Residents and landlords of Victory Park Estate, Lekki, Lagos State have accused the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) of harassment over their properties despite pending court cases and orders.
The residents particularly accused AMCON Receiver Manager in Victory Park Estate, Mr Lanre Olaoluwa of using a local security outfit to provide cover for illegal construction without building plan approval. “More than 90 per cent of the on-going construction are without approval. The AMCON Receiver Manager is also flouting court orders using the same local security outfit to challenge anyone seeking to ensure the enforcement of the court orders”, the residents stated.
Several cases have been filed against AMCON and its receiver-manager Mr Lanre Olaoluwa by residents of the estate where the plaintiffs obtained injunctions against the respondents.
AMCON and Olaoluwa appealed.
The estate spans almost 50 hectares and is one of the gated communities in the Igbokushu area of Lekki Peninsula Scheme 1.
The residents accuse AMCON and its receiver-manager of outright disregard for law and order and illegal use of official powers. They claimed to have bought plots of land in the estate from Grant Properties Ltd, a company promoted by the late Rev Olajide Awosedo and his family, and obtained the relevant title documents.
According to them, in 2003, Grant Properties and Knight Rook approached some of them individually and offered them plots in the estate, following which they invested their hard-earned money and live savings; others obtained mortgage loans.
The residents said before paying, they carried out checks to ascertain that there were no caveats in the Lands Registry or the Corporate Affairs Commission. Assured that the coast was clear, they purchased their various plots legally from Grant Properties/Knight Rook, the only companies authorised to sell plots of land in the estate.
The homeowners said they found that at the time of purchasing the plots of land, Knight Rook’s title to the estate was free from any encumbrance, as no mortgage, pledge or charge had been obtained against it by any financial institution or any other company. The homeowners said from 2003 till June 2017, they continued to buy into the estate; some developed their properties and started living in the estate without harassment. They also registered their titles, obtained the consent of the Governor and paid their Land Use Charge as and when due.
Issues arose when AMCON moved to recover alleged credit facilities granted to the late Awosedo, the Chairman of Grant Properties Limited and Knight Rook Ltd, which executed the title documents to the property in the estate. To the residents’ shock, sometime in June 2017, they woke to a publication that Knight Rook, the owner of the global certificate of occupancy over Victory Park Estate, was in receivership with other companies over a loan Grant Properties Ltd allegedly took from Sterling Bank, Skye bank (now Polaris bank), Wema Bank and First City Monument Bank(FCMB). The shares of Knight Rook Ltd were alleged to have been used as security for the loans. The banks allegedly sold the unpaid loan as eligible bank assets to AMCON.
According to the residents, following the steps taken to recover the outstanding indebtedness, the late Awosedo and other shareholders of Knight Rook purportedly transferred their shares to the nominees of the banks and resigned their positions as directors, thereby relinquishing their right to continue to act as such.
The plaintiffs alleged that despite the removal of the Awosedos from Knight Rook Ltd, an agreement was entered sometime in 2006 by the banks with Grant Properties Ltd to market and sell all the land in Victory Park Estate and remit proceeds to the banks. The residents said it was very puzzling that from 2006 until AMCON’s publication of putting the companies in receivership in 2017, members of the public were made to believe that the Awosedos were executing the banks’ instructions.
AMCON appointed Mr. Olaoluwa as receiver/manager to take over the assets of Knight Rook Ltd and its parent company, Grant Properties Ltd.
The receiver/manager obtained an ex-parte order in a suit numbered FHC/AB/CS/69/16. The order granted him the power to dispose or take possession of several properties in the estate, pending the conclusion of the debt recovery proceedings against Knight Rook Ltd and Grant Properties Ltd.
The residents alleged that under the guise of performing his functions, the receiver/manager has continued to make life unbearable for them.
AMCON and Olaoluwa, they said, are not only taking over unoccupied and undeveloped properties, but the ones in occupation, with residents being forced out with thugs and the police.
They plaintiffs said many of the plots targeted by AMCON were already sold to third parties before the take-over by the banks and the eventual transfer of the assets to AMCON. To them, these properties cannot form part of the assets of Knight Rook Ltd.
AMCON is laying claims to all the land in Victory Park Estate, whether already sold and developed. But the residents and homeowners said the agency has continued to harass innocent bonafide purchasers for value without notice of their interest, thereby bringing untold hardship, anguish and pain to them. They said they tried unsuccessfully to explain the situation to the receiver/manager, with several meetings held in a bid to establish ownership.
The Victory Park Homeowners and Residents Association met with both AMCON and the receiver/manager in a bid to amicably resolve the issue. Effort to settle out of court failed.
The residents accused Olaoluwa of employing “despicable methods” to dislodge people from their properties, even allegedly selling to third parties and preventing the legal owners from building and accessing their properties. Out of pure frustration from constant harassment, a family is said to have finalised plans to relocate to another country.
The residents/homeowners said some of them were forced to repurchase their properties and “regularise” their title at exorbitant prices or forfeit them. Some were asked to revalidate their title to plots of land they legally acquired from Knight Rook Ltd for a sum more than what they had bought the plots for.
Many of the residents have instituted actions seeking declarations, injunctions and orders preventing AMCON, Olaoluwa and his agents from trespassing on the plots of land pending the court’s decision.
One of the plaintiffs bought the property in 2014 and obtained the governor’s consent on February 15, 2015. The property is registered as No. 64 at Page 64 in Volume 2493 of the Lagos State Land Registry.
The filed suit numbered LD/9769LMW/2020 against AMCON, Olaoluwa and three others at the Lagos State High Court.
There is an order directing the parties to the suit to maintain status quo.
The order also restrained the receiver-manager and his agents from taking any other steps or actions on the properties until the court makes a final determination on the rightful owner of the property.
Another landowner filed suit numbered LD/8277LMW/19 against Olaoluwa and AMCON challenging their forceful ejection from their property, which they claim has been purportedly sold to third parties by AMCON and Mr. Olaoluwa.
According to the plaintiff, the property was sold despite the restraining order against AMCON and Olaoluwa.
AMCON has unsuccessfully challenged these orders of court, with the plaintiffs accusing the agency of disregarding the age-long principle of lis pendens that enjoins parties who have submitted their disputes to the court from attempting to render the eventual decision nugatory through self-help.
Last December, the Court of Appeal, while upholding the powers of the court to make the restraining orders and injunctions, held in AMCON vs Adedayo Mumini Shittu (CA/L/1266/2019): “The provision of Section 34(6) of the AMCON Act seeks to curtail the discretion of the court and also seeks to curtail the rights of citizens to seek redress or help from the court.
“This is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution and is therefore declared null and void to the extent of its inconsistency.”
The residents/homeowners said despite the pending suits and the court orders, AMCON and its receiver/manager have consistently acted as if the orders were not worth the price of the paper they are written on.
AMCON and it receiver/manager appealed the court orders for status quo. But the homeowners said the agency has continued to disregard the sanctity of court by selling the legally-owned properties to third parties while the court is yet to determine the rights and obligations of the parties.
They urge President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, AMCON Chairman Edward Lametek Adamu and its Managing Director, Lawan Kuru, to intervene as the agency is not above the law. They condemned the alleged impunity being displayed by the receiver-manager and plead with the President and the governor to call AMCON to order over the harassment and persecution of the legitimate residents and owners of the Victory Park Estate.
They homeowners also urged the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to direct his men not to allow themselves be used by AMCON and its receiver-manager to disturb the peace of the residents and property owners. According to the residents, the issues could degenerate to social unrest if AMCON and its agents are not called to order, as the agency, they insisted, is not above the rule of law and cannot willfully disrespect the powers of the court by taking over the properties of Nigerians without legal backing.