A Lagos-based land developer, Engr. Abiodun Ariori, who has been at the center of the controversy surrounding the invasion of Monkey Village’, a landed property located at the Opebi area of Lagos State, has refutes allegations, that he colluded with some agencies of the Lagos State Government to illegally take possession of the said land.
Ariori, who spoke to Town Crier News Nigeria through his law firm, Monye & Co, disclosed that he was contracted by the G.W.O Meadows Family, who he said are owners of the said land located at 1, Folorunsho Kuku Street, Off Opebi Village, Ikeja Lagos State, to help develop the property.
Ariori noted that when he couldn’t have access to the land, he reported the incident to the Solicitor of the Mr. Meadows Jimoh, Milan Solicitors, who then reported the incident to the Lagos State Special Taskforce on Land Grabbers, through a petition dated March 5, 2020.
He stated; “We submitted a petition to the Lagos State Special Taskforce on Land Grabbers, in respect of the activities of one Mrs. Ilori and other occupiers of the said land.
After the submission of the Petition, the Special Taskforce, being the statutory body established by the Lagos State Government to conducted an investigation in other to determine the merit of the petition and our petition was acted on it.
“We want to state unequivocally on behalf of our client that at no point in time did he co-opt any of the government agencies to assist him in Land grabbing.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Monday O. Ubani, the former Vice President of the Nigeria Bar Association, had accused Ariori of using officials of the Lagos State Government to illegally grab the said land from his client, who he claimed has Certificate of Occupancy and other documents validating it ownership of the land.
The legal practitioner also stated that issues concerning ownership of the said land is also pending before a Lagos State High Court.
While dismissing Ubani’s claims, Ariori’s lawyer said, “Mr. M.O Ubani had alluded to the fact that his client has a Certificate of Occupancy over the land, he should know better that a Certificate of Occupancy is a mere evidence of title.
“It is a nullity where no valid title exists. This proposition of the law was fairly settled per Nnaemeka-Agu JSC in Ogunleye v Oni as follows: “No doubt, proof of a grant is one of the five ways of proving title. But it would be wrong to assume, as learned trial judge did in this case, that all that a person who resorts to a grant as a method of proving title to land needs to do is to produce the document of grant and rest his case.
“Rather, whereas, depending upon the issues that emerged on the pleadings, it may suffice where the title of the grantor has been admitted, different situation arises. Where an issue has been raised as to the title of the grantor. In such a case, the origin of the grantor’s title has to be averred on the pleadings and proved by evidence”.
Continuing he said; “In the instant case what is the origin of the title of Mr. Ubani’s Client? He hasn’t supplied details or particulars of the Certificate of Occupancy to the general public so that his claims may be verified, yet he ran to the media space to castigate and cast aspersions on our Client and the Meadows Family without any factual justification.
“We make bold to state that the Meadows ownership of the land has been confirmed by the High Court of Lagos State per Famuyiwa V.O.J in Suit No: LD/513/80 and also affirmed by the Court of Appeal in Suit No: CA/1/16A/92.
“These judgments are still valid and subsisting the Supreme Court having declined the Appellants request for leave to appeal by virtue of the ruling of in Suit No: SC146/1995.
“It was upon the dismissal of the Appeal to the Supreme Court by the Appellants that the Meadows Family approached the High Court of Lagos State in accordance with the Sheriff and Civil Processes Act, for the execution of the judgment in Suit No: LD/513/80 which was carried out on the 30th October, 1997.”
“While we note that declaration of ownership of land is not a judgment in rem, though it be ad rem: Chief Oshundun v Mr. Olabode (2004) All FWLR (pt. 235) 90 @ 114-5 C.A. we challenge Mr. Ubani to bring forward the survey plan attached to the Certificate of Occupancy purportedly registered as No: 72/72/1989L and dated the 4th August, 1989.
“Mr. Ubani has also emphasized the act of long possession. Acts of long possession amount to mere probability of ownership and the party’s claim fails upon proof of a good root of title by the other party.
“In this context, Mr Ubani’s knows that the title of his Client coupled with the long possession is that of a trespasser or a squatter and would not enable the latter succeed against the Meadows.
“Furthermore, the law is that acts of ownership must be numerous and positive, to be positive, the acts must be assertive not passive, adverse not consistent with the claim of the other party.
“It is on record that the occupier of No. 2 Folorunsho Kuku Street, Opebi in the person of Chief S.F. Kuku had sued the Meadows Family in Suit No: ID/1270/90 over the land covered by Certificate of Occupancy dated 3rd July, 1986 registered as 15/15/1986H and also the occupier of 8, Ibadan Close, Opebi, Ikeja whose Certificate of Occupancy was registered No. 52/52/1991AP all came to ratify their title with the Meadows Family after the pronouncement of their Ownership to the land covered by the judgment of the High Court of Lagos State and affirmed by the Court of Appeal.
“All these properties falls within the land covered by survey, Mr. Ubani should state the contrary if the address of the land is not No. 1 Folorunsho Kuku Street. All these properties fall within Survey No OGEK 1911/81 ordered by the Court in Suit No: LD /513/80. We leave it at this for now. However we just want the general public to know particularly the Lagos State Government that our Client in the person of Engineer Abiodun Ariori acted within the confines of law. Do not be swayed by the hypocrisy of Mr. M.O. Ubani,” the lawyer submitted.