Church counts losses as police, thugs destroy buildings, vandalise equipment on the orders of prominent Lagos family

Posted by News Express | 20 July 2014 | 4,098 times

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When the Acts of the Apostles Church, Makoko, Ebute Metta, Lagos, acquired one acre of land from late Chief Adekunle Coker, in 1962, it naturally believed the transaction was a done deal. Then it went ahead to acquire and sandfill four more acres of swampy land in 1967 from him. But the acquisition which the church once considered a beautiful transaction now appears to have turned to ash and filled the mouths of its members with lamentation in the wake of serial attacks on the church and its membership by an army of armed mobile policemen and thugs bearing cutlasses, allegedly led by a Deputy Commissioner of Police in the State, in a purported attempt to enforce a Lagos High Court judgment won by the Coker family, notwithstanding that an appeal against the decision of Justice (Mrs.) A. J. Coker, is still pending before the Court of Appeal, sitting in Lagos.

When this correspondent visited the Acts of Apostles Church, members of the church recounted the bitter experience they had at the hands of thugs who invaded the church premises on several occasions to destroy church buildings, vandalise cars and equipment and physically harm members. In the course of the most recent attack, a member of the church received permanent injury to the eyes, resulting in blindness.

The expansive church premises houses about 50 buildings, where hundreds of its members have resided for years. Trouble began for the church in 1969 when it was taken to court by the then head of the Coker family, claiming ownership of the over five acres of land held by the church, following the death of Chief Adekunle Coker in 1967.

A member of the church, Mr. Bamidele Ogunmayi, said over 100 armed policemen in armoured personnel carriers, Black Maria as well as over 30 Rapid Response Squad Hilux jeeps converged on Adekunle Police Station on the morning of May 28, 2014 and then moved to Makoko community to attack the church members including people living within the premises.

Recalling that sad day, Ogunmayi said: “They wanted to demolish our houses and church building but youths in the neighbourhood with other members of the church did not allow them gain access to the premises, before another detachment of policemen from Adekunle Police Division came to the scene and arrested 10 suspected thugs who were in possession of cutlasses.”

But the arrest of the thugs was only a brief respite as a bigger group of 50 thugs again attacked the church on June 12, 2014. According to Ogunmayi, they came with a wrecking truck to demolish the church buildings.

“Some of the thugs broke a part of the brick fence through which they entered the church premises. They destroyed houses and vandalised church equipment. They also damaged some cars belonging to our members,” he said.

Recalling how the church came into possession of the land, Ogunmayi said: “Our church purchased one acre of land in 1962 from Chief Adekunle Coker. Later we reclaimed additional four acres of land in 1967. There was no problem and we paid one hundred pounds. Later the La­gos State government claimed that part of the land belonged to it, and asked us to make additional payments to it. We obliged and paid.

“Then in the same year, 1967, Chief Adekunle Coker died. All this while, from 1962 to 1967 there was no problem between us and his family. After his death, one of his brothers, Chief Abolade Coker, rose up to lay claims to the land acquired by the church from one James Ajao Segiri in 1969. He took the church to the Lagos High Court in 1969, but lost the case in 1980. Not satisfied with the ruling of the High Court, he filed an appeal. While the appeal case was still on, he died in 1984 and the Appeal Court struck out the case in 1994.”

Then, from the blues, Ogunmayi said one Bayo Balogun, a land agent, appeared in 2003, claiming that he had obtained the power of attorney from the children of late Abolade Coker. Acting on the said power of attorney, he again filed a suit against the church at a Lagos High Court presided over by Jus­tice (Mrs.) A. J. Coker. The church lost the case when judgment was delivered on November 16, 2007, and it promptly filed an appeal in 2008 at the Appeal Court to contest the judgment in case number CA/L/174M/2008, and a motion for stay of execution of the earlier judgment pending the hearing of their appeal.

Despite being served with the notice of appeal, the Coker family filed an ex parte motion at a Lagos High Court pursuant to Order 39 Rule 1 of the High Court of Lagos State on March 18, 2008. While the appeal is still pending, and under cover of the ex parte motion, the Coker family allegedly accompanied by a lawyer and policemen without name tags as well as some hoodlums attacked the church. In the ensuing melee church doors, musical instruments, vehicles and bell tower belonging to the church were destroyed even as members were physically assaulted. More damage would have been done but for the timely intervention of policemen from a nearby police division.

Ogunmayi lamented that since the family obtained the motion ex-parte, the Coker family has been using thugs to attack the church.

Meanwhile, the counsel to the church, Badejo and Banojo, has petitioned the Governor of Lagos State, the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Inspector General of Police, the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 2, the Lagos State Commis­sioner of Police, the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, the Chairman, Police Service Commission, the Chairman, Code of Conduct Bureau, Lagos; the Deputy Sheriff, High Court of Lagos, appealing to them to look into the ugly situation.

A twist in the tale is the allegation that a Deputy Commissioner of Police in Lagos State appears to have taken sides in the matter and given his sympathy to the Coker family. Explaining the disquiet of the church over this development, a member of the church’s committee, Mr. Solomon Oladunjoye, said: “When the crisis started and thugs attempted to invade church premises, we reported the matter to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Umar Manko. He delegated the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr. Tunde Sobulo, who invited us to his office on March 20, 2014. He told us to our faces that he could not respect the Court of Appeal suit, categorically that the police would come to demolish the church along with the 50 buildings inside the church premises. The Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr. Tunde Sobulo, led the thugs and other police officers to attack us in the church. They wanted to use the truck they brought to demolish the church but youths in the community prevented them from entering the church premises.”

Speaking on the issue, the AIG Zone 2, Onikan, Lagos, Mr. Mamman Ibrahim Tsafe, acknowledged that he heard about the ugly incident that happened on June 12, 2014 and had also seen a petition written by the lawyer of Acts of the Apostles Church on how thugs invaded their church and destroyed the church property.

He however said the police don’t handle land matters and that it is only the court that can decide on land matter. He urged the two parties to give peace a chance and avoid breaking the law.

On the alleged involvement of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr. Tunde Sobulo, in the invasion of the church premises and the destruction of property, Tsafe said the matter was still being investigated by the police.

Credit (except headline): Sunday Sun.


Source: News Express

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