It was a moment of grief, shock and disbelief for most of the occupants residing at Immanuel Street, Maryland, Lagos as an excavator, accompanied by stern looking armed soldiers and men of the of the Lagos State Building Control Agency, LASBCA, arrived in the wee hours of Thursday to demolish buildings in the Estate.
The vast Estate which belongs to the late Immanuel Odumosu popularly called “Jesu Oyingbo”, the self-acclaimed Jesus, has been in the eye of the storm for about three decades since his demise, because his numerous children have been at loggerheads with one another; thereby, resulting in series of litigations.
Besides, it was also gathered that the Estate had become a hot-bed and hideout for criminals who allegedly reside there in large numbers.
The affected residents and shop owners, who were visibly in a state of distress were seen carrying out their belongings hurriedly in large number as the excavator was bringing down the houses and shops one after the other.
However, some were not that lucky as their properties were demolished with the building. Few of them who tried to move out their belongings, were chased away by Security Operatives and men of LASBCA, who were also on ground to supervise the demolition exercise.
The neighbourhood of the Estate was filled with all forms of belongings with their owners standing by them and lamenting tearfully that they didn’t know where to go or what next to do.
Some of the affected residents who spoke to our Correspondents lamented that the exercise took them unaware as they were not given any notice, lamenting that they should have given them enough time to pack their belongings.
It was reliably gathered that an order of vacation from Ikeja High Court had been issued to all the occupants to pack out as far as back as 2014, but many of them refused. This is not unconnected to the speculation that a sizeable number of them had been living there without paying a dime since the Court had given the vacation order.
However, some said that they were aware of the vacation notice since 2014, but their individual landlords were assuring them that there was no cause for the alarm, telling them that the matter would be settled. They said that their landlords still gave them the same assurance when the houses were marked for demolition early this month. They said that they would since have packed out, if they had known that the demolition exercise would be so soon. In fact it was gathered that some of the new tenants have just paid. A story was told of a hairdresser who paid two million Naira for a shop one month ago.
Speaking to our Correspondents, one of the affected residents who identified himself as Musa said: “I am aware of the quit notice since 2014; but I thought that they were just empty threats that would result to nothing. Even when we kept seeing the written notice we thought they were lying, but as we can all see, it has now dawn on us that they are not lying, they meant business.
Narrating his ordeal, another affected resident known as Anne said: “It is very unfortunate because we never imagined that it would go as far as brutal as this because we thought that they would give us some time to pack our belongings and find another accommodation. Anne confirmed that he had seen the seven days official quit notice pasted on the gate of the Estate on several occasions, but never took it serious like other affected occupants.
He stated: “They have been giving us series of seven days quit notice, but the seven days deadline would come and go and nothing would happen, that is why we were no more taking the quit notice serious. I heard of the litigation, but I never knew what came out of it. I had been seeing the notice since last year. We received the last one early this month. So, on Thursday early morning, in the middle of the night precisely; some people just woke up suddenly. It was that noise that woke me up. Initially, we thought that it was the construction workers that are constructing drainage at a nearby street, it was later we got to know that the buildings were on the verge of being demolished.”
Funke Oloye, one of the affected residents said that when she saw the mark of demolition early this month, she complained to her landlord and he told her that she had nothing to worry about, assuring her that they were on top of the situation
She said: “I have been living in the Estate since August 28 last year, it was on May 2, this year that I saw that they had marked the houses for demolition. Some people said that they had seen series of quit notices pasted on the buildings and gates of the Estate, but I did not see anything. If I had seen, I wouldn’t have stayed long to experience this unfortunate plight.
“Even, after I rented my apartment, many people still came to rent apartments in the Estate. When I saw the mark, I asked my landlord (one of the children of the late cleric), he told me that there was no cause for the alarm that we should not panic,” she added.
Odumosu known as “Jesu Oyingbo” who came to limelight in the 50’s died at the age of 73 in January 1988. While he was alive, he amassed a vast Estate worth billions of naira but died without leaving a will. Apart from his massive landed property at Immanuel Street, Maryland, Lagos. He also had property at 570/622/624 Ikorodu Road, Mile 12, Lagos. His property are also located at Oyingbo and Ijebu-Ode, his home town. It is also believed that he left massive property and funds in the UK.
It was gathered that when Odumosu died, there was a protracted litigation between his children and his disciples over the control of the vast Estate and businesses. In 1997, the children won the case and the disciples who were resident in Odumosu’s Maryland spiritual abode in Lagos were evicted.
After the court victory, the first three of his sons who were appointed to supervise the Estate were accused of mismanagement; two of them died while the third one disappeared into the thin air as no one knows where he went to. As there was no Administrator, the dispute deepened further with different factions of beneficiaries laying claim to assets where necessary. While some enjoyed tremendous wealth, some lived in penury.
After more than 20 years, a court action was instituted in 2009 by a few of Odumosu’s children led by one of his daughters, Adeyinka Odumosu Immanuel, known as Princess at the Ikeja High Court.
On 18th June 2014, Justice Ronke Harrison of the Ikeja High Court ruled that all 167 children are entitled to share in the vast Estate as beneficiaries in equal proportion.
According to the ruling, “The court also granted a consequential order that the property comprising the Estate of Immanuel Olufunmilayo Odumosu (deceased) be taken over immediately by UBA Capital PLC and they should be assisted in all regards by the Nigeria Police Force to ensure adequate control and administration by UBA Capital PLC.
Though demolished, the last according to sources may not have been heard as trouble looms over ownership claims by the numerous children.