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Four Chieftaincy Family Battles Pastor Ashimolowo of KICC Over Epe Land

Four chieftaincy family members of Offiran Village and Aiyeteju Village along Lagos-Epe Expressway, Lagos State, western Nigeria, have commenced committal to prison proceedings against the General Overseer of Kings International Christian Centre, KICC, Pastor Mathew Ashimolowo, for allegedly disobeying the order of a Lagos High Court, over construction of properties on a disputed land. The court battle started sometime in March this year when a limited liability company, Meridian Properties Limited, owned by Pastor Ashimolowo, sued a military officer, Captain E. Ugoh, at a Lagos High Court, alleging that the defendant encroached on his land. According to a statement of claim filed before the court, the company alleged that the subject matter of the suit, a land measuring 26.486 hectares situated at Offiran village was acquired in phases by the company from various land owners in the village and it took possession of the land since 2003. The claimant alleged that in February 2013 when work started on the land, the Captain drove away its workmen after which Meridian Properties Limited petitioned the office of the Assistant Inspector General of Police on the activities of the Army Captain. Thereafter the issue degenerated to petitions and counter petitions both to the police and military authorities. Consequently, the Meridian Properties Limited instituted a legal action claiming the sum of N100 million as specific and general damages for the demolition and destruction of its properties against Captain Ugoh. In his defence, Captain Ugoh, while denying almost all the averment of the claimant, said he is the owner of the piece of land measuring about 10.136 acres located at Alamo, Aiyeteju Village, along Lagos-Epe Expressway, Ibeju Lekki Local Government Area of Lagos State, having taken over the land from his late father Nze Vitalis Ugoh who previously acquired the land from the owners. He averred further that sometime in January, 2013, he was notified by his agent that some hoodlums led by a surveyor had forcibly entered the land, uprooted his crops and destroyed the boundary pillars erected on the land. He said he inquired from the original owners of the land if the land had been re-sold to any other person, but the family said they never sold the land to anybody. Thereafter, he petitioned the Commissioner of Police and the Assistant Inspector General of Police who invited all the concerned families from Offiran Village from whom the claimant claimed he bought the land in dispute. The said families made statements to the effect that they have no land along the Lagos-Epe Expressway where the land in dispute is located. Thereafter, the defendant urged the court to dismiss the claimant’s suit with substantial cost, describing same as being frivolous, gold digging and without merit. However, as the legal battle was raging on, four families including the Baale of Ofiran village, Chief Ganiyu Raji, through their counsel, Barrister Ade Oyebanji, filed an application before the court to join the suit as defendants, and after listening to the submission of Mr. Oyebanji the court ordered that they should be joined. In an affidavit sworn to by a member of the families of Offiran Village, Alhaji Adio Shittu, he averred that Ofiran Village has no land along Lagos-Epe Expressway as the land in dispute is Alfa Alamo Village and not Offiran Village and that the land belongs to Oyafunke family of Aiyeteju village. Alhaji Shittu further averred that they never assigned or handed over the land to Meridian Properties Limited, and they did not sign any deed of assignment in favour of the company. Therefore, the signature on the deeds of assignment pleaded by the claimant company was forged as the Offiran land which the claimant negotiated for is different from the land in dispute as the land is far away from the land in dispute. On 25 June when the matter came up before the court, the defendant informed the court that despite the fact that Meridian Properties Limited initiated this suit, it had started construction on the properties while the suit was still pending. Consequently, the court ordered construction work to stop forthwith as that would amount to self help while its case was still pending but in defiance of the order of the court, bMeridian Properties Limited continued with its construction. The court again on 3 July granted accelerated hearing of the claims. It further ordered that parties maintain the status quo, adding that the defendants should keep off the land pending the hearing and determination of the claims. However, despite the order of the court Meridian Properties Limited was alleged to be horridly constructing and building on the property in order to circumvent the order of the court. Consequently, the defendant averred that the act of self help by Pastor Mathew Ashimolowo is capable of causing anarchy and breakdown of law and order in the community where the property is located. The defendant told the court that if the application for committal to prison is not granted, a situation of helplessness will be foisted on the court by the time the matter icomes up for trial as the person sought to be committed to prison would have completed the building of structures on the property. The case has been reassigned to another judge, Justice Morenike Obadina and the parties were advised to come on Friday for a date when the proceedings would be heard

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