The bizarre nature of Lagos and its land ownership system, which sometimes rest on the shoulders of land speculators and feuding families, was at play again yesterday when a group of people from one Owoyemi family stormed the Ladipo auto-parts market at Toyota bus-stop, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, to claim ownership of the Odo shanty settlement.
Arriving with thugs popularly called Ajagun-gbale (land grabbers), buildings, including churches erected along the border of the canal beside OK Foods were demolished and valuables confiscated in the bid to carry out a purported court order giving ownership of the land to the Owoyemi family.
A resident of the area, who was picking through the rubbles when The Guardian visited, said his father bought the land and he had lived there since 1968. “The portion of land belonging to the Owoyemi family was already sold off to OK Foods long ago. Sometime in 1998, the family came around wanting to claim possession of this place, but we took them to court and they were fined. They even paid all the damages incurred at the period.
“We were, however, shocked to see some thugs invade the area two days ago, saying they have a court injunction to demolish building trespassing on their land. We didn’t see the court sheriffs and they were not accompanied by policemen. They just came with a jankara judgment and ejected us from our respective homes.”
Another resident of the area, Alice Oke, bemoaning the forceful ejection and unlawful demolition, said “Christmas is coming, we have nowhere to go, there is no money and all our belongings have been destroyed not by the government, who holds the land in trust, but by impostors. They came without court bailiff and policemen to perpetrate this evil at this time when the economy is biting hard on everybody.”
Though most of the spare-part traders, whose shops were surprisingly not touched, refused to comment on the demolition to avoid confrontation with the Owoyemi family, the few that spoke said they are now occupying their shops in fear as some of their landlords have been displaced of their accommodation.
Kenneth, one of the motor part dealers, said the destruction of the residential houses and churches is ideal since the whole area had been demarcated as an automobile market. “As much as I sympathise with them for the destruction of their houses and places of worship, I strongly believe that the ideal thing is to relocate the residential houses out of the market.”
On the possible destruction of their shops, he said it cannot happen as the traders are members of unions and associations; and before anything can be done to their shops, it would be duly communicated to them through their executives.
However, some traders are still of the view that the Owoyemi family may come at night or when most of them may have traveled to their villages for the Christmas and New Year holidays to pull down their shops, especially those belonging to the opposing family.
A trader urged his colleagues to remove valuable items, especially money from their shops, as such surprise attack often come along with looting of wares.
Some of the churches affected include The Apostolic Church, the Cherubim and Seraphim church, the Eternal Church of the K&S Aladura, and Awamaridi Praying Band.