College, Ogun community bicker over land


  • Provost engages soldiers
  • community ignores police order

 

The Ijolu community in Ijebu North Local Government Area of Ogun State has accused the College of Health Technology Ilese of encroaching on its land and using intimidation to keep it out of it, ERNEST NWOKOLO reports from Abeokuta.

 

Trouble is brewing between the state -owned College of Health Technology, Ilese, in Ijebu North Local Government Area of Ogun State, and its host, the Ijolu community.

The source of the trouble is over 21.55 hectares of land which are in contest between the college and Ijolu community. There are concerns that if it is not resolved in the spirit justice, the tenuous peace between the two parties may snap soon.

When the pioneer training college for health care was to be established in 1976, communities around the area, particularly Ilese and Ijolu, donated land to the state government for the take-off of the project and everything went well afterwards until lately when security situation around the institution deteriorated.

There was also a directive by the government to administrators of public schools in the state to take measures to tighten security around them following cases of kidnapping of school children in parts of the country.

Attempts by the college to erect a perimeter fence around the college, to secure the students and staff, pitted the two parties  – Ijolu community and the 45-year-old institution against each other amid accusations and counter-accusations of encroachment.

The Nation gathered that the feud over the land took a worrisome dimension when the college mobilised soldiers to the land, ostensibly to provide security.

The community claimed the college invited the soldiers to intimidate and harass them in desperation to take possession of their land.

The Public Relations Officer of the Ijolu Board of Trustees, Mr. Adedoyin Ademola, who disclosed their ordeals to The Nation, recalled that the community gave a large portion of its land on which the college was built to the state government in 1976 but lamented that, decades after, the institution began to encroach on their land and was determined to also dispossess them of it.

Also, in a petition dated June 3, 2021, written by their counsel, Kemi Osisanya, of Kemi Osisanya & Co law firm, and addressed to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Defence Headquarters, Ministry of Defence, Garki, Abuja, they stated that after the establishment of the school, the state government released 21.55 hectares of unused portion of the donated land back to the Ijolu community.

The counsel stated that since the release of the unused portion, the college had continuously and persistently encroached on the land with the Provost, Dr. Abiodun Oladunjoye, making steady efforts in the last three years to expand the “school beyond the portion donated” by the community.

The lawyer said in the petition: “In the bid of the Provost to carry out the unlawful act, the Provost has engaged and employed the services of Nigerian Army personnel from Sappers Barracks,  Nigerian Army Engineers,  Ilese-Ijebu to intimidate and harass civilians who lawfully purchased of the land from Ijolu community.”

Also in the said petition written on behalf of the community, under the aegis of Ijolu  community and Ijolu  community  landlords in Ilese-Ijebu, and copied to the Commandant, Sappers’ Barracks,   Nigerian Army Engineers,  Ilese-Ijebu,  the petitioner urged the COAS to call his personnel to order and compel them to act within the scope of their functions.

Our correspondent contacted the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Abayomi Arigbabu, through phone calls and WhatApps message, seeking clarification on the land dispute but he has not responded.

But the Provost, Oladunjoye, told The Nation that the Ijolu community had no documents to show that the state government gave back any portion of the land.

Oladunjoye said: “The college was established in 1976.  The Ilese community gave the land to the government.  I am just being a custodian of what the government has given me and when I assumed the headship, I maintained everything as I had. But along the line, they are having some encroachment from people.  Later they brought a letter from one Ijolu community that they (Ijolu community) have met the state government and that the state government had given some portions of the land to them.

“So, if the government had given them some portions of the land, I think the onus lies on them to be able to bring a letter they wrote to the government and the letter the government wrote to them as response showing ‘that this land we have given it to you.’  Is that not OK ?

“But we have the original survey that was given to the government in 1978 which is the original and authentic one and it has not been revoked. So, when we had all these encroachment coming in by some people, I went to the ministry of education and the ministry directed me to the ministry of land so that they can help ascertain what portion of that land belongs to us.

“So, I went to land ministry and, coincidentally, by January this year, the Ijolu community wrote through a lawyer that I should call for a meeting with the community at the ministry of land. So, we were there. I presented my own documents (the college documents pertaining to the land) but they were not able to provide theirs because they asked them to do so.  They began to inquire where did we get our survey, and it was government survey dated 1978. They couldn’t contest it.”

Oladunjoye said soldiers were invited by the college to provide security for officials of the Bureau of Lands and Survey who came to mark illegal structures on the land and denied allegation of any harassment or intimidation of civilians.  He said the land officials were invited as the college wanted to build a fence because of increased insecurity across the nation.

He said: “If the government had given them some portions of the land, they should go and bring their own paper, they were not able to produce anything. And because of all these kidnappings and other crimes, and you know in the North, they usually go to schools. So, I approached the ministry and they gave me the authority to be able to fence the land so that the lives of the students will be safe.

“We approached people from Land – the Urban and Regional Planning Unit.  They told us that they would come and work to see who have encroached on the land. It requires that they go there and mark it but these people from the Urban and Regional Planning said they can’t go there without any security and that they might be attacked.

“As at that time, the Divisional Police Officer in my place, when I called him, said he was at Ikorodu in Lagos and that he won’t be around. Meanwhile, the officials from the Urban and Regional Planning had arrived at my office and we were to show them the place; and I don’t want them to just come and leave without working so, I went to Ilese Barracks and begged them to help provide security for those people.  They gave me soldiers for those that came and the Urban and Regional Planning people just marked the houses and left.”

On what transpired at the police station, Oladunjoye said both the college and the community were told to stop work on the land. However, he said Ijolu community did not obey the directive.

“They invited me to the police station at Igbeba Police Area Command. I was there and I gave them all the information and we were told that everybody should calm down,  that no work should continue on the land.  But they (Ijolu community) still continued to work and I have not even started digging the land for the fence. I have obeyed the Police. That is the situation of things. “Responding to the Provost’s claims, the Public Relations Officer of the Ijolu Board of Trustees, Mr Adedoyin Ademola, acknowledged that the soldiers were not on the site any more.  He, however, said he was disappointed about the college’s alleged poor treatment of the community.

Adedoyin said: “The soldiers are not on site anymore. We are also going there now to work because it is our land.  Nobody can prevent us from going there. It is only court injunction that can prevent us from going there and there is no court injunction. We have equally submitted our documents to the Ministry of Lands.

“We don’t know why the school is acting the way it is  over our land. We gave the land and the state government paid us N150,000 then as compensation and now the school wants to dispossess us of the excess land that the government returned to us.

“We do not want bloodshed, that is why we reported the matter to the police. We all met at the police station in Igbeba. The police cautioned the school against inviting soldiers and that the soldiers don’t have business in such matter.

“The police did not say we (Ijolu community)  should not go to our land;  they only advised whoever has claim on the land should approach the Ministry of Lands with relevant documents and we have done that and equally written to the ministry through our lawyer. It is our land that is why we can’t stop going there.

On his part, the Police Public Relations Officer, Ogun Police Command, Abimbola Oyeyemi, acknowledged that the matter was reported to the Police  and all the parties were advised to maintain peace and that existing structure or on going  structure should not be brought down pending when the Ministry of Lands and Survey identify and demarcate the land to determine areas of encroachment while any party having claims on the land, should approach the relevant ministry of the Ogun State government for clarifications.

 

What the records say

The Nation got the minutes of a meeting held January 27, 1994 at the Principal’s office, Ogun State College of Health Technology, Ilese between the Ijolu community and state government officials, which throws more light on the land tussle.

The following people represented the  government and school team: Mrs O.I. Olatunji (Assistant Director, Ministry of Health), O.M.Awolesi (AG, Principal of the school),  Mr C.O. Olusanya (Assistant, Chief planning officer), Mr. B.A. Adelaja (Survey Division) and four others.

Representatives of the community included Olisa Kola Osunsanya  (Agunloye 11 of Ilese), Mr. Sunday Adesanya, Mr. Sunmola Lawal and two others.

Narrating how the land was given to the school, the Olisa said that the site was owned by three communities and that the communities willingly agreed to release a land of about 50acres for the development of the school but the communities later discovered that the school authority had taken more than the 50 acres released to it making it to encroach   on the traditional shrines located at the Southern boundary of the site.

Olisa said for this reason  the community requested for the exclusion of the portion that contained their shrines.

He also tendered at the time,  a survey prepared by surveyor Banjo who was the school surveyor then.  A copy of it was given to each of the Bureau of lands and Minister of Health in 1994.

The surveyor explained details of the survey plan at the meeting and it was observed that he had already demarcated the survey plan into  parcels “A” and “B.”

It was explained that parcel “A” represents the school while parcel “B” represents portion proposed for excision.

After the examination of the survey plan, attendees of the meeting toured the site with the school surveyor, Banjo, as guide and they all agreed on the demarcation after minor adjustment was made.

The adjustment pertained to the shifting of point “B” on the survey plan which was found to be too close to the female hostel downward of a distance of about 200metres.

It was then unanimously agreed that the school authority should not embark on shifting of boundary line until it receives the directive from the Bureau of Lands, Survey and Town Planning.



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