An Ikeja, Lagos State High Court has granted Prince Adeniran Owen Alao and three others bail over alleged stealing of 101 acres of land located at P&T, Ipaja Akinyele area of Lagos State.
Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo granted the bail.
Taiwo in her ruling dated October 8, 2020 held that the defendants are presumed innocent until the contrary is proved and thereby granted them bail in the sum of N20 million with two sureties in like sum.
The Economic and Financial Crime Commission had in charge number ID/12978C/2020 accused the defendants: Prince Adeniran Owen Alao, Owereser Nigeria limited, Kolusade Oluwafemi, Quadro Lookman and Atinuse Albert of conspiracy to commit felony and stealing of land contrary to section 409 and 410 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011.
The EFCC had alleged that the defendants sometimes in 2014 conspired among themselves to steal 101 acres of land at P&T, Ipaja Akinyele, Lagos State, property of the Federal Government.
Arguing their bail applications, lawyer to the defendants, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), submitted that the grant of bail was at the discretion of the court and that discretion should be exercised judicially and judiciously.
Ayorinde submitted that bail is a constitutional right and the presumption of innocence lies in favour of the defendants.
He said being responsible individuals, they will not jump bail but submit themselves to the courts until the matter was finally disposed of.
He therefore urged the court to use its discretion in favour of the defendants and grant them bail accordingly.
Opposing the application, EFCC’s counsel, Ayanfeoluwa Ogunsina, submitted that the offences for which the defendants were charged relate to economic sabotage, hence their bail applications should be refused.
In her ruling, Justice Taiwo held that a court must take into consideration the nature of the charge, the evidence by which it is supported, the sentence which may be passed in the event of conviction, the probability that the applicant will appear to take his trial and also whether the release of the defendants on bail will interfere with trial of the case.
The Judge held: “In a case of an offence ordinarily bailable, it is the duty of the prosecution to show why the applicant should not be admitted to bail.
“It is not expected to oppose bail for the sake of opposing.
“There should be factual grounds for opposing bail and these facts have to be put before the court.
“Also, the applicant has corresponding duty to show that he is entitled to bail.
“Although, the prosecution has urged the court to consider the seriousness of the offence, the applicants are alleged to have committed and has contended that if the applicants are admitted to bail they would interfere with trial, from the counter affidavit the prosecution has failed to give material facts to show that the applicants will indeed interfere with trial if admitted to bail.”
Justice Taiwo held that the defendants are presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, adding that the offences for which they were charged are bailable and thereby should be granted bail.
It would be recalled that Alao and five others had in suit number ID/5764/14 filed before Justice Ganiyu Safari of the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja Division sued the Minister of Land and Minister for Communication over the disputed land.
Other claimants in the suit are Chief Abibu Ajibawo, Chief Sikiru Odede, Ayinla Falola, Babatunde Abiola, Chief Ajike Ogunbiyi for themselves and on behalf of members of Oguntoyinbo, Abiola, Falola and Ilo families.
They prayed the court for declaration that the purpose for which the 101 acres of land located at P&T, Ipaja Akinyele, Lagos was acquired by the Federal Government has failed.
They claimed that the land was compulsorily acquired from their families vide Government Notice 1881 published in the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No-60 Vol 61 dated December 12, 1974 and that no acquisition notice was served personally on the claimant’s families or their customary tenants.
Besides, the claimants told the court that no compensation was paid to their families by the Federal Government, while the specific purpose of the acquisition of the land, which is to be used as International Radio Monitoring Station, was not done.
The claimants further informed the court that the Federal Government rather than use the acquired land for the original purpose, handed it to the Ministry of Land and later to the Ministry of Communication, which then occupied the land through the defunct Nigerian Telecommunications Limited.
They added that the small portion of the land built on by the defunct NITEL was not in any way connected to the original purpose of the acquisition and that the same NITEL has been sold to private investors.
They added that the land in dispute is being sold off in bits and pieces to private individuals by officials of the defunct NITEL and some unknown persons, contrary to the specific purpose for which the land was acquired by the Federal Government.
Justice Safari in his judgement delivered on May 19, 2015 held that the absolute purpose for which the parcel of land was acquired to wit: International Radio Monitoring Station, has totally failed.
Consequently, the court ordered that the claimants should take possession of all the land situate at Ipaja Lagos more particularly delineated on survey Plan No. PB 401 A&B prepared by B.P. Okuboye.
However, the court refused to grant the request to demolish all structures erected on the land pending when the claimants shall file a detailed particulars or inventory of such structures before the court.
Following the judgement, some members of the families, namely Chief Abibu Ajibawo, Ayinla Falola and Babatunde Abiola (applicants) urged the court to restrain Prince Owen Adeniran Alao, Chief Ajike Ogunbiyi and Chief Sikiru Odede (respondents) from further dealing on the disputed land.
They also prayed the court to order the respondents to account for all monies collected from the sale of the Oguntoyinbo family land and to set aside all sale, assignments, lease and tenancy made by them on the disputed land.
The applicants informed the court that since the delivery of the judgement on May 19, 2015, thugs were appointed to prevent them from entering the land.
But opposing the application, the respondents in their Notice of Preliminary Objection argued that once a court delivers its judgement in respect of a matter, it has become functus officio (has no power to make changes) and thereby precluded from reviewing or varying such judgement.
In his ruling, Justice Safari noted that both the applicants and the respondents were from the same family and judgement was given in their favour.
Safari held: “It is to be noted that all the parties to these applications argued together were the victorious parties and claimant/judgement creditors in that judgement of the court delivered on May 19, 2015.
“The claimants after obtaining judgement have now turned against one another.”
Justice Safari held that having given judgment in the suit and the judgement having been executed, the court lacks the power to make further orders in the suit as the two parties before the court are judgement creditors in the main suit Number ID/5764/14 and are entitled to the benefits of the said judgement.
Consequently, Justice Safari dismissed the application.
Meanwhile, the Minister for Communication has appealed against the judgement and the matter adjourned till December 1, 2020 for hearing.