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Supreme Court upholds Eletu’s claim to Lekki Peninsula land title

Added on 7th Oct 2013 ⋅ Posted in - Real estate law
AT last, ten hectares of choice landed property located in Lekki Peninsula within the corridor of the Lagos-Ajah axis in Eti-Osa Local Council, now belongs to Late Gbadamosi Bamidele Eletu family members, courtesy of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

The judgment came 22 years after the family members initiated step to recover the hitherto disputed land, part of which hosts Lekki French Colony, Beach Resort, NICON and Chevron among others.

Armed with the verdict, the family had equally repossessed the land. The repossession of the land, popularly known as Osapa Village, took place recently.

In the judgment delivered by Justice Kumai Bayang Aka’ahs, the apex court declared the Eletu’s family as rightful owners of the Osapa village. Justices Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, Bode Rhodes-Vivour, Olukayode Ariwoola and Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, supported the verdict.

The 24.17 acres space of land in Osapa Village are made up of the French Colony, Beach Resort and NICON Chevron area in Eti-Osa Local Council, Lekki.

The apex court also held that the appellants, Major Muritala Gbadamosi (rtd), Rasaki Gbadamosi and Muftau Gbadamosi, are entitled to the statutory rights of occupancy over 10 hectares, which is approximately 24.17 acres of the reclaimed land in Osapa Village, which has been excised and assigned to them.

According to the matter, Ojomu family had in 1977 sold a portion of the Ojomu Chieftaincy family land measuring 254.558 hectares to the appellants’ father, late Gbadamosi Bamidele Eletu.

Transaction in the land was done through a Deed of Conveyance dated August 23, 1977 duly registered as No 36 page RF Volume 1648 at the Lands Registry, Lagos.

By the Lagos state government notices Nos 10 and 14 published in the Lagos State Official Gazette of February 18 and 25, 1987 respectively, the Lagos state government compulsorily acquired a vast area of land spanning several kilometres consisting of many villages and settlements.

The acquired land included the appellant’s Osapa village but the respondents brought an action in Suit NO ID/1883/89 (Alhaji Fatal Ajetunmobi & Ors vs The Attorney- General Of Lagos State to challenge the compulsory acquisition.

Judgment in the suit was delivered on October 18, 1991 in which the court declared that the plaintiffs (Ojomu chieftaincy Family) are the persons entitled to a customary right of occupancy in and over the land, as it had not been validly or effectively revoked by the military governor of Lagos State.

The Lagos High Court in the judgment restrained all officers and servants of the Lagos State government from committing acts of trespass on the said land or unlawfully making use of same except with the consent of the plaintiffs.

After the said judgment, the respondents entered an agreement with the Lagos state government wherein portions of Ojomu Chieftaincy family land were granted to the government of Lagos state, whilst the governor revoked the respondents’ right of occupancy over other portions of the aforesaid family land and thereafter excised areas from such portions vesting the same in the respondents.

Following this agreement, the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family became the holder of a right of occupancy in and over the entire portions of land excised from the government acquisition.

It was therefore the submission of the respondents’ then that the present appellants who were neither party in suit No ID/ 1883/89 nor a party to the agreement, claimed proprietary rights over portions of Ojomu Family Land and committed several acts of trespasses on the said land.

In their claims on suit NO ID /2642 /95, the appellants counter claimed and averred that the land which was sold to their father was exempted from the Notice of Revocation and by virtue of the excision as contained in Lagos State Official Gazette NO 24 Volume 27 dated June 1994, the title over the affected portion of land at Osapa Village if any reverted to them (defendants).

But the respondents as plaintiffs filed a reply to the counter claim alleging that all interests in the land granted to the defendants by the Deed of Conveyance dated August 23,1977 abated when the governor of Lagos state revoked all rights of occupancy in and over the vast area of land in Lekki Peninsula in -1981 and that since the revocation was not challenged by the defendants, it remained valid against them.

Judgment was entered in favour of the Ojomu family and affirmed by the Appeal Court sitting in Lagos, leading to the appeal to the Supreme court filed in 2005 by Major Muritala Gbadamosi retd, Rasaki Gbadamosi and Muftau Gbadamosi on behalf of the Gbadamosi Bamidele Eletu family against Oba Tijani Adetunji Akinloye, chief Muritala Saka Odofin and Alhaji chief Yekini Ola Bakare for the Ojomu chietaincy family.

But in the judgment, Justice Aka’ahs, who delivered the lead judgment, held that it was not entirely true that the appellants could not claim any benefit that accrued to the respondents by virtue of the judgment in suit No ID/1883/89.

According to the court, the respondents never disclosed to the Lagos state government that they had divested themselves of their interest in the Osapa Village land and since the whole land was initially owned by the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family.

According to the Judge, it was logical that the Lagos State government would return the land improperly acquired to the owners once the compulsory acquisition was rendered null and void by the court.

In up turning the judgment of the lower courts, the apex court was of the view that the respondents cannot eat their cake and have it. And therefore ordered that the appellants are entitled to the statutory right of occupancy over 10 hectares of the reclaimed land in Osapa Village, which has been excised and assigned to them.

The court allowed the appellants’ appeal and set aside the judgments of both the trial and Curt of Appeal.

While the apex’s court awarded the sum of N200, 000. 00, in favour of the appellants, it discharged a sum of N500, 000 cost awarded against them for trespassing on the land.

Speaking at the event witnessed by family members and officials of the Lagos Judiciary, the spokesman of the family, Mudashiru Gbadamosi Eletu Odibo, described the day as a happy one for the family, as they had to wait for 22 years to take possession of the property their late father bought from the Ojomu Chieftaincy family in 1977.

Culled from The Guardian Nigeria
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