between Madam Iyalode Efunroye Tinubu’s trustees and the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family has captivated the Nigerian reading public. As the legal battle unfolds, the case highlights the importance of upholding property rights and respecting court orders to maintain a just and equitable society. The public eagerly awaits the outcome, which may have far-reaching implications for land governance in Lagos and potentially other parts of Nigeria.