Alleged Sale of Ancestral Lands: Ilorin Senior Citizens Drag KWSG to Court
The controversy over the alleged sale of some ancestral lands in Ilorin has taken another twist as some senior citizens have filed a suit in Ilorin High Court praying it to restrain the Kwara State Government from transferring public ownership of same to private business.
The suit centres specifically on the alleged sale or intention to sell what the claimants call the communal-owned Old Yidi Praying Ground, otherwise known as the Ilorin Amusement Park. The disputed land is also home to the statue of the Unknown Soldier.
The litigants are Dr Ajibola Saliu Ajia, Dr. Saad Omoiya and Alhaji Saleh Duro Garba, all of them elder statesmen with deep family roots in Ilorin.
They claim that the land was dedicated to communal use as Ilorin Muslim community praying ground in 1904 until 1977 during the regime of Brigadier George Innih as the Military Governor of Kwara State when due to increased population the Ilorin Eld (Yidi) praying ground was moved to the present Eld (Yidi) praying ground situated at the Adinimonle (now Irewolede) Area of Ilorin.
They said the old Eid (Yidi) was then converted to a public-owned Amusement Park, a project that was/is meant to serve the interests of the members of the public.
According to them, "the land was never at any time acquired by any government but was part of the Ilorin community's decisions and contributions to the Islamic religious rites, practices and festivals of the community and later for the beautification of the Ilorin town and to serve as tourism, recreational, relaxation and event centre for the people of Ilorin in particular and the citizens of the state in general."
Apart from the Kwara State Government and some of its agents, joined in the suit as defendants are the alleged buyer of the land, Artee Industry Limited – owners of 'Park and Shop' – and the wife of former a former governor whom the plaintiff accused of using her position as then First Lady to facilitate the sale of the land to Artee. They claimed in the writ of summon filed before the court that 80 per cent of the proceeds from the sale had gone to her.
Among other reliefs, the plaintiffs are seeking a "declaration that the sale, transfer, assignment, alienation and or disposal and or any form of change and or conversion of the public ownership status and or structure of the Ilorin old Yidi praying ground and now the Ilorin Amusement Park from public ownership to private ownership by the 1st-5th defendants to the 6th (Artee) and 7th (Mrs Saraki) defendants through the instrumentality of the 6th defendant is wrongful, illegal and unconstitutional and in breach of the Fundamental Rights of the claimants entrenched in the Constitutions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Land Use Act, 1978."
The writ, issued on behalf of the plaintiffs by attorneys from Salman Jawondo Esq.& Saka Ayodeji Rasak Esq, of Jawondo & Co, added: "The claimants aver that since the dedication of the land as Yidi praying ground and its subsequent conversion to Amusement Park, the land had/has remained a property meant for the benefit of members of the public and had served that purpose with the management and control of the park residing in the appropriate level of government."
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