On Monday, construction workers and contractors working on a Federal Housing Estate project in Akure, Ondo State’s capital, fled the site as traditional worshipers stormed the estate to perform an ostensibly annual ritual.
To execute the ceremony, the worshippers dressed in white brought a black fowl, a white pigeon, and other fetish items.
Following the apprehension created by the worshippers, the Managing Director of the company handling the building, Otunba Ademola Akin-Benson, invited policemen and the worshippers were taken to the Ondo Police headquarters.
The worshippers were being funded by some land grabbers, according to Otunba Akin-Benson, who told the police.
According to him, the federal government legally purchased the land for the purpose of constructing the low-cost estate.
Thugs and ritualists had previously assaulted estate workers, prompting Akin-Benson to seek legal redress. The court ordered all parties, including the Deji of Akure, Oba Ogunlade Aladetoyinbo, to preserve the status quo and allow the project to proceed.
Mr. Femi Emodamori, his lawyer, characterized the worshippers’ presence as traditional hooliganism, claiming that the land was purchased by the State Government along with other adjoining lands over forty (40) years ago after payment of compensation to the original owners.
According to Emodamori, the land was later released to the federal government for use in state projects.
“Consequently, according to our clients, the land is covered by Federal Government Layout, and also has adjoining Federal Government structures like the State Police Command Headquarter where your office is located; The Ondo State Headquarters of the Nigerian Customs Service; The Ondo State Headquarters of Nigerian Immigration Service; The National Population Commission’s Office; and the Federal High Court building, amongst others.
“Our clients stated that construction works had started on the land almost immediately, but later suffered some delays occasioned by inadequate funding. The lease agreement between the Federal Government and our clients on the project was however recently renewed and/or extended, a sequel to which massive construction works on the land resumed.
“According to our clients, the Deji of Akure, Oba Aladetoyinbo Ogunlade Aladelusi, had in recent times been sponsoring thugs to disrupt and destroy the project, in connivance with some officers of the Akure Office of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, for reasons which the Kabiyesi did not initially disclose, until recently when the Kabiyesi started demanding, both directly and through his proxies, for six (6) acres of land at the project site, as well as some other monetary and material gifts for some traditional ceremonies.
“These demands are unjustifiable, illegal, obnoxious and purely extortionist. For the avoidance of doubt sir, our clients have Oba Aladetoyinbo Ogunlade on tape making some of these demands, and would never make any allegation against the Royal Father which is not backed with forensic and undeniable evidence.”
Chief Abisoye Asoga, the Adigun of Akureland, the worshippers’ leader, denied allegations of land grabbing, saying they were at the estate to conduct a ten-year ritual at a small rock within the estate.
Oba Aladetoyinbo, for one, said that the land belonged to Akure’s traditional worshippers.
The Akure ruler, speaking via his Chief Press Secretary, Michael Adeyeye, said the ritual at the estate site was in keeping with community custom.