Land grabbing to become a criminal offence in Lagos

Land grabbing to become a criminal offence in Lagos

Friday, April 22, 2016 5:29 pm

Obasa: Lagos Speaker

Obasa: Lagos Speaker

Eromosele Ebhomele

A bill for a law to prohibit forceful entry and occupation of landed properties in Lagos state, western Nigeria is being planned for passage. The bill seeks to criminalise what has come to be known as land grabbing in the state.

At a stakeholders’ conference on Friday, participants agreed that the law was timely as it would put an end to the menace of land grabbers popularly called ‘ajagungbales’ in Yoruba Language.

Many of the participants further stressed that these land grabbers have made lives difficult for the people of the state.

Majority Leader of the House, Sanai Agunbiade, who represented Speaker Mudashiru Obasa at the event, said that the law would cut the wings of land grabbers and legal practitioners, who collude with them to cheat the residents of the state.

Agunbiade, while noting that land is to Lagos what oil is to the people of the Niger Delta, added: “a lot of people have abused and destroyed the value system of the people of Lagos state.

“We cannot wait anymore. People, such as civil servants, would struggle to buy land, only for them to be unable to use the land.

“People are given allocation and they would not be allowed to use the land. Some uniform men and professionals even work with some land grabbers to implement illegal judgments,” he said.

The law provides that no person or group of persons “shall use force or unreasonable force” to take over any landed property in the state.

Section 3 of the law states that “any person who is on any property as a trespasser after having entered as such and fails to leave the property on being required to do so by or on behalf of the owner of the property, his agent or any other person in lawful occupation commits an offence.”

It further states that anyone that commits an offence under the provisions of the section shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding N300,000.

“No person or group of persons from the commencement of this law shall cause to be placed on any land or landed property any land agent for the purpose of forceful takeover of the said land.

“No law enforcement agent, vigilante or ethnic, cultural/traditional militia shall execute the judgment of a court in respect of any landed property except as may be provided for under the Sheriff and Civil Process Law,” it said.

A traditional ruler, the Ayangburen of Ikorodu, Oba Kabir Adewale Shotobi, who was at the event, observed that the fines in the law was too meagre for the kind of business in the sector. His argument was supported by other stakeholders.

Oba Shotobi also called for the amendment of some sections of the law and later told journalists that land grabbers are usually invited by unscrupulous individuals adding that some local chiefs collaborate with them.

The Permanent Secretary of Lands Bureau in the state, Mr. Bode Agoro, advised that the Governor’s Monitoring Team, concerned with arrests, should be added to the bill.

The Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Martins Ogunleye, in his submission, advised that the state should avoid making retroactive laws and that the Environmental Task Force might not have the capacity to investigate the offences properly.

“We should avoid loopholes in the law and a punishment must be prescribed under Section 8 of the law. Also, any erring lawyer should be reported to the NBA of Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee instead of Council of Legal Practitioner stated in the law,” he said.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Land, Bayo Oshinowo, in his remarks, promised that some of the observations of the stakeholders would be noted so that the law could achieve its aims and objectives.

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