The allegations of abuse of office and gross violation of rule of law which Lagos residents have been making against Lagos Task Force were reportedly displayed again on Wednesday when the operatives of the agency invaded Ogudu GRA and allegedly apprehended legitimate 19 construction workers on site.
The operatives of the Task Force from Oshodi Division which was led by one Arole Owolabi allegedly came in a commando style which arose suspicion among the teeming residents.
The advocate also gathered that a Lagos State High Court had already issued an order permitting construction work to continue on the site before the invasion of the land by the Task Force.
After the arrest, the Task Force officials hurriedly arraigned the construction workers in a mobile court as land grabbers who were caught while trying to possess the lands in Ogudu GRA by force.
This development has now set tongues wagging by members of the public on why a state agency like Lagos Task Force which was set up by the instrument of law to disregard a valid court judgement with such degree of impunity.
Those who witnessed the scenario and those who are aware of the development from outset while speaking to TheAdvocate expressed concern on how Mr Arole-led officials suspiciously acted on the matter, saying that the manner speaks volumes about the integrity of the officials a far as the issue of the land is concerned.
Speaking to our correspondent, a notable resident of the area who craved ananomity said he was seriously amazed when he learnt that the construction workers had been nabbed and arraigned for land grabbing
“I was seriously taken aback when I learnt that the innocent boys who were working to earn their daily bread have been accused of land grabbing and have been arraigned at a mobile court. I was not at around when the incident occurred. I did not believe it until I read it on Punch newspaper myself. I am highly shocked because I know about six of the arrested workers personally. I had seen them working on two other sites before I saw them in this very site in Ogudu. In fact, two of them had even worked on site of a friend of mine in Ikeja. So, I greatly suspect foul play in this matter. I call on appropriate authorities as a matter of urgency to investigate Mr Arole and other officials because this is highly suspicious.” he lamented.
Another resident of the area who identified himself as Diran Olowu, while speaking also said that he was startled when he learnt that the task force men had arraigned the construction workers as land grabbers.
“I was greatly amazed because some of the arrested boys are well known construction workers on sites. The activity of the task force men on this matter should be subjected to intensive scrutiny because, I am also aware that there is a valid court order permitting construction work on the site. Is task force not aware of the court order before carrying out this ridiculous operation? Did they carry out any investigation at all? because official procedure demands that thorough investigation must be carried out before any security outfit carries out any operation against citizens.
“Without any shadow of doubt, it is crystal clear to all of us that the task force really goofed on this matter, and this exposes series of allegations on violation of human right that people have been making against then,” Olowu said.
It was also gathered that counsel to the plaintiff, Barrister Ayorinde (SAN) had written a letter to the Lagos Attorney General, AG in which the Chairman, Lagos Special Task Force on Land Grabbers was copied. The letter reminded the AG of the court order delivered by Hon Justice M.O Emeya of the Lagos High Court which recognises and permits construction workers to be working on the site. The letter also states that the people that were arrested on site were legitimate and well known construction labourers who have nothing to do with land grabbing they were accused of by the Task Force.
When our correspondent contacted the leader of the operation, Mr. Arole Owolabi, he quickly gave the phone to one Mrs Bukola Bakare who identified herself as the Public Relations Officer of Task Force on Land Grabbing. Mrs Bakare defended the actions of the force, saying that they had written three letters to the people claiming ownership of the land; and also, three inscriptions on the fence of the site, but the people did not show up.
When asked if they are aware that there is a valid court order from Lagos State High Court, permitting construction work on the site before they stormed the site and arrested people on the site, she said they were not aware.
In her words: “There is no how we will be aware of any court order when the people involved did not show up when we invited them.
“As regards the people arrested on site, when we get to any land mired in land tussle or land grabbing, we arrest all the people on site, that has been our norm,” she added.
The official however admitted that they had received the letter written by Barrister Ayorinde (SAN). She said they received it on Thursday evening, adding that they would act on it at the appropriate time.
Another mind-blowing allegation that played out in this scenario is the issue of credibility of the supposed complainant. Some stakeholders who spoke to our correspondent stated that the name of the person claiming the complainant is not the one on the Certificate of Occupancy, C of O.
One major stakeholder who also doesn’t want his name to be mentioned for security purpose cast aspersion on the task force due to the way they went about the whole issue, adding that they may be dancing to the tune of a particular element.
Speaking, he said: This is the most ridiculous operation I have ever seen from a security outfit. There is principle of investigation before making arrest and prosecuting the suspects. So, it is very bizarre to hear that a well known organization like Lagos Task Force was not aware of a court order on a land in an eyebrow area like Ogudu GRA. That’s why I don’t believe them. After arresting the “land grabbers’ they saw on site, did they embark on any investigation about them as the principle demands? Why did they arraign them hurriedly? That’s why the role played by the Task Force on this matter must be investigated, we won’t allow it to be swept under the carpet.”
The activities of Lagos State Task Force over the years have attracted horde of criticisms to the extent that the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) in May this year threatened to embark on mass action against the Lagos State Government over the alleged brutality and illegal activities of the force.
Speaking through the group, the coordinator, Comrade Titilayo Odubanjo at a press conference in Lagos said there is urgent need for Lagos Sate Government to regulate and check the excesses of the taskforce.
She said: We have been receiving petitions upon petitions on the activities of the Lagos State Government taskforce from members of the public.
“We are interested in furthering the course of rule of law in Lagos which the government has vowed to uphold and it is in pursuant to this that we call this conference to look into the activities of Lagos State taskforce which similarly amount to abuse of office and violation of the hallowed principles of rule of law”.