Osapa Village Land Tussle : Supreme Court Corrects Error, Awards Eletu Family 216.758 Hectares
BEVERLY HILLS, CA, March 18, (THEWILL) - In what could best be described as a reversal of ruling, the Supreme Court Tuesday reversed itself as it admitted that it made a mistake in an earlier judgment it delivered on July 12, 2013 wherein it inadvertently restricted the piece of land in Lekki Peninsula to which the Eletu family was entitled to 10 hectares instead of 216.
In a short ruling, Justice Walter Onnoghen, citing Order 8 Rule 16 of the Supreme Court Rules, said the apex court had the power to correct such errors even though the court has become functius officio.
He noted that the judgment in issue was to award the statutory right of occupancy in 216.
758 hectares and not 10 hectares to the Eletu family.
The court had upheld the right of the Eletu family to a piece of land popularly known as Osapa Village in Lekki Peninsula, Eti-Osa local Government Area of Lagos State.
In the judgment, the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision, held that the land measuring about 10 hectares did not belong to the Ojomu Chieftaincy Family.
Capitalising on the error in the judgment, the Ojomu family had continued to dispute the right of the Eletu family to the entire land in issue.
This led to tension within the peninsula.
And in order to settle the dispute, the Eletu family represented by Mr Olu Daramola, (SAN) had applied to the Supreme Court for a review of the judgement.
Daramola had urged the court to do the needful and correct the error in the judgment.
But, the Ojomu's family opposed the application as their lawyer, Chief Ladi Williams, (SAN), argued that the court had become functius officio and therefore lacked the vires to tamper with the judgment.
However in his ruling, Justice Onnoghen said: "By the provision of Order 8 Rule 16 of the rules of this court, though the court can not review any judgment once given and delivered, it can vary the judgment or order so as to give effect to its meaning and intention.
"In the instant case, the intention of the court is to grant the applicant/appellant their counter claim to the 254.
558 hectares of land less the 37.
8 hectares conceded to the Lagos State Government bringing the total entitlement of the applicant to 216.
"The above being the case, the consequential order in the judgment shall now read: the appellants are entitled to the statutory right of occupancy over 216.
" Onnoghen said the court was established to do justice and that it would be injustice to allow the error to go uncorrected.
"It means the appellant has won nothing," he added.
He however advised the parties to continue to maintain the peace and live in harmony.
The Supreme Court had in its rules last year, set aside the judgments of a Lagos High Court and the Court of Appeal in Lagos which had mitakenly awarded the land to the Ojomu family.
Justice Kumai Aka'ahs who delivered the lead judgment then said that the fact that Ojomu family had an agreement with Lagos State Government in respect of the land did not extinguish the right of the Eletu family over the land which was sold to them (Eletu) family in 1977.
According to him, the Ojomu family were inconsistent in their claim to the land.
The Supreme Court upheld the arguments of the lawyers to the Eletu family namely Olu Daramola, SAN, Ahmed Raji, SAN and Ademola Koko that the land in dispute belonged to their client.
The court set aside the judgments of the two lower courts which were in favour of the Ojomu family and ordered them to pay the Eletu Family N200,000 as costs in the high court, court of appeal and the Supreme Court.
Justice Aka'ahs said: "The respondents (Ojomu family) have not been consistent in their claim to the land.
"In one breath they claim it was the acquisition by the Lagos State Government which was not challenged that extinguished the appellants' (Eletu family) to the land while in another breath they are asserting that it was the declaration made by the court in Suit No.
ID/1883/89 in their favour that extinguished the appellants' interest in the land.
" Justice Aka-ahs traced the origin of the dispute to 1977 when the Ojomu family sold a portion of their family to the appellants' father, late Gbadamosi Bandele Eletu.
The land is situate and known as Osapa Village in Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State.
The transaction done through a Deed of Convenyance dated 23rd August, 1977 was duly registered as No.
36 page 36 Volume 1648 at the Lands Registry, Lagos.
However, by the Lagos State Government Notices Nos 11 and 14 published in the Lagos State Official Gazette of February 19th and 26th, 1987 respectively, the Lagos State Government compulsorily acquired a vast area of land spanning several kilometres consisting of many villages and settlements.
The acquired land included Osapa village which had earlier been sold to the Eletu family.
The Ojomu family consequently filed a suit against the Lagos State Government challenging the acquisition.
Judgment was delivered in their favour in 1991.
However, after judgment the Ojomu family entered into an agreement with the state government, wherein portions of Ojomu family land were granted to the state government.
Some portions were excised and the certificate of occupancy was granted to the Ojomu family over the enitre portions of land excised from the government acquisition.
Because the Eletu family did not join the suit they (Ojomu) family instituted against the state challenging the compulsory acquisition, the Ojomu family said the right of the Eletu's family over the land already sold to them had been extinguished.
The high court agreed with them.
The Court of Appeal also but the Supreme Court set aside the judgment and ruled in favour of the Eletu family.
Other justices who agreed to the judgment are: Justices Samuel Onnoghen, Bode Rhodes-Vivour, Olukayode Ariwoola, and Clara Ogunbiyi.