Residents and property owners in Victory Park Estate, Lagos, have alleged that the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) is encroaching on their lands in disregard of court orders.
The lawsuit which was scheduled to be heard on April 14 in the Lagos High Court was stalled by the judicial workers union industrial action embarked upon on April 6.
The property owners, under the aegis of Association of Victory Park Estate Bare Land Owners in Ikoyi area of Lagos, raised an alarm that AMCON’s action violates the doctrine of “Lis pendes,” a Latin term for a pending suit.
At the press conference on Tuesday, Mayowa Owolabi, a lawyer representing some of the property owners in the estate, questioned the legality of the action taken by AMCON.
Mr Owolabi said AMCON is reselling the disputed properties in a “clandestine” manner and encouraging the buyers to start construction on the lands.
“To protect themselves from actions which would be inimical to the hearing of the suit, our members filed application for orders of injunction to restrain AMCON and other defendants from annexing any of the plots or giving effects to any purported contract of sale or carrying out any construction work on the plot which are subject of the suit. These injunctions have been granted in a number of cases.”
Mr Owolabi noted that the court order obtained by AMCON was to acquire one hectare of land but, instead, they laid claim to 49 hectares.
“They (AMCON) approached the court and said that this is what the company was owing, a certain amount of money and that they wanted an order that enables them to take over the asset of the company. Specifically they cited a title number for a deed for an area which they want the court to attach to cover the debt. That deed specifically, when we conducted a search on that deed, we realised that that deed only covered one hectare. Now ingeniously they have now begun to argue that in addition to that court order the court also gave them the powers to attach any other assets that will belong to the company,” he said.
Mr Owolabi said security operatives and ‘hoodlums’ are stationed within the estate to prevent property owners who got consent from the state governor from taking possession of their lands.
“Furthermore a group of hoodlums and private security personnel who we understand are in the payroll of the Receiver Manager are stationed within the estate on a permanent basis to prevent our members from stopping the unlawful construction on their plots. These activities are being carried out in violation of the doctrine of Lis penden and subsisting order of injunctions.”
According to him, there are pertinent questions that should be answered by AMCON. He said “as a responsible corporate citizen, is AMCON exempt from the obligation to obey court orders and also respect the sanctity of pending court processes?
“Is AMCON now a real estate development company given that the lawyers engaged by AMCON have continued to hold brief for the persons who have encroached on the disputed plots in the subsisting suit?”
He said the property owners in Victory Park Estate who filed a lawsuit are seeking the intervention of the federal and state governments to “affirm their proprietary interests to the various plots which are located within Victory Park Estate, Igbokushu, Lekki Lagos.”
They maintained that their respective plots of land were acquired long before Lanre Olaoluwa was appointed as the Receiver Manager of Knight Rook Limited and therefore no longer forms part of the asset of the company. They further prayed the government to prevent AMCON and its receiver from encroaching on their respective plots of land within Victory Park Estate, Lekki, Lagos.
One of the affected landowners, who identified himself as Mr Rashid, said he returned to Nigeria after spending 23 years abroad and bought the land after satisfying all legal duties but was evicted.
Mumini Shittu, who also had a similar story, pleaded for the intervention of the government.
Meanwhile, reacting to the allegations, AMCON described them as an “attempt to smear its image.”
In a statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES, Albert Nwanozie, head of the corporation’s legal department, said they are also aware of a recent publication in the ThisDay newspaper captioned “Businessman Recovers Lekki Property from ‘Trespasser” and of a video in circulation where “criminal allegations were made against the Corporation and the Receiver/Manager in respect of Block B Plot 2, Victory Park Estate, Igbokushu Village, Lekki, Lagos.”
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The agency said it denies all the allegations “specifically the allegation that the Corporation and its Receiver/Manager are acting in defiance of the Order of Injunction made by the Lagos State High Court on October 24, 2019 in Suit no: LD/8418LMW/2019 – Mr Adedayo Mumini Shittu & Anor v Knight Rook Limited & 3 Ors and the Judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal on 15th December 2020 in Appeal no: CA/L/1266/2019 – Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria v Mr Adedayo Mumini Shittu & 3 Ors.
“The takeover of the property known as Block B Plot 2, Victory Park Estate, Igbokushu Village, Lekki, Lagos (“Attached Property/Block B Plot 2”) was carried out on the basis of the Judgment delivered by the Federal High Court on October 3, 2017, in Suit no: FHC/L/CS/744/2017 – Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria & 5 Ors which was affirmed by the Court of Appeal in Appeal no: CA/L/698/2018 – Rev Olajide Awosedo v Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria & 5 Ors on 3rd June 2019.
“The Judgement of 3rd October 2017 granted the Corporation powers to take over all the movable and immovable properties of Knight Rook Limited and other Judgment Debtors and apply the proceeds of their disposal in the settlement of the Judgment Debt,” the statement reads.
According to AMCON, “although Mr Mumini-Shittu filed a claim at the Lagos State High Court, no order of injunction was made against the Corporation and its Receiver/Manager in respect of Block B Plot 2 as alleged”.
The agency said the order of injunction made on October 24, 2019, which is the subject of a pending appeal at the Supreme Court, was strictly in respect of Block B Plot 1, Victory Park Estate, Lekki, Lagos.
“Consequently, the purported recovery, which was curiously done in the absence of any Sheriff of the Lagos State High Court, was illegal and the allegations of criminality made against the Corporation and its Receiver/Manager are false, baseless, and defamatory.”
It added that “the corporation works within the ambit of the law and with a sense of responsibility carry out its functions which is to recover an outstanding debt of the Knight Rook Limited with the powers vested in the corporation by the provisions of the AMCON Act, as amended” while stressing that “debtors should pay their debt for the sake of the Nigerian Economy.”