Thursday, 5 December 2013
Ogun State Power Play: Gov. Amosun Orders Demolition of Church Belonging to Predecessor, Gbenga Daniel
Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State has cancelled Certificate of Occupancy Number 0033337, which belongs to the Abrahams Tabernacle Church in Sagamu set up by his predecessor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, in honour of his father.
According to a press statement by Adegbenro Adebanjo, the Media Assistant to Mr. Daniel, a contingent of government officials and armed policemen, ostensibly acting on the orders of the Governor, last Friday invaded the church premises and demolished the gatehouse, and destroyed the security post and parts of the church’s fence.
He said that efforts by the resident Pastor, Reverend Dele Kolade to stop the demolition were ignored and that the squad carried out its assignment without showing any legal document or prior service of notice of abatement.
An official of the government only around noon today then brought the letter of cancellation, dated January 20 and personally signed by the governor, to the gatehouse of the church.
“In the exercise of my powers under section 1&26 of the Land Use Act, I hereby cancel the purported certificate of Occupancy N0 0033337 dated 14th may 2011 and registered as No 60 at page 60 in Volume 761 of the lands registry in the office at Abeokuta,” Mr. Adebanjo quoted the letter as saying. “This letter serves as notice to you of the said cancellation.”
But addressing a press conference in Abeokuta also today, Ronke Sokefun, the Special Adviser on Lands to the Governor, sought to dispel what she called “tissues of lies, distorted facts, and fiction by the Regeneration Church of God aka Abraham's Tabernacle, whose Trustees are members of the immediate family of the former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel.”
She said that the two issues in question were the restoration of right of way on public roads that the church closed up as part of larger parcel of lands illegally appropriated in Oba Erinwole Avenue, Sagamu GRA; and the petitions from the owners of plots trespassed on and illegally fenced in with the church.
“As a responsive and responsible government, after all notices served and entreaties made were ignored, the government was left with no option than to remove the three gates that had been illegally erected by the church to restore right of ways on these three public roads,” she said. “This was done on Friday, 10th February, 2012.”
Noting that the Trustees of the church have instituted a suit against the government “over the ownership of the parcel of land the church has appropriated,” she said that as a government committed to the rule of law, hers would not join the Trustees in commenting on a matter that is already before a court.
Mrs. Sokefun recalled, however, that on September 16, 2011, Governor Amosun inaugurated a five-member Judicial Commission of Inquiry on Lands, with Hon Justice Abiodun Akinyemi as chairman.
Among the highlights of the findings and recommendations of the judicial panel, she said, are the following:
• The Commission found as an incontrovertible fact that the church known as Abraham's Tabernacle situate at Church Estate, Oba Erinwole road, GRA, Sagamu, was built by the erstwhile Governor of Ogun State Otunba Gbenga Daniel in honour of his father, His Grace, the Most Rev Abraham Adebola Daniel;
• Incorporation documents of the Church confirm without doubt that three of the named registered trustees of the church, to whom the ex-governor issued the Certificate of Occupancy, were his close family members namely: Olabunmi Opawole (Wife, using her middle and maiden names), Adebola Irede Daniel (son) and Most Rev Abraham Adebola Daniel (father).
• The Commission found as an incontrovertible fact that the said church Abraham's Tabernacle was built on a parcel of land comprised in the certificate of Occupancy No 0033337 dated the 14th day of May, 2011 registered as No 60/60/761 at the Land Registry, Abeokuta and signed personally by the erstwhile governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel.
Mrs. Sokefun further stated that of the seven plots of land fenced in by the church, five of them belonged to owners with subsisting valid Certificates of Occupancy. “In addition, even the statutory setback of the road in front of the church on the major Oba Erinwole II road has also been fenced in,” she said.
“The Commission having found that the Certificate of Occupancy No. 60/60/761 granted by the ex-governor OTUNBA GBENGA DANIEL to the Regeneration Church of God was tainted by several serious irregularities, and that the same was issued upon land in which there existed prior valid and subsisting titles, recommends that the said allocation should be cancelled,” she continued.
With reference to building approval, the Special Adviser noted that the church and the private estate that has been built with five structures have no building approval, and that the State's Urban and Regional Planning Board served Notice of Contravention and Stop Work order as far back as 2nd June, 2010.
She further stated as follows: “The Contravention Notice and Stop Work Order Notice were ignored by the church. A Demolition Notice was thereafter served on 29 July 2010. Again in September 2010, another letter was forwarded demanding for necessary documentation and payment of penalty fee of N3.9M to regularize the building approval. Rather than respond, the letter forwarded to the contractors building the church was returned via the Governor's Office with a directive by the then Governor that the penalty fee should be waived. Despite this, the church did not proceed with the building approval process and consequently has none.”