The almost five-year old land dispute between some families in Ibadan and the government of Oyo State entered a crucial stage on Wednesday with the defence closing its case by the calling and cross-examination of two and the last witnesses in the case.
Some families in the Oyo State capital had dragged the government of the state as represented by the governor, Sen. Abiola Ajimobi and two of his Commissioners (Lands, Housing and Survey and Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice) before Justice Adegboye Gbolagunte of the State High Court, MKO Abiola Way (former Ring Road), Ibadan over the 404 hectares of land between Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN) and Nigerian Institute of Horticultural Research (NIHORT), both based in Ibadan.
The land, which was previously acquired by the Federal Government (FG) was returned to the original owners (the families) through the state government, but it became an issue for litigation when the state government after the release revoked it, a development that did not go down well with some of the families.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Wednesday, counsel to the defendants, Niyi Ajewole called two witnesses, Alhaji Iyanda Adetunmbi and Rafiu Adejare, the fourth and fifth respondents respectively and led them in giving evidence.
Alhaji Adetunmbi in his evidence admitted that the prime member among the claimants, Chief Ganiyu Ladigbolu is a member of the families claiming to be the original owners of the land just as he told the court that STAD, a private property company which negotiated the release of the land with the FG had sometimes in 2012 sued the same Alhaji Ladigbolu and the court paper was tendered and admitted as ‘Exhibit DD’.
Under cross-examination by another counsel, N.A. Abiola from the State Ministry of Justice, the old man admitted that after the release of the land to the original owners, the state government acquired the same land through notice of revocation served on the families.
Abiola also led the witness to corroborate the fact that a hundred acres (100 acres) of the land was given to the families by the state government as compensation which both the original owners as represented by High Chief (now Oba) Eddy Oyewole (6th defendant) and the state government agreed on.
Out of the 17 different families presented as the original owners, the witness under cross-examination dismissed about 15 as not part of the families, though, he insisted that Adeleye family belongs to the group of original owners contrary to the insinuation by Abiola.
In his own witness as being led by Ajewole, Alhaji Adejare owned up to have signed an oath on 23rd September, 2014 and pleaded that the document be taken as his evidence, but, under cross- examination by one of the counsel to the claimants, Kelly Ogbe, he admitted that he could neither read nor write and could only converse in Yoruba Language.
Earlier before the defence called his witnesses, there had been the announcement of two different applications by two different parties seeking to join both as the claimants and the defendants, but were stepped down because they were not ripe for hearing.
Though, one of the new counsel tried as much as possible to prevent the court from proceeding with the case until his application is heard, the judge stood his ground that the case should continue, recalling that it was about this time last year that a similar application was brought and assured the counsel that his application would be heard on its merit.
The judge, Justice Adegboye Gbolagunte subsequently adjourned the case till 16th January, 2018 for further hearing and the taking of all the applications.