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Chief Yesufu with 2 of his sons

 

Prince Taiwo Abila OniruChief Ogunlana Obanikoro and Mrs Brodie Mends with Baba

You are here: HomeHistoryChief Yesufu Abiodun Oniru

 

MAROKO

In the years between 1953 and 1957 when the Nigerian government wanted to acquire more land in Victoria Island, it went into negotiation with the Oniru Family headed by Chief Yesufu Abiodun Oniru.

The biggest social problem was what to do with the large population living in shanty settlements on the Island. Most of them were Ilaje people from Ondo waterside, Edos, Calabars, Igbos and people from other West African countries. Most of the people survived on low income.

The Lagos Executive Development Board (LEDB) which was the town planning authority in Lagos at the time worked out an agreement between the The Oniru Family and the government and another agreement between the Oniru Family and the tenants where all the shanty dwellers were moved to Maroko, an area located on the outskirts of Victoria Island. They were moved there as tenants of the family.

The initial agreement was for a period of 3 years afterwhich the tenants entered into agreement with The Oniru Family to remain on the land for a further 25 years. The agreement expired in 1988. The tenants were meant to pay monthly rents ranging from £3 to £5. Most of the tenants failed to fulfil their obligations. A large percentage didn’t pay rent for several years and many of these people became landlords on the same land.

Maroko became widely known as a slum and a shame to the urban environment of Lagos where modern development was going on at a rapid rate.

Inevitably, Maroko had to be demolished in order for the family to develop their land. This was the responsibility of The State Government through which the people had settled in the first instance. Besides the fact that majority hadn’t paid rent in years, a huge number of the people were squatters with no claim to make on the government or The Oniru Family.

The Oniru Family had concluded their plans for the development of their land whenever the tenancy agreement expired.

 

 In 1978, the family submitted their master plan to the Lagos State Government for approval before they could proceed with the development of the land.

However, the military government had a different agenda; to acquire the land compulsorily and to adopt the family’s plan with some amendments.

Chief Yesufu Abiodun found this Injustice from a post-independent  government in Nigeria to be distasteful. He immediately took the case to court with Chief Obafemi Awolowo as his lawyer. While the case was in court, the military government sent a delegation to the United States to solicit for investments towards the development of the land. The Oniru Family got wind of the government’s plan and dispatched its own delegation on the trail of the government. The delegation led by a lawyer included Oba Idowu Abiodun Oniru (then Prince I A Oniru).

In the United States, they met with establishments with which the government’s delegation had had discussions and debunked government’s claims on the land.

They showed the Americans evidence that the land was under litigation and that it would be unwise to invest in the venture. At the end of the court case, the court gave judgment in favour of The Oniru Chieftaincy Family. That was his last legal battle.