Over the years, the menace of Omo-Oniles land grabbing posed serious threat on the fast growing real estate market in Lagos, with investors, financiers and developers in most cases being sceptical over the genuineness of lands shown to them by land owners due to the activities of land grabbers, popularly known as “omo-oniles”.
These Omo-Oniles claim and collect outrageous and unnecessary fees for inexplicable reasons and those that challenge them end up being harassed by thugs and miscreants who believe they are the land owners in the community. There are other instances where unsuspecting buyers pay for land only to be asked to pay again to reclaim their land, or settle some aggrieved family members who were not factored into the sharing formula of the previous payment made by unsuspecting realtors.
They also ensure that buyers are not free from their strangulating grip as they exert different fines on them, at every stage of the development of their properties. Prominent among such fines are foundation bill, lintel bill, decking bill, roof bill, fencing bill and a whole lot more. The value of such bills could sometimes be equivalent of the total value of the land or a little less depending on their scale of relevance and location of the property.
Most times property owners are often mercilessly beaten up, wounded and forced to stop work until payment is made and in some cases, their land is completely sold. Through this trend, land grabbers successfully stall the development of many projects.
The absence of an adequate legislation to curb the excesses of these omo-oniles, has enabled them to perpetuate their criminal activities, which have hindered prospective local and foreign investors, hence, the need for a legislative framework to arrest the ugly trend.
The Lagos State House of Assembly took the centrestage by the passage of theLagos State Properties Protection Bill, 2016and forwarded same to the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, for assent.
In the furtherance of tackling the recurring nuisance of land grabbers in Lagos State, on the 15th of August 2016, the Governor signed into law the Lagos State Properties Protection Law, 2016.
The Law clearly prohibits forceful entry and illegal occupation of landed properties, violent and fraudulent conducts in relation to landed properties in Lagos State and for connected purposes. The Law criminalized a number of unwholesome practices in land-related transactions carried out by Omo-oniles.
Accordingly, Section 2(1) of the lawprovides that no one shall use force or self-help to take over any landed property or engage in any act inconsistent with the proprietary right of the owner in the State.
This also applies to lawful land owners who want to eject those who trespass on their land. The fact that the person on the land is a trespasser devoid of any proprietary interest does not justify a land owner’s recourse to force or self-help and, as such, would not avail such a landowner as a defence.
Furthermore, Subsection 2(2) of same law stipulates that persons who have used force to take over the properties of others and continue this unlawful act for a period of 3 months from the date of commencement of the law would be guilty of an offence. Anyone who is convicted of such offence is liable to imprisonment for a period of 10 years.
Also, anyone without lawful authority who applies threats or violence to secure entry into any landed property for personal use commits an offence.
Additionally, by virtue ofSection 3(4), anyone who uses fire arms or offensive weapons or is in any way armed or wounds anyone while committing the act of forced entry is liable to 4(four) years imprisonment.
The Law also criminalizes encroachment (that is, the illegal occupation of landed property), encroachment with weapon(s), the use of Agent(s) for the forceful take-over of landed property, the illegal use of Law Enforcement Agents/Vigilante Groups to enforce judgment, sale of landed property without authority as well as illegal demand for fees which is often the forte of the Omo-Oniles.
Upon the signing of the law, for those willing to test the resolve of the State Government to implement the law, the State Government vowed to fully enforce the anti-land grabbing law against anyone found wanting, no matter how highly placed in the society. It said it would not allow anyone forcefully collect money for foundation, roofing and fencing, among others. No doubt, there is no better way to reinforce the determination of the Lagos State Government to deal with land grabbing in the State order than the arraignment of Kamourudeen Lamina and his gang.
I strongly believe that the Anti-Grabbing law is an appropriate legislative solution to the hydra headed social problem ofomo-oniles which had stifled commercial activities before the commencement of the new law.
THE BENEFICIAL IMPACT OF THE LAW ON IBEJU-LEKKI LANDS
It goes without saying that the nuisance of land grabbers in Lagos, where land is akin to gold, needs to be ruthlessly tackled. Land grabbers cannot constitute themselves into threat to law and order because they are subject to the laws of the land.There is no doubt that the state has recorded enormous loss to the unlawful activities of these hoodlums. It is, therefore, uplifting that the State Government is now making real its intent to put a stop to the menace of land grabbers in the State. A society that thrives on lawlessness cannot attract meaningful development and growth. Hence, this Law brings, in its wake, a bundle of impactful benefits, prominent amongst which being that investors can now confidently invest in the real estate potentials in the Ibeju-Lekki area without fear of being shortchanged or defrauded. This restoration of confidence will definitely have positive effects amongst which are economic returns for investors.
In order to ensure its enforcement, the Law creates a Task Force Unit vested with the power to arrest defaulters. The Lagos State Government has since constituted the special task force headed by the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice as the Chairman while the Alternate Chairman is, Mr.Akinjide Bakar, a director at the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, the contact details of the Special task force have been published to the public to enable members have ease of access to the committee.
ROLE OF THE PUBLIC
The partnership of the citizens and the special Task force on land grabbing is required to ensure the continuous success of the law. The citizenry, especially masses who daily struggle to make ends meet would, without a doubt, benefit from this renewed attempt to sanitize the land sector in Lagos State.
Meanwhile, the citizenry are advised to brace up in order to fully support the State Government in this renewed bid to rid the state of the nuisance of land grabbers. In this respect, whistle blowers with useful information are assured of their protection and safety. For the hideous act of land grabbing to be effectively checkmated in Lagos, all hands must be on deck.
It is now beyond doubt that an investor-friendly business environment enhances economic growth and development. The government’s dedication to ensuring hitch free property transactions and, by extension, fostering an increasingly investor-friendly business climate shines through with the enactment of this instructive piece of legislation.It is hoped that, as the years progress, there will be clear instances of trials and convictions of any person found violating the sacrosanct provisions of this law.
I hold the view that this laudable legislative tool is surely a catalyst for economic growth and returns for real estate investors in the State.