How Feasible Is The Ban On Land Grabbing? | Independent Newspapers Limited
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How Feasible Is The Ban On Land Grabbing?

Residents of Ibeju Lekki protesting the use of Ajagungbales to take over their lands.jpg
Posted: Jul 19, 2016 at 1:25 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Nkasiobi Oluikpe


Few months ago, the Lagos State government said it would no longer tolerate the illegal activities of land grabbers, popularly known as Omo Oniles. It went ahead to warn that anyone disguising in such form to disturb public peace and illegally dispossessing people of their properties would be prosecuted in accordance with relevant criminal laws.

It will be recalled that the Attorney General of the state, Adeniji Kazeem, also remarked that the state security council strongly condemn the disturbing menace of land grabbing, advising members of the public who are victims of such to gather ‘enough evidence’ and forward same to the appropriate security agencies for prompt action.

To back it up, few weeks ago, the state government inaugurated a five-man Special Task Force to checkmate the criminal activities of these Omo Oniles. At the official inauguration, the government said it will henceforth enforce the state government’s rights over land in Lagos and also work with all security agencies to implement state government and private property rights in the state.

This, to every peace loving citizen, is a welcome development. It has been long in coming, as Lagosians have waited for a long time for a messiah who will rescue them from the deadly activities of Omo Oniles. It got to a point that the fear of Omo Onile became the beginning of wisdom for many land owners, building contractors and artisans alike. Before thinking of going to do anything on a piece of land, you would have made a handsome provision for the Omo Onile. That is where they are not asking for outright takeover of the land.

However, it would be recalled that former Governor Babatunde Fashola also tried to curtail their activities to no avail, just like he also tried to ban activities of touts (Agberos) at the bus stops to no avail. Today, Agberos are everywhere at the bus stops. The only thing the supposedly ban achieved in doing then was to have them reinforce and regroup, this time around, stronger than previously.

Even the Bill that would have legally given a bite to the law (Prohibition of Forceful Entry and Occupation of Landed Properties, Violent and Fraudulent Conducts in Relation to Landed Properties in Lagos State) is still lying low at the State House of Assembly till date since Fashola’s administration.

Despite undergoing public hearing long ago, the Bill is yet to be passed to law. Some of the contents of the proposed law stipulates thus, “a person who enters a property without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, and has in his possession any offensive weapon with the intention to cause mayhem in respect of the property commits an offence and is liable on conviction to 10 years imprisonment.

Section 9 of the bill forbids anyone from demanding a fee or levy in respect of construction, roofing, repair or restoration of any property or disrupting construction work at a site.

Most times these land grabbers do not act alone. In most cases, they have the backing of some traditional rulers within their area of operation, which is why when on their mission, they take no prisoners, making it appear institutionalised.

Some pundits are of the opinion that this new ban will go the same way of the ban on Agberos. It is just a matter of time, they will still come back, that is, if at all they stop. For them, Omo Onile in Lagos State, has become an institution.

Just last week, somewhere at Lekki, in their usual manner, they landed at a building site and attempted to forcefully dispose the owner of the building of his land if he does not play ball. Unknown to them, the man in question has a military connection.

He went and brought some military men who came and gave the Omo Oniles the beating of their lives. In order words, it will take the presence of uniform men to stop their activities.

Now the question, how many land owners have access to military men, because the ban has been placed before they ventured into that land at Lekki?

The case at Lekki became news because military men were involved. Have builders stopped settling Omo Oniles in the course of construction? Or are they doing it quietly, knowing that the ban did not make provision to protect them in the event of a reprisal action from the land grabbers. Since the official banning, how many arrests have the state government made, at least to give people the assurance that these is really working?

Of all the developers called to comment on the impact of the ban and whether they have stopped terrorizing builders, none of them appear to be aware of any arrest made so far. Former Lagos State chairman of the Nigeria Institute of Building (NIoB), Stephen Jagun, stated, “Not to my knowledge. There is however a task force set up to assist.”

Olayemi Shonubi on his part stated that even if they lie low, it does not mean that in six months time, they cannot come back; but that giving them one year would be adequate enough to assess and see whether it will work or not.

“Until we begin to see government enforcing it, and maybe there is somebody who is trying to start his house somewhere and Omo Onile tries to disturb the person and the person goes to report and then the taskforce goes there to arrest them. Then we will be talking. By the time they do that like five or 10 times, everybody will calm down.

“As long as I have not read any case of an arrest anywhere, it will be difficult to say. So, we cannot say that the thing has been tested. That is why I say, let us give it one year, we can now do a post mortem as to the fallout of the law. If it has achieved the purpose it is meant to serve.”

Lagosians are still waiting to ascertain the effectiveness of this ban.