Tension as land grabbers invade Lagos community

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There is palpable tension and threat of a breakdown of law and order in Fowoseje community in the Lakowe area of Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos State, as residents have accused Toll System Development Limited of using land grabbers to chase them out of their homes.

The residents told the Media that the land grabbers invaded the community on Monday, November 5, and allegedly demolished some buildings belonging to residents and took over the community.
The Chairman, Fowoseje Community Landlords and Residents’ Association, Victor Ajenifuja, said the residents had been living in fear ever since the land grabbers invaded the area, adding that he was arrested alongside two other members of the community as a result of the incident.

Ajenifuja stated, “People are not happy in the community; the land grabbers came without any notice and started chasing everybody away. They were armed and residents have been living in fear since their arrival. Landlords are now packing out of their own homes to rented apartments outside the community.
“As I speak to you, Toll System Development Company Limited has brought earth movers to pull down buildings; people in the community are panicking. What they are doing is wrong; we have occupied the land for so long and we want to remain here.”

The Secretary of the association, Francis Akpowere, said he had visited Zone 2 Police Command, Onikan to secure the release of Ajenifuja and the Baale of the community, Nojeem Ojomo, when he too was arrested.

Akpowere stated, “We were told that the lawyers representing Toll System Development Company Limited had petitioned against us that we took possession of the firm’s land in the Fowoseje community since 2003.
“Toll System Development Company Limited brought over 50 armed land grabbers to our community. As soon as they came in, they pulled down part of the house belonging to one Mr Tunde, which is located at the junction of the community, and erected their own building, which has got to the window level as I speak.”
Akpowere added, “When we had a meeting with the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Bureau of Lands, Bode Agoro, and the Director of Lands, Bamidele Ibrahim, we couldn’t conclude. What they wanted was for us to allow the firm to take over the empty plots of land in the community, but we have sent a proposal to them that we occupy only 9.4 hectares out of the 1,661 hectares belonging to the community.

“We are not fighting for the other ones, but they should leave the portion that the community occupies. But what we have observed so far is that they are planning to take over the whole land, because they have started pulling down peoples’ buildings.”
The Pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Signs and Wonders Parish, Gbenga Olayinka, confirmed that the church, situated on No. 1 Fowoseje Road, off Gulf Housing Estate, Lakowe, had been converted to the base of the land grabbers.

A reliable source at the state Lands Bureau, who pleaded anonymity, said the Fowoseje community land that fell under the Lekki global acquisition belonged to the Lagos State Government, adding that Toll System Development Company Limited had a Certificate of Occupancy on the land because it purchased 1,561 hectares from the government.
“The land falls under the Lekki global acquisition. I don’t know anything about the demolition; but it is the community that is encroaching on the land that belongs to Toll System Development Company Limited. The government issued a Certificate of Occupancy to the company in 2003, after it purchased 1,561 hectares. The government compensated the community and made excision, which is outside the area the C-of-O covered,” the source explained.
The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Chike Oti, confirmed the development, adding that the police intervened to restore order in the community.
Oti said, “The policemen received a distress call and they went there to bring the situation under control. Investigation into the matter is ongoing. The police are a peace-making institution; they spoke to the community on the need not to take the path of reprisal and to allow peace to reign.

“They should not misconstrue an advice to allow peace to reign to mean that we are supporting the firm.”
The Media Consultant to Toll System Development Company Limited, Ranti Thomas, said the Lagos State Government had mediated in the matter on how the people could leave the area, adding that the company did not pull down buildings but fences of plots being used by miscreants as hideouts.

Thomas said, “As a responsible corporate citizen, we remain confident that at the end of the day, the court will vindicate our position. But we do not want to be in a situation that when we get judgement, the entire place would have been built up and lost.
“On that account, we had to take  steps to write petitions to the police about the activities of these people, especially Chief Ajenifuja and Ojomo, and also drew attention to the different areas in the community that these people have fenced out, which  miscreants are now using as hideouts. Those were the places that were brought down and not living places.”