The Lagos State Government recently arraigned a suspected land grabber, Chief Kamorudeen Lamina, before a Special Offences Court sitting in Oshodi over alleged unlawful dispossession of residents of their legitimate rights to land ownership.
Famously referred to as ‘Sir K’, Lamina was charged to court along with six others on a six-count charge by the Special Anti-Land Grabbing Task Force set up by the Akinwunmi Ambode’s led administration. According to reports, Lamina and his band were said to have constituted themselves as a threat to residents of the State, particularly those who reside in the Ikorodu axis of the State.
Those who were arraigned together with him (Lamina) are, Alhaji Wasiu Orenuga, Biliaminu Orega (aka Bili-aminu Salau), Mr. Omotola Ogunsanmi, Mr. Samson Shobule (aka Samson Salau), Alhaji Jimoh Aromasodu and Alhaji Nurudeen Kasali.
While legal procedure continues on the case, it is presumed that the accused and his group are innocent until proven otherwise. It nevertheless needs to be stressed that through the arraignment of Lamina and his gang, the Lagos State Government has sent a strong signal to others who indulge in similar misdemeanor of its intention to tame the monster of land grabbing in the State.
Incidence of land grabbing has almost attained a monstrous image in Lagos. Consequently, buying a piece of land in Lagos and putting up a structure on same is usually a tall order, no thanks to the belligerent activities of land grabbers and land speculators popularly known as “Omo-Onile” who make life unbearable for intending house owners through their voracious frivolous demands. There have been many instances where unsuspecting buyers paid for land only to be told to come and pay again to reclaim their land, or settle some aggrieved family members who were not factored into the sharing formula of the previous payment.
They also ensure that buyers are not free from their strangulating grip as they exact 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.
Property owners are often mercilessly beaten up, wounded and forced to stop work until payment is made. Through this trend, land grabbers have successfully stalled the development of many projects.
The activities of land grabbers are not only illegal, but anathema to society, development, peace and progress. They speculate on land with little or no recourse to land use laws, as they engage in the illegal sale of government land to unsuspecting individuals. They sometimes even dispossess people of land that are legitimately bought from the government.
They also sell lands with no proper planning or cognizance of a mapped out environmental outlay, this is especially so, with new satellite settlements in the suburb of the state. Some houses within such locations don’t have a pathway for movement as other houses have been erected on their path; more appalling, some are built under high tension wires.
It is in order to decisively tackle the recurring nuisance of land grabbers in the state that Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, signed the Properties Protection Bill, which seeks to curb the excesses of land grabbers in Lagos State, into law in 2016.
According to Section 2(1) of the law, 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.
Furthermore, subsection 2(two) of same law stipulates that persons who have used force to take over the properties of others and still do so after 3 months from the date of commencement of the law commit an offence. Anyone who commits such offence is liable to ten (10) years imprisonment.
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 of section 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.
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 collecting 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 Lamina and his gang.
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 subjected to the laws of the land.
No doubt, 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.
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.
Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos