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Chief Yesufu with 2 of his sons

 

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

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Chief Yesufu Abiodun OniruChief Yesufu Abiodun was born during the reign of Oba Dosunmu of Lagos (1853-1885) at a time his own great grandfather; Chief Akiogun was the head of the Oniru settlement and the tenth Oniru of Lagos. His lineage from Chief Akiogun is as follows:

 Akiogun married Fabi Aromire who hailed from another prominent land-owning family of Lagos Island, the Aromire family.

 Akiogun begat Sagbanla by Fabi Aromire

 Sagbanla begat Opeseyi

 Opeseyi begat Yesufu Abiodun through Madam Isiyemi who was a descendant of the Akinsemoyin Royal Family of Lagos

 Thus Yesufu shared a kinship with Aromire Chieftaincy family and the Akinsemoyin royal house both of Lagos Island. Indeed there is credible evidence that the descendants of the original settlers of Lagos Island maintained a strong kindred relationship. Besides the fact that their fathers descended from a common progenitor, Olofin, who was from Ile-Ife, they also inter married thus further promoting the ties. These strong kindred ties are acknowledged in the oriki.

 Chief Yesufu Abiodun Oniru was 120 years old when he died in 1984. He was indeed a fighter and a very unique person. 

He was highly enlightened and fought for what he believed in.

Long before he became the Oniru and Head of the Oniru Chieftaincy family, Chief Yesufu Abiodun knew that the government’s acquisition of private lands would continue in view of the rapid growth of Lagos as an administrative and commercial centre. He was therefore prepared to confront the authorities for due compensation on the previously acquired lands.

Over the years, Yesufu Abiodun Oniru and the family employed some of the best lawyers in the country to fight their case. Among them were Egerton Shyngle, Jubril Martins, Peter Thomas, O.O Oluwole, Bode Thomas, H.O. Davies, Rotimi Williams, Obafemi Awolowo, Abayomi Shogbesan and G.O.K. Ajayi. With these giant legal luminaries, the Oniru family had their case well pleaded at the courts. The battle was fought from the lowest magistrate courts to the highest in the land, then known as the West African Court of Appeal (WACA), from there to the Privy Council which was the pinnacle of justice in the British Empire.

Chief Yesufu Abiodun went to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom to appeal a ruling made by the WACA.

WACA had ruled that the government pay the Oniru £52,000 (Fifty Two Thousand Pounds), a figure that the Oniru thought to be too low considering he had spent a lot more than this amount on the court case.

Unfortunately, the figure he thought was low was reduced to £32,000 by the Privy Council. However, the Nigerian government was ordered to allocate 100acres of the developed land to the Oniru Family. The Nigerian government failed to comply and retained all the Sand-filled area of Victoria Island.

Although he was disappointed, Chief Yesufu Abiodun had established through the long drawn case that the Oniru Family owned Victoria Island and the government would have to negotiate with the family before acquiring any part of the land.

 


 

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.

 


 

ONIRU LAND DEVELOPMENT SCHEME VICTORIA ISLAND 

The land originally owned by the Oniru Family was well over 6,000 hectares but unfortunately the bulk of the land was acquired at various times by successive governments since 1890. By all standards, all these amounted to substantial loss to the Oniru Family.

Undaunted, the family decided to make the best use of what remains, which is just 12% of the original holdings.

The first stage of the development was the sand filling of the water locked land, which is close to the sea. The second stage was the surveying while the third stage was the construction of infrastructure roads drainage, water pipelines, electricity and telephone.

The first stage started in March 1993 when Westminster Dredging Nigeria Limited mobilized on site and began actual sand pumping in May 1993. The total volume of sand required to fill the entire area was 4.58 million metric cubic. Sand was dredged from the lagoon adjacent to Banana Island and from there; pipe was laid across the Lekki Highway to the site.