How police, thugs invaded, destroyed Lagos clubhouse despite land case in Supreme Court

The management of Ikeja Saddle Club in the Isheri/Olowora area of Lagos State has petitioned the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 2, Onikan, Johnson Kokumo, over invasion of its property by thugs in cahoots with policemen from the zonal command.

The President of the club, Wole Osinupebi, had told PUNCH that about 60 hoodlums invaded the club on September 23, 2021, destroyed some structures with a bulldozer and cut down trees on the premises under the watch of cops and armed plain-cloth men numbering about 40.

The policemen were said to have arrested four staff members of the club and chased away others from the facility.

Osinupebi said it took the intervention of the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Mr Moyosore Onigbajo, before Kokumo called his men to suspend the demolition of the club around 5pm the following day.

Two families, the Ikumoworo Family and the Olofin Chieftaincy Family, have been at loggerheads over the ownership of the land which the club said it bought from the state government in 1975 and obtained a certificate of occupancy.

Sunday PUNCH learnt that the parties have been embroiled in a legal tussle at the Lagos High Court, Appeal Court and are now in Supreme Court where a notice of stay execution has been filed.

In the petition dated September 24, 2021 and titled ‘Re: Unlawful Invasion, forceful take over and destruction of the land and properties of Ikeja Saddle Club, situated at Olowora/Isheri Road Olowora, Ojodu Berger, Lagos State,’ the club management, through its solicitor, Femi Okunnu & Co, said it was shocked by the unlawful execution when the appeal before the Supreme Court had yet to be determined.

The petition read, “We have been informed by our client that in the early hours of Thursday, 24th September 2021, heavily armed and stern-looking policemen alongside other no-nonsense armed men in plain clothes without warning invaded our client’s land and property and took over the entire land and property. They refused to disclose where they were from and who sent them to invade our client’s land.

“But the armed men bellowed menacingly that they were there to take over the land without fail and nobody could stop them or remove them. Like in a movie, they rounded up all the staff including the grooms who were feeding and tending to the horses in their stable. They arrested four members of our client’s staff and chased away the remaining workers.

“Some of the policemen took our client’s staff away to an unknown destination and some other policemen and stern-looking armed plain-cloth men stood guard while some other persons numbering about 60 who came with the policemen and the stern-looking plain-cloth armed men systematically began to destroy our client’s properties.

“They removed the roof of the reception area, brought in a chainsaw and started cutting and felling down trees in the compound. They were boasting that they were bringing in bulldozers to completely pull down the clubhouse, reception area and other buildings on the land and bring down and uproot all the trees on our client’s land.”

The club reportedly discovered later in the day that the policemen were from the office of the AIG, Zone 2, when an investigating police officer, one Opue Aju, phoned in with the line of one of the arrested workers.

The petition alleged that the unlawful invasion was perpetrated at the instance of the Ikumoworo Family led by one Princess Josephine Momoh who claimed to have secured a judgment of the state’s High Court delivered by Justice Babajide Candide-Johnson on May 3, 2016.

It said, “They claimed that the judgment of the High Court declared them owners of the said land and that the said judgment has been affirmed by the Court of Appeal in a judgment delivered on November 14, 2019. They further claimed that they have sold the area of land being occupied by our client to one Alhaji who could not take possession of the property because our client is on the land.”

The petition, however, stated that the land being claimed by the club is part of the 1969, 7300 Acres Global Acquisition of the Lagos State Government within the Omole Phase II Scheme, Isheri, in the Ikeja area of the state.

“Please be informed that on the application of our client made on or about June 1974, the Lagos State Government allocated a parcel of land at Olowora near Isheri on the 8th July 1975 to the Ikeja Saddle Club. Our client immediately took possession of the parcel of land and has been in possession till date.

“Our client subsequently applied for and was issued a Certificate of Occupancy dated 4th February 1997 registered as number 95 at page 95 in volume 1997A of the Lagos State of Nigeria Land Registry Office, Ikeja. Our client is the legitimate occupier and owner of the land and property known as Ikeja Saddle Club. Our client has been in possession of the property since 1975 without any let or hindrance,” the petition further read.

It stated that the Olofin Chieftaincy Family appealed the Appeal Court judgment before the Supreme Court in Appeal No.SC.386/2019 while an application for a stay of execution was filed before the Apex Court.

The appellants also sought an order restraining Momoh and the Ikumoworo Family from executing the judgment pending the hearing and determination of the appeal. The motion for stay of execution was said to have been served on Momoh and the representative of the Ikumoworo Family.

The petition added, “It may interest the Assistant Inspector-General of Police to know that the appeal came up at the Supreme Court on 22nd February 2021 and was adjourned to the 11th October 2022 for hearing. The Ikumoworo Family and Princess Josephine Momoh are aware of this appeal and have in fact filed their respondents’ brief in the matter.

“The Lagos State Government which acquired the land in 1969 and also issued the Certificate of Occupancy to our client was also a party to the suit before the High Court, Lagos. They also filed an appeal against the judgment to the Court of Appeal. That appeal is pending at the Court of Appeal, Lagos.

“You can see clearly that title to the land is being disputed by the parties. The matter is in court and (is) therefore clearly sub judice. Moreover, the police have no power under the laws where title to the land is in dispute and pending before a court. In the instant case, title to the land is in dispute before the Court of Appeal, Lagos and the Supreme Court, Abuja.”

The petitioner said sometime in February 2020, the Ikumoworo Family and Momoh sought to execute the judgment but the execution was suspended when the Sheriffs of the Lagos High Court realised that the matter was on appeal before the Supreme Court.

The court reportedly warned the Ikumoworo Family and Momoh not to take any action that would present it with a fait accompli when its attention was drawn to the attempted judgment execution on February 22, 2021.

Former counsel for Momoh and the Ikumoworo Family, Qudus Mumuney, told Sunday PUNCH that he had terminated his service with the clients.

But Momoh, who spoke to our correspondent on the phone on Wednesday, said only her current lawyer, Dada Awosika (SAN), could speak in detail about the case.

She said, “Contact my lawyer. I am not the one taking over the place. I have sold the place to one Alhaji already. It’s my property and I have everything to prove it. They drove us out and wounded my staff. Now, we have come back to take back our land. It is our property.”

Asked if she was aware that the case is before the Supreme Court, she responded angrily, saying, “I don’t know what you are talking about. They were not the ones who took us to the Supreme Court.”

Awosika said thugs were not involved in the invasion of the clubhouse, adding that the police were investigating petitions on the matter.

He said, “Thugs did not invade the place; it was the police. There is a petition (from the Ikeja Saddle Club) and Princess Momoh has also written her own side of the story. Police are investigating. The club did not appeal to the Supreme Court. The execution of the judgment of the high court has been carried out and one of the parties appealed.

“The judgment is against both the Lagos State Government and the Olofin Family and Ikeja Saddle Club obtained their own allocation from the state government and it is the same judgment that has set aside whatever the government has done on that land.”

Asked if it is right to execute the judgment when a party to the same land had appealed the ruling at the Supreme Court, the lawyer simply said, “It is for the court to determine that.”

He added, “I was not involved in the matter at the high court and wasn’t involved at the Court of Appeal. I was only asked (by Momoh and Ikumoworo Family) to lead them at the Supreme Court.”

The Zone 2 Police Public Relations Officer, Hauwa Idris-Adamu, had yet to reply to our correspondent’s enquiry on the petition as of press time.

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