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Opebi land dispute: Engr. Abiodun drags Barr. Ubani to court for defamation, seeks N50m damages

“For the avoidance of doubt, you have painted our client black through the vicious, envious, slanderous and libellous description of our client before his friends, clients, business partners, legal and political associates both in Nigeria and abroad by using your personal Facebook page, several media platforms, and several news blogs by making statements describing our client as a fraudulent, deceitful and a land grabber without any court order”.

Following a prolonged dispute and consequent litigations over the rightful ownership of a portion of land situated at No 1, Folorunsho Kuku street, a suburb in Opebi Lagos State, Engr. Abiodun Ariori has faulted claims made by an ex Nigeria Bar Association Vice President, Monday Ubani, who alleged that the former was a Land-Grabber and violator of the law in connection to the disputed property.
Recall, in a sequel to a publication by StarMedia Renaissance, that Barrister Ubani had issued a statement dated December 31st, accusing Engr. Abiodun Ariori of sponsoring hoodlums and land grabbers to invade the land to deprive his client of the right to its possession. Ubani further alleged that Ariori was making use of the Lagos State Agencies to attempt to illegally take possession of the property without due course to a standing court injunction.

Reacting to Ubani’s claim, during a briefing with journalists on Sunday, 3rd of January, 2021, Engr. Abiodun faulted all allegations by the lawyer.

Abiodun, a Lagos Socialite and real estate mogul described the allegations by Ubani as baseless and defamatory wondering, why a lawyer of his (Ubani) calibre could resort to cheap propaganda in pursuant of public sympathy.

He said, “We have owned the land more than 20 years ago, but about six months ago while trying to erect some structures on our land, we found out that some mechanics had taken over the place. We reported them to zone 2 (Police Quarters) in which some of them were arrested”.

“That was when we met Lawyer Ubani for the first time. He was the one who came to Zone 2 to release (bail) them. It was later I found out that he (Ubani) was the one who placed those mechanics on our land ignoring the Supreme Court judgement. Since we have been trying to work on that land, he has been using police to frustrate our efforts, so our lawyer wrote a petition to the Attorney General to assist us on the issue which got a positive response”. Taking this up, the State Government did their findings on the place to determine who the people that occupied the land were. They found out that there were some shanty buildings on the land. So many that an ordinary person cannot handle, it might turn to something else“. He explained.

“At the end of the day, it happened on the 31st of December, 2020. The State Government assisted by helping us to eject all those mechanics and hooligans who apart from occupying the land, also named the place “Monkey Village. I was surprised when lawyer Ubani started attacking me, tagging me a land grabber, and manipulating the media space to tarnish my image”. He lamented.

“Even if I don’t know what to do, is he saying the government also does not know what to do? Is he the only one who can make noise? Does this unprofessional action of his justify that we are not the real owner of the place? He asked.

Engr. Abiodun, however, informed journalists that he possesses all necessary legal documents to back his claim to the portion of land.

Also reacting, Francis Monye, a legal practitioner and solicitor to Engr. Abiodun, while corroborating above claim, fervidly condemned the reprehensible and unlawful continued defamation of character of his client, noting that the legal repossession of the land was carried out by his client’s company Prosperous Ariori Golden Ventures Ltd of which he is also the solicitor.

He noted that despite veritable evidence of documents and the ruling of law in favour of his client backed by the support of the Meadows Family, who bought and rightfully owns the land, Ubani’s actions over the past months has posed great impediments to his client’s carrying out developmental work on their own land.

Monye alleges that the lawyer Ubani has purposedly continued to tarnish the image and reputation of Engineer Abiodun Ariori, labelling him a land grabber who uses the mercenary of the government to unleash terror on the inhabitants. This development he averred did not go well with Ariori as it has not only impacted negatively on his reputation and business but has also strained the healthy working relationship he has with his numerous clients.

In a letter, titled “A Case of Defamation of Character on the Person and Reputation of Engineer Abiodun Ariori”, the legal practitioner, Francis wrote,

“For the avoidance of doubt, you have painted our client black through the vicious, envious, slanderous and libellous description of our client before his friends, clients, business partners, legal and political associates both in Nigeria and abroad by using your personal Facebook page, several media platforms, and several news blogs by making statements describing our client as a fraudulent, deceitful and a land grabber without any court order”.

“You even went further to say that our client is working with one Hon Fayinka in the Ministry of Transport of Lagos State was working with the land grabbers to take over the land illegitimately. ’’I say this because I put a call across to the said Hon Fayinka and he boasted to me that they are coming to take over the land very soon as they are acting on instructions from higher quarters”.

“May we at this juncture state it categorically clear that the misrepresentation of the person and image of our client amounts to defamation of our client’s reputation as the content of the libellous and offensive postings on the internet portrays our client as a fraudster, dishonest person, unreliable, and untrustworthy and a criminal engaging in land grabbing activities even when no court of law has adjudged him so. These devilish acts by you have reduced the estimation of our client before any right-thinking person in the society”.

“Take notice therefore that we have our client’s mandate to demand and we hereby demand N50,000. 000.00 (Fifty Million Naira) as damages for the defamation of our client”.

He, therefore, cautioned Barrister Ubani whose legal exploit on this matter he believes was not only baseless but also urging him to seek redress in the law court and desist from the derogatory attack of his client.

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