The long-standing land tussle between a former Nigerian Bar Association Vice President, Barrister Monday Ubani and one Engineer Abiodun Ariori, centred around a controversial portion of land situated somewhere at Folorunsho Kuku Street in Opebi area of Lagos State, Nigeria, is far from easing at any moment from now as none of the parties involved is ready to back down from his claim to the property.
The issue came to the public knowledge on December 31, 2020, following a statement posted by Barrister Ubani who alleged a deliberate attempt by Ariori to grab a portion of the landed property belonging to his client using land grabbers and some of the State Agencies as his weapon.
READ ALSO: BARRISTER UBANI RAISES ALARM OVER BATTLE WITH LAND GRABBERS, LAGOS GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS IN ATTEMPT TO STEAL CLIENT’S LAND
Although Ariori, through his legal counsels, was quick to debunk all allegations by the lawyer, and even went as far as threatening legal action for defamation of character, Ubani insists the Engineer’s action towards possessing the disputed portion and displacing all occupants therein is not only illegal but raises serious questions on the sincerity of the State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, under whose nose, he (Ubani) alleged, the state agencies were used as mercenaries to carry out the order.
To address the raging issue on the disputed land, the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, on Monday, January 10, 2020, set up a panel of enquiry.
Addressing journalists after the panel, Ubani insists that the disputed portion of the land belongs to his client whose name he gave as Mr Idahosa Osa during a chat previously with a StarMedia Renaissance correspondence.
While disputing claims by the legal adviser to Engr. Ariori that the concerned property belongs to the Meadows family who delegated his client to develop the land at Folorunsho Kuku Street in Opebi, Ubani claims that the land in actual fact belonged to the Egba Refugees who, he said are the original owner and are the land sellers in the entire Opebi including the particular portion in contention.
READ ALSO: OPEBI LAND DISPUTE: ENGR. ABIODUN DRAGS BARRISTER UBANI TO COURT FOR DEFAMATION, SEEKS N50m AS DAMAGES
He said, “This dispute only surfaced just recently. My client has been on that land for over 20 years, paying his Land Use Charge up to date. He has a C/O as far back as 1989. He bought from somebody who has a C/O”.
“Egba Refugees are the land sellers in the whole Opebi, and they are the one that sold this particular land. They were never part of the Supreme Court judgment they were mentioning. In fact, there is a Supreme Court that gave over 60 per cent of that land to Egba Refugees in Opebi, and based upon that they sold”.
Ubani however hinted at the possibility of taking the matter beyond the setup panel claiming it lacked the power to determine the matter. His words, “Even if we establish the fact that they are now saying that the property fell into the Meadow’s family, we have to also establish the root of title. If the Egba Refugees are the original owners of the land who was not parties to the Supreme Court judgement, that Supreme Court judgement cannot bind them. That’s why I said that the matter can only be determined by the court and not even this administrative panel”.
Also speaking to journalists after the panel, Frances Monye, a Legal Practitioner representing Prosperous Golden Ariori Ventures Limited, expressed optimism at the outcome of the panel. He lambasted Barrister for “chasing shadows” and jettisoning “substance” as regards the case. He said, we were invited to come and clarify some points, and crucially, what was apparent before everybody was that we did not come to this place through the backdoor, so the information being touted that we instigated Lagos State Government by virtue of the deliberations so far is outright balderdash. The conclusion generally is that there was an execution on that property and the Judgement Creditor (Meadow’s Family) was given the order from the court”.
“Prosperous Golden Ariori Ventures Limited is the company that was given the concession granted by the judgement creditor which is the Meadows family. The portion of land where we are standing was a land that was purchased by the Meadows family, and this purchase was far back in early 1917, so they have been in exclusive possession of this portion of land”. He maintained.
Speaking on behalf of the Meadow’s family and in response to Ubani’s claim to a C/O obtained since 1989, Jimoh Momoh, a legal counsel to the Meadow’s Family, stated that his client, since 1980 had already been pronounced by a competent court with jurisdiction as owners of the land. This he claimed was also affirmed by a court of appeal in 1989.
According to a statement sent to our reporter by the Special Adviser on Media to Abiodun Ariori Comrade Ogunbade Olawale, Ubani was reported to have begged the panellist to instruct the Meadows and Engineer Abiodun Ariori to stop work on the land, but the panel, the statement claimed, declined as an original survey of the land proved that the land is owned by Gilbert Meadows, adding that Ariori is an attorney to the purported land.
According to Ogungbade, “At the Panel yesterday, however, where all the parties were invited, Ubani’s purported Certificate of occupancy claim to the said property, was floored by the panellists, as it was referred to as a paper that does not have origin”.
An effort to speak to members of the panel was not successful as at press time as journalists were prevented from gaining access to the venue of the sitting.