Church gets quit notice for allegedly violating Lagos land law, converting residential house to worship centre

The property in dispute.


A Lagos-based lawyer, Chief Michael Agbamuche, who is also the son of late Michael Ashikodi Agbamuche (SAN), a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, has accused Our Saviour Anglican Church, Surulere,, Lagos of violating the land grabbing laws of Lagos state by occupying his bequeathed property illegally without offering any consideration for it. 

  The lawyer, who has already served eviction notice to the officiating priest, Rev Abiodun Oderinde in line with the Lagos State Public Notice of January 29, 2024 regarding illegal conversion of residential areas to business and worship centres, warned that their continuous stay on 77 Adebola Street, Surulere would be at their own risk.  

  In the letter dated February 1, 2024, he requested the Church to provide the names and address of their solicitors to whom court processes would be served. But this was ignored. 

  Prior to this, the lawyer, in a letter dated September 22, 2023 to the Primate and Metropolitan of the Church in Abuja, Bishop Henry Ndukuba, explained that the church is illegally occupying his late mother’s property without any consideration and documentation, and that the Lagos Diocese has failed every form of conciliation move to legalise its stay on the property. 

  He said: “I am forced to bring this matter to your attention having exhausted all efforts using conciliation to persuade my lord, the Bishop of Lagos Mainland to intervene and resolve the issues without rancour or litigation. 

 “Regrettably, I not only failed to persuade him, but he proceeded to block my line and made himself incommunicado which meant that I had no choice than to reach out to you as his supreme head rather than turning to the police or litigation. 

  “I refer to the police because there is a taint of near criminality and evidence of misfeasance, culpable negligence and incompetence on the part of the lawyers retained by the diocese at all material times underlying the circumstances surrounding this property owned by my late mother in her lifetime. 

  “My late mother after 30 years of service for the Lagos state government from the 1950’s when she returned from her studies abroad, joined the Lagos medical services in the 60’s and was opportuned to take advantage of the relative ease of acquiring property in Nigeria, especially in Lagos those happy days. 

  “She, therefore, secured the mortgage that enabled her to acquire the property known as 77 Adebola Street, Surulere, using only her income as a civil servant and after years of such service she fully paid off the mortgage and decided to retire and return to her hometown in Akwa Ibom state.”

  According to Agbamuche, she decided to put the property up for sale, found an estate surveyor to market the property and set a reasonable price consistent with the value at prevailing market rate at that time.

  This registered surveyor, he said, was able to get several interested buyers including the Church. 

  “Whilst I was not party to the discussions between herself and the church officials, I was duly briefed by my late mother and she handed over to me her only copy of the deed of mortgage before she left Lagos to Eket, Akwa Ibom. 

 “It was at that period I got a hint of misfeasance in the entire way she was handled by both the church and the so-called surveyor as it turned out that she was never actually paid by the church directly,” he explained. 

  He stated that the church did not pay the owner of the property till date, an indication that the transaction was invalid. 

  Agbamuche said despite drawing the attention of the Bishop of Lagos Mainland, Akinpelu Johnson to these facts, he has refused to do anything about it and rather than cause inquiry to be made as to why the church will acquire property and not pay, he has rebuffed him. 

  He maintained that no conveyance or deed of assignment was prepared and executed nor was any such document sent to the land registry for perfection to legalise the transfer of title, while the church has been there for 10 years now. 

  The lawyer noted that since his mother has passed on, it is no longer possible to execute any such document. 

  He added that those facts were made known to Bishop Johnson in various chats and exchange of messages and in meetings with the church officials in the year 2022, but they showed no desire to take any positive steps. 

  His words: “Rather, they obviously thought if they sat quietly and ignored me, the effluxion of time would enable them to claim what they cannot get by legal means (change of title). 

  “My lord, the Bishop, once told me that he needed time to consult the church lawyers and asked for time to respond to me. I, therefore, believed that with all these legal facts being obvious and trite law, he would have been duly advised as none of these facts are mysterious even to non-lawyers.

  “Regrettably, rather than seeing a change in the church’s disposition, my lord Bishop blocked my line and I was no longer able to maintain contact with me. Indeed, I made a physical visit to his office but was denied the chance to see and speak with him to discuss the matter exhaustively for reasons I do not find convincing up till now. 

  “Even though I booked an appointment before presenting myself at his office, his secretary denied me access. Interestingly, I am the sole beneficiary of my late mother’s estate and I have children who have considerable emotional attachment to their grandmother and in turn she had the same attachment to her grandchildren. 

  “My late mother used to live in that house and it was in that house that her grandchildren used to visit her and so you can understand that the matter cannot be left unresolved. I once lived there whilst I was at the Nigerian law school in 1980. So, the question of the house just being abandoned does not arise.”

  He noted that fundamental alterations and restructuring have been made on the building by the church, soon after his mother left Lagos without his or her consent. 

  Insisting that there is no record of sale from his late mother to the church, he reiterated that there was no consideration for the property. 

  He stated that he had challenged the church to produce any record or receipt from his mother evidencing payment, but up till date, no response to that request. 

  “I also pointed out that there was no deed of assignment or conveyance prepared or executed and up till now, no such document has been produced by the church, rather the Bishop decided not to communicate with me anymore.

 “The Diocese must compensate me at its current market value/price before trying to acquire it as a church premises,” he said, adding that it is inadvisable to remain in the property without title as it may be caught up by statute of limitations that govern such transactions. 

  He prayed the church to fully compensate him so it can regularise its presence in the property with his cooperation or face eviction. 

  Responding to the letter, the church’s general secretary simply said: “Please report this at the Bishop’s office in Lagos.” 

  Also, the registrar of the Lagos Mainland Diocese sent a WhatsApp message to the lawyer saying: “I have read all your correspondences and they are all appreciated. You see, as long as you continue to erroneously hold the position you are holding, it is a challenge to engage with you. That property was purchased by God and I will subtly refer you to Numbers 23 verse 19. 

  “We are an orthodox church that is well rooted in doctrines and faith in our God. Don’t wish that away. On the other hand, our Bishop is not a roadside mechanic. He is, and rightly too, a very humble servant of the Most High and deserves every respect. God bless you sir.”

  When contacted, Bishop Johnson said only the Church’s legal officer can react to the allegation, but refused to supply either the name or contact of the legal officer. 

  He curiously asked this reporter to get his legal officers contact from the complainant.

WORDS ON MARBLE: “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier than he/she came. Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile”.


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