In search of solutions to menace of ‘Omo oniles’ in Lagos
Continued from previous page placards with inscriptions such as: ‘BRF, give us peace in Oke Ogbodo,’ ‘we’re tired of Omo onile,’ ‘No more Ajagungbale,’ among others.
They presented a letter addressed to the then governor, Babatunde Fashola and signed by their acting chairman, Olalekan Lasisi. The protesters lamented that the menace of the Omo oniles in their community had resulted in the death of many people in the area, one of whom was a landlord.
Recently, Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, rained ‘royal curses’ on land grabbers in the state, saying those who had chosen to earn a living through land grabbing would eventually die wretched.
He said: “The Obas and chiefs can derive benefits from the God given resources but with the way they are doing it now, it is criminal and not good enough. “They should go to the appropriate authorities and learn how to do it.
‘’It is their lands and they are entitled to its benefits. Even my own relation, I have called him and warned him. I have taken the matter up to the federal government that they should drive all of them from that place (Ajah-Badore shores).
“I say it and I stand by it; let the heavens fall and I’m prepared to face any consequence. There is a road alignment in Eti-Osa that some criminal minded persons have been selling.They will be dealt with and if care is not taken, they will go to prison. That is very certain.”
In spite of Akiolu’s ‘royal curses’, the land grabbers have continued to have a field day. Last month, Lagos State government set up a Task Force to check the menace of land grabbing in the State, just at it vowed to tackle the activities of land grabbers popularly called Omo-Onile with the full deployment of resources of government and applicable law once and for all.
The state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, who spoke at the inauguration, said the administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is determined to apply the full weight of the law to permanently address the issue, adding that the havoc and unrest being caused by land grabbers was no longer acceptable.
He disclosed that henceforth, anybody who uses threat of arms or physical threat to dispossess people of their legitimate property will be treated as a criminal in accordance with Sections 52, 53 and 281 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State.
He explained that section 281 of the criminal law included land as things capable of being stolen, while sections 52 and 53 of the law prescribe a jail term of two years for any person who forcibly enters or takes possession of land in a manner likely to cause a breach of the peace against a person entitled by law to the possession of the land.
He said: “In recent years, land grabbers have caused havoc and unrest in different parts of the state by dispossessing legitimate land owners of their properties thereby stifling commercial activities in the state.
“It is therefore important that the state government not only indentifies the effects of the problems being perpetrated by these unscrupulous elements on commercial activities and peace of the citizenry but also finds lasting solutions to the menace. That is the reasoning behind the set-up of this Task Force.
“Furthermore, the need to protect investors and maintain law and order also led to the setting up of the committee. This, by implication, will encourage the verification of legal claims through litigation rather than resorting to violence,” the Attorney General explained.
Last week, the legislative arm of government in Lagos also gave a bite to the ongoing crusade against land grabbing, when it passed a bill to prohibit forceful entry and illegal occupation of landed properties in the state.
According to the provisions of the bill, land grabbers now face a maximum and minimum of 21 years and five years’ imprisonment.
There are also various fine impositions for individuals or groups convicted of the offence.
The bill provides for prohibition of forceful land take over, entry by force, illegal occupation of property, use of land agents, illegal use of law enforcement agents, encroaching with a weapon, sale of property without authority and professional misconduct among others, with their attendant punishments as regards the particular offence.
The passage of the bill into law in Lagos State is seen as a huge step towards a lasting solution to the activities of the land grabbers, popularly known as Omo Onile or Ajagungbale, which have become an age-long menace in the state.
The law 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.
Speaker of the Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, urged Governor Ambode to sign the bill into law for enforcement.
Residents of Lagos have commended the strides being taken by the executive and legislative arm of Lagos to nip land grabbing in the bud, saying the gesture came at the time the activities of the grabbers could no longer be tolerated.
A university lecturer, Mr.Hassan Sulaimon told Eko Trust that the anti-land bill grabbing signed by the Speaker of the House of Assembly in the state would go a long way in curbing the activities of land grabbers and discouraging potential ones in the state.
He urged Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to accelerate the passage of the bill into law in order to ensure that that the full weight of the law is brought to bear on the perpetrators of the heinous crime in the state.
“I want to say that I am impressed with the efforts being made by the executive and legislative arm of government in the state to tackle the menace of land grabbing head long. The state cannot afford to continually live in fear of known criminals threatening our lives and properties. The penalties recommended for violators of the anti- land grabbing were in order. I honestly hope that the governor should give accelerated assent to the bill to become law in the interest of all and sundry,’’ he said.
A social commentator, Mr Hakeem Omotolani, also said the state governor should sign the bill to law, while the citizens of the state should also try as much as possible to cooperate with the government to free the state of social nuisances
‘’The citizens should also do their bits after the bill might have become law. They should be on the look out for those land grabbers and report them accordingly to law enforcement agents to do the needful. The law enforcement agents should also exercise their duties exceptionally without fear or favour. That way I think the law can have meaning and the state can be freed of the activities of land grabbers’’, he added.