Some residents of Ifetedo Estate, Omu Arogun village, Mowe, Ogun State, on Sunday stormed KICC Lagos, to protest against the alleged unlawful demolition of their houses.
The Senior Pastor, Kingsway International Christian Centre, Matthew Ashimilowo, and the church have distanced themselves from the demolition of houses on Ifetedo Estate, Omu Arogun, in the Ofada area of Ogun State.
A lawyer, Dapo Opakunle, who spoke on behalf of the pastor and the church, said the land on which the houses were built was part of about 339 hectares bought by a real estate firm, Bluestone Garden City Limited, between 1995 and 2002.
Opakunle, who said a certificate of occupancy was obtained from the Ogun State Government in respect of the land, added that the residents were served notices of illegal occupation.
He added that the demolition might have been carried out by the state government, which allegedly served the notices.
PUNCH Metro had reported that during a protest at a parish of KICC in Maryland, Lagos, on Sunday, the residents had claimed that a gang stormed the estate last Thursday and demolished about 24 houses under the supervision of some riot policemen. The residents said the policemen claimed to be acting on the orders of the pastor and authorities from Abuja.
However, Opakunle, who is also a lawyer for Bluestone Garden City Limited, said the firm, in which Ashimolowo had shares, bought the land from different families.
He showed our correspondent documents detailing payments made to the families, adding that all the transactions were also videotaped.
He said, “Those people (protesters) are just being economical with the truth. They have suppressed facts. The land does not belong to Pastor Ashimolowo or KICC. It belongs to Bluestone Garden City Limited and the pastor is a shareholder. The land is covered by government approved CofO. The company fully made all the necessary payment for the land to the Ogun State Government.
“Apart from the CofO, the families that owned the land assigned it to a company called Olokomania and gave it power of attorney. The land was bought in phases. One of the families that sold to us was Odesola family. The money for the portion that Morufu Odesola is contesting was paid to his late father and his late elder brother, and two persons witnessed it.
“The payment for the land was also recorded. The witnesses told him (Morufu) that his father had long sold the land. His late brother also confirmed the transaction to him before he died. However, Morufu has been instigating series of encroachment by selling the land to some people against all cautions.
“Even the document his lawyer obtained from Bureau of Lands and Survey shows that the portion he is claiming encroaches on the company’s property. We have a copy of the document.”
Opakunle said the company filed a case in suit number, AB/114/14, at the Ogun State High Court, Abeokuta, against “unknown persons,” urging the court to stop the encroachment and grant the possession of the land to the firm. He said Morufu and 11 others later applied to be joined in the suit.
“But while the suit was going on, he (Morufu) and some persons went to destroy a rice plantation on the land. We reported to the police. They were arrested and charged to the Iro Magistrate’s Court,” he added.
The lawyer explained that the firm filed another suit in 2015 at the state High Court, Abeokuta, when it noticed that there were “illegal” constructions on the land, asking the court to restrain the defendants from further trespass.
A document sighted showed that Justice P.F. Odunyi granted the request in a ruling dated February 15, 2016, saying, “…I therefore order that all parties in this suit maintain status quo pending the final determination of this suit.”
Opakunle said other defendants had shown interest to start a settlement discussion with the company, adding that Morufu had requested an acre out of the three acres sold by his family.
He said, “Bluestone does not know about the demolition neither does Pastor Ashimolowo. It is not impossible that the state government carried out the enforcement because we are aware there have been several contravention notices served on the residents.
“Contrary to a report Morufu gave, the policemen from the Mowe division actually met those who carried out the exercise and they told the officers that they were enforcing contravention.”