Lagos set to ‘allocate’ land to 549 landlords

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Lagos State government yesterday said it would meet with members of the Shangisha Landlords Association on how to enforce the Supreme Court judgment which ordered it to allocate 549 plots of land to the plaintiffs.

Addressing reporters , Lagos Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Mr Lawal Pedro (SAN) said the judgment was not specific on exact plots to be allocated.

He added that there would be no monetary compensation, as the judgment did not say so, but that if there is no longer enough land in the area to be allocated, the landlords may be offered alternative land elsewhere after due audit.

The Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, delivered on September 25, 2005. The Appeal Court had endorsed the judgment of the state High Court against the government.

According to the High Court, the landlords whose lands and buildings at Shangisha village were demolished by the military government between June 1984 and May 1985 “are entitled to the first choice preferential treatment by the Lagos State government before any other person(s) in the allocation or re-allocation of the plots in Shangisha village.”

The court also made a mandatory order that 549 plots should be allocated the plaintiffs, which the Supreme Court agreed with.

Pedro said: “As it is now, the Supreme Court has spoken. Whether we are happy with it or not, we are bound by that decision and we will find a way to comply with that decision.

“The state government is already working to make sure that the plaintiffs are taken care of, and that government allottees in Shangisha and Magodo are also protected so that everybody is happy. We’ll soon meet with the landlords.

“It is our responsibility as a responsible government to ensure that the judgment is complied with. But how do you want to enforce it, how? The land does not have a survey. Is it south or is it east? It’s a bit difficult, but we appreciate the point that the oracle has spoken, and we must comply.

“It is a declaration of right which the Supreme Court has just affirmed, that these claimants are entitled to be allocated land. So that’s a right; there’s no dispute about that. The only problem is the consequential order to allocate. That is why the parties must now sit down and work together to see to the enforcement of the judgment.

“The allocation, mind you, the way I understand it – I may be wrong – is not for free. It’s like every other individual who has applied for land, but that is a right.”

On financial compensation, Pedro said: “The issue of monetary compensation has not arisen. It’s not part of the judgment. Land officers will be able to tell us what is available in Magodo/Shangha. There are so many vacant plots there. Maybe there are some that have even been revoked.

“Lagos is fast developing in every sector. If we don’t have land in a scheme, we may offer an alternative scheme that may be comparable in value to that. By the grace of God between three to six months, the matter should be behind us.”

He said the fact the case has taken so long was no fault of the government. “It is not that any particular officer is at fault or deliberately wanted to frustrate the claimants from having land there.

“I recall that about 150 plots were reserved for them then, which the claimants refused to accept. If they had accepted it then, maybe we won’t get to where we are. Another military regime came and asked why land is being kept for those who don’t want it. They allocated it. And who is the officer to say no under a military regime?

“We just didn’t appeal for appealing sake or to delay, but we felt very sure that the judgment of the High Court should be set aside by the appellate courts, but we were proved wrong.”

He said the High Court did not give the state government an opportunity to be heard during trial, and it made a consequential order that was not prayed for.

In : Lagos