The two ‘Magodo Gates’ – Punch Newspapers

Lekan Sote

Please pardon what seems to be an attempt to go back in time to the two most disgraceful events that occurred in Magodo Estate in the closing days of 2021. It’s a necessary audit.

Nigerians—and their —must expect that the two hullabaloos that occurred in Magodo Estate in Lagos State need a second look, the way bankers look at a loan proposal over and over again.

The first “Magodo Gate” is literal. It happened to Hakeem Odumosu, former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, who was recently promoted to Assistant Inspector General of Police.

Just a few months ahead of his redeployment out of the Lagos State Police Command, the Lagos State House of Assembly recognised and commended him during one of their plenaries for meritorious service to his fatherland.

But that didn’t prevent him from brutally engaging sentries manning the gate of Magodo Estate—almost the same way commandos would invade an enemy camp—on his way to satisfying what some mischievous people, like Arise TV anchor,  Dr Reuben Abati, have described as a gastronomic “peppersouping and jolloffing” mission.

Commissioner Odumosu, who must always be obeyed, apparently, had approached Magodo Gate with his siren and escorts but was surprised that the sentries did not recognise and accord him the usual courtesies that go with esprit de corps amongst security types.

Those who claim to know Commissioner Odumosu personally vouch that he is a genial man, who is populist in orientation. But that reputation somehow failed to restrain him from showing the sentries some “pepper!”

The other “Gate,” a metaphor derived from America’s WaterGate scandal, is the “manafiki” (treachery) and “madaru” (confusion) that the carpetbagger military rulers of Lagos State, aided by their conniving civil servants, wrought while in active service.

They used the principle of eminent domain of to acquire the real estate for the purpose of building a state-of-the-art hospital that never saw the light of day.

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Contrary to the red herring sold to the natives, the Lagos State took more land than it said it needed and failed to build the hospital complex for which it took the land.

It’s even rumoured that a private school is standing on the plot, or plots, earmarked for the hospital. If this is true, it smacks of a deliberate act of pushing out falsehoods to cheat citizens of their properties. It’s unacceptable and ungodly.

The military overlords deprived the legitimate owners of the Magodo Estate, more or less, gifted it unto themselves and their friends, thereby causing a needless headache for successor .

To make the whole scam legitimate, they conned other prospective (and unsuspecting) homeowners to buy land in the estate and then provided them with “valid” certificates of occupancy that would give them the sense that they held legal title to the properties.

No doubt, these individuals, who happen to be in the socioeconomic bracket of the elite, believing that they legitimately acquired their plots, will certainly deploy every effort they can muster to rebuff the unfortunate original landowners, most of whom are destitute, illiterate and timid.

There is an unconfirmed report that the first individual to build a house on this real estate— forcibly acquired by military fiat— was a colonel of the Nigerian Army. If that is true, you just found out one of the ways that the military raped Nigerians of their rights and dignity as citizens.

You may fault Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for getting into what almost became a game of wits and shouting match between him and a cocky Chief Superintendent of Police.

The CSP repeatedly refused the governor’s instructions and practically asked him to do his own errand, that is, call and talk to the Inspector General of Police, whom he claimed instructed him to seize Magodo Estate.

But you cannot fail to agree that Sanwo-Olu knows his place as Governor of Lagos State, whose interests he swore to protect, and he promptly went about this responsibility— at least to keep the peace, if not insist on the rights of those you may consider “illegal” occupants to their properties, and assure the aggrieved.

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The Land Use Act of Nigeria vests all lands in a state in the governor, not the Minister of Justice nor the IGP, both of whom despatched special forces to seize Magodo at the behest of those who know people in the corridors of Federal Government and believe in the logic of power rather than the power of logic.

This is an atavistic reminder of the days when the military ran Nigeria. Many Nigerians, who had friends in the military, having felt aggrieved rightly or wrongly by their compatriots, would run to the military barracks, shedding crocodile tears, to ask for help.

The military men would come with their guns and “koboko” (horsewhip), kicking and beating the other party, sometimes to stupor if not death, in an effort to redress whatever wrong their friend had said the other party had visited upon him.

Anyway, the Magodo natives went to court and fought their case to the Supreme Court that awarded judgement in their favour and asked the Lagos State Government to release 549 plots to the indigenes as compensation.

The Lagos State Government serially ignored the Supreme Court judgement and even went ahead to allocate the 549 plots to other beneficiaries. Eventually, the deprived indigenes attempted to take the laws into their own hands, with the intention of accessing what the Supreme Court said belonged to them.

To aid their efforts, the indigenes appealed to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federal Government. He contacted the IGP who assigned policemen to help the indigenes to enforce their rights.

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Of course, this resulted in pandemonium and Governor Sanwo-Olu, who was not the governor who appropriated and allocated the land, rightly thought it was his business to step in to avert danger to lives and properties— regardless of who owned the land.

There is a convention in law, which recognises that a court cannot enforce its own judgement. This is because a court does not have its own law enforcement agency.

In a modern democracy, the aphorism that the state is the supreme, final, absolute, coercive power, in a political realm is actualised within the ambit of separation of powers, whereby the legislature makes the laws, the courts interpret it and the executive will enforce or carry out the law.

The sheriff, an agent or agency of the justice department of the executive branch,  “enforces court orders and mandates, and may perform duties such as evictions, seizing property and assets pursuant to court orders, and serving warrants and legal papers.”

Without prejudice to the ownership of the land by the indigenes, there are no reports that a sheriff accompanied the CSP who came to enforce the takeover of properties earlier marked for possession.

Incidentally, both Magodo Gates smack of arrogance, highhandedness and what musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti would have described as an unpardonable and egregious power show.

But while the former was a sheer display of over-bloated ego, the latter gate demonstrates the corrupt and audacious use of unbridled power to steal the wealth of the powerless.

Nigerian state actors should please avoid this hubris.

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