Lagos family asks Nigerian Army to respect 25-year court judgment

The hope of the St. Mathew Daniel family of Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Area of Local of Lagos State over a 58 acres gazette land has continued to live in the realm of mirage in spite of a 25-year-old judgment of a Lagos State High Court as they have not been able to take possession of their land from the management of the Nigerian Army.

There has been conflicting assertions about ownership of the land  despite an order of the  court ceding the land to the descendants of the St. Mathew Daniel family which has continued to be a source of sadness to the family.

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The family represented by Mr. Agboola Anjou, the chairman of grand children of St. Mathew Daniel family, on behalf of the clan asked the Nigerian Army to respect  the court judgment and vacate the family land near 56 Signal Command, Nigerian Army, Mile 2, Ojo Road, Ajegunle, Lagos.

Anjou and the family lawyer, Remi Atoyebi of Matanmi Chamber, at a briefing appealed to the Federal Government under the Muhammadu Buhari administration to wade into the matter and tell the  Nigerian Army to comply with the rule of law.

“The 58-acre land is the subject of a Lagos State High Court decision which ordered the army to relinquish the land, but the land has been fenced off. The court also ordered the army to pay our family some compensation of the sum of 20 million naira in 1993 for the land that they acquired legally from us. They paid the family for the one they acquired legally for their offices, barracks and school.  However, they fenced an extra 58 acres and the court ordered them to give it back to the family but they have yet to do that.

At a point, they released the land to us which Barrister Makun Alabi, one of the family’s grandchildren signed for but they still didn’t vacate the land up till this moment. The land is now a haven for bunkering; over 40 trailers are parked on the land by oil barons who pay royalty to the army,” Anjou said.

The land, measuring 627 hectares was given to the St. Mathew Daniel family by the Supreme Court of Nigeria in a judgment delivered by Justice Dahunsi Olugbemi Coker in a suit delineated SC.80/1984 on Friday, February 28, 1986 and was unanimously adopted by other members of the panel; Justice Anthony Nnanezie Aniagolu, Justice Augustine Nnamani, Justice Mohammed Uwais, Justice Adolphus Godwin Karibi-Whyte, Justice Saidu Kawu and Justice Chukwudifu Oputa.

Anjou claimed that the Nigerian Army through the 56 Signal Command at Mile 2, Ojo Road, Lagos, encroached on about 58 acres and fenced it with the land it legally acquired causing the family to institute  another matter against the army authorities before Justice A. Ade Alabi, former Chief Judge of Lagos State in 1991.

After two years, the case delineated LD/2659/91 was decided in favour of the St. Daniel Family on Wednesday, September 1, 1993. Justice Alabi had ruled that the Army should vacate the land and had awarded cost of N2, 000 against them in addition to N20, 400, 000.00 as compensation to the family for its land legally acquired almost a decade before the verdict.

The judgment debt of N21, 296, 696 was paid to the family through their lawyer, Mr. Tunde Seriki of Tunde Seriki & Co into a United Bank of Africa Account with Number 201-18454-7 on September 15, 1996.   And after a period of time, the Army handed over 58.228 acres of land over to Barrister Mako Alabi St Mathew Daniels through Major General S.E Asemota, the then Commandant, Nigerian Army Signals, Ojo, Lagos on November 30, 2011.

After this, however, the Nigerian Army filed a suit delineated CA/L/798M/10 at the Lagos division of the Court of Appeal against the 1993 judgment of Justice Ade Alabi, but on May 6, 2015, the army asked the court presided over by Hon. Justice J.S Ikyegh to discountenance the appeal and the case was subsequently struck out without objection from the family.

Mr. Agboola Anjou

To reiterate its commitment to peace, the family in an undertaking signed by Mr. Agbola Anjou with the Nigerian Army on December 14, 2018, promised not to institute further litigation against the army.

But till now, the family has not been allowed to develop the land as it alleges that all efforts to do so have been repeatedly repelled by men of the Nigerian Army leaving the family helpless.

Investigations revealed that the formal handing over of the land by the army authorities to St. Mathew Daniels family is already in the Federal Government gazette No. 117. Vol. 100 of December 26, 2013 thereby confirming that the land officially belongs to the family.

“Today, there are some people who are occupying the land illegally and paying the army royalties monthly. Anytime we want to access the land, we are repelled. So in essence, they presented the land to the family in the full glares of the public, documents were signed over both by the family and the army but ever since the army has not allowed the family to develop the land,” they stated.

At present, two companies who bought some plots of land from the family  are threatening court action over their inability to develop the land since it is still in possession of the Army.

However, the Commandant, Signal Command, Nigerian Army, Colonel A.O Ojo, said though the testimony of the St. Mathew Daniel family is filled with lies, he is   not permitted to speak on the matter.

Also, the Director of Land and Engineering, Nigerian Army Headquarters, Bonny Camp, Victoria Island, Brigadier-General Ibukun Adewa when contacted referred the inquirer to the Army Headquarters, Garki, Abuja or Logistics Department, Nigerian Army, Bonny Camp, Victoria Island, Lagos, stating that only the army spokesperson is permitted to speak on the matter of this magnitude. But efforts to get the Army Spokesperson proved abortive.