Atan Ota land dispute: Family seeks Obasanjo’s intervention

Following a decision of the Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan on the ownership of some parcels of land at Ajelanwa Olowo Igbo village and Kajola Iboro village via Atan Ota, Ogun state, the Oyeyemi Asalu family has approached former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, to intercede on their behalf so that they can get what duly belongs to them.

It was gathered that shortly after the Oyeyemi Asalu family lost at the appellate court, the family heads summoned a meeting where a resolution was reached that the family should seek the assistance of former President Obasanjo.

It will be recalled that the Court of Appeal had in a suit delineated CA/IB/115/2016, set aside the judgment of an Ogun state high court which granted statutory right of occupancy on the parcels of land situate at Ajelanwa Olowo Igbo village and Kajola Iboro village via Atan Ota, Ogun state to the Oyeyemi Asalu family.

The court in its unanimous decision dismissed the suit filed by respondents, Oba Samuel Olufemi Ojugbele and four others for themselves and on behalf of members of the Oyeyemi Asalu family of Iga, Isalu Ota and awarded a cost of N250, 000 against the family.

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The court had held that the appellants have the right to appoint Alhaji Mutairu Owoeye, Ganiyu Owoeye and Tunde (A.K.A One hour) and the seventh to ninth appellants, as agents over the land in dispute and had in its judgment declared that the respondents were the persons entitled to statutory right of occupancy over the disputed land.

Dissatisfied, the appellants Alhaji Yekini Solabi, Lamina Solabi, Jimoh Solabi, Fasasi Solabi, Ibrahim Solabi and their agents Alhaji Mutairu Owoeye and Ganiyu Owoeye appealed the judgment and urged the court to set it aside.

Resolving all the five issues raised in favour of the appellants, Justice Olukayode Bada in his lead judgment held that it was wrong for the lower court to have made an order of forfeiture against the appellants.

The court noted that though the respondents claimed that they are the direct children of Oyeyemi whom they said founded the disputed land but they failed to prove by evidence how the land was transferred from Oyeyemi down the line before it became their own.

Justice Bada held that, “it is evident that there is a serious contradiction in the case of the claimants as to the children or direct issue(s) of Oyeyemi. Which one is correct? Did Oyeyemi actually have a child or children? The implication of Oyeyemi having children as against a child is very clear in that, if he had children then claimants have decided to suppress their names. In my view, the claimants cannot be granted a declaration of title/statutory right of occupancy to the land that does not exclusively belong to them.”

Justice Bada further held that the trial judge ought to have made a finding of fact on whether Oyeyemi actually had children, adding that where a finding of fact was not made on a crucial issue like this and appeal will be allowed.

The court stated that the first to fourth respondents failed to prove their root of title to warrant judgment being given in their favour in the face of their failure to prove the transfer of land from the first founder to the present claimants without a break.

The appellate court added that it was an error on the part of the trial judge to state that the identity of the land was not in dispute stressing that the claimant took the issue with levity.

“The first to fourth respondents have not proved the identity of the land in dispute in this case, the lower court was wrong to have granted title to them,” the court added.

Consequently, the appellate court held that the respondents have not been able to establish customary tenancy, therefore, no such relationship existed between the respondents and the appellants.

Justice Bada held that the trial judge who knew that there was no pleading or evidence to support instances of where payment of tribute could be dispensed with still went ahead to raise it Suo Motu.

He further held that the lower court was in breach of the appellants constitutionally guaranteed right to fair hearing when it made an order of forfeiture against them especially when there was no evidence of customary tenancy between the parties.

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