COMING from the court, the Federal Government of Nigeria has lost ownership claim to a portion of a vast landed property, lying and being at Akure/Owo/Ilesa Road, Ondo State, on which the Federal College of Agriculture, Akure is located.
However, the court said the government only has ownership right to 685.9 acres instead of its claim to 965.5 acres. It consequently restrained the government from exercising any act of ownership on the disputed portion of the land.
The land, according to court records, was said to have been acquired under the colonial administration in 1949.
But moves by the government to extend the boundary of the landed property had met stiff resistance from the land owing family, the Ogunmokun Family of Akure, who sought court’s intervention and pronouncement over the ownership tussle.
The acquisition of the land was recorded in the Official Gazette of the colonial government in 1950 but in 1960, another acquisition of some lands adjacent to it was said to have been carried out by government which the court has now ruled did not cover the area in dispute.
In the judgment read by Justice A.O Adebusoye, the court ruled that the Federal College of Agriculture, Akure, which is the beneficiary of the 1949 acquisition, has no right to expand the title and that “any purported acts outside the beacon pillars is tantamount to trespass.”
Members of the Ogunmokun Family of Akure, had in suit number AK/279/2012 with Prince Aladegbaye Falodun as the claimant, sued the Federal Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture seeking a declaration that only 685.9 acres was acquired in 1949 and not 965.5 acres that the defendants sought to take over.
Also joined as defendants in the suit where Falodun also prayed the court for a declaration that the original survey cannot be amended, was the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
Specifically, the claimant urged the court to declare that members of his family “are the persons entitled to the Statutory Right of Occupancy in respect of a piece and parcel of land situate, lying and being at Akure/Owo/Ilesa Road which is known as Okutanla/Ogunmokun family land which is more appropriately described in Survey Plan No JOE/OD/777/88 with Beacon Pillar no PBE 260 to PEB 2672, AFA 8720 and AFA 8721.”
The claimant also prayed the court for an award of N50 million as compensation for “general damages as a result of trespass committed by the defendants on the plaintiff’s family land and an order of court setting aside ant title document that might have been obtained by anybody or group of persons or anybody whatsoever from the defendants.”
After calling several witnesses by the team of counsel made up of Messrs. Tunde Ayemo and Ola Farounbi, for the claimant, Oluwafemi Kolusade, John Madaki and Goke Adurotola, and having taken their submissions, the court gave ruling in favour of the claimant and declared the family as the rightful owners of the disputed land.
The court declared that at no time was the land that fell under the description “acquired by the Federal Government of Nigeria for any purpose whatsoever because government can only acquire a piece/parcel of land for public purpose and not for other purposes like selling, leasing, alienating transfer to any private individual and as such any purported action of the defendants in the claimants family land particularly described above is hereby declare null and void and is set aside.”
In the words of the trial judge, the court declared in the 55-page judgment that ‘it is not in dispute, from the evidence before this court and the documents tendered by the claimant, that even though the Federal Government originally acquired the portion of Exhibit B, measuring 685.9 acres in 1949, other portions of the exhibit marked Parcels A, B and C were acquired in 1960.
“The contention of the claimant, and which finds immense support in that of the first defendant, the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, is simply that even though other parcels of land were acquired after the 1949 acquisition, it was only the parcel of land measuring 685.9 acres that was allocated to the third defendant, Federal College of Agriculture, Akure and none other.”
The court therefore granted the sum of N2.5 million as compensation for “general damages as a result of the trespass committed by the defendants on the claimant’s family land at Okutanla, Ilesa/Owo Road, Akure.”