…Receives over 5,000 petitions on activities
By Olasunkanmi Akoni
The Lagos State Government has commenced the process for the review of the State Properties Protection Law, LSPPL, 2016 to expunge option of fines to any convicted landgrabber(s) with mandatory six years jail term to serve as deterrence to others.
The Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Lands Bureau, Mr Bode Agoro, revealed this on Tuesday, at the stakeholders’ forum on fraudulent sales of state government land by landgrabber, popularly, called “Omo-Onile,” held in Aausa, Ikeja.
Since the first of February 2021, you probably must have been exposed to our advertisement calling on Lagosians to the activities of dubious elements in certain communities who are selling Lagos state government lands to unsuspecting pubic in some parts of Lagos.
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“The land is located at Okenla village, ibeju-lekki, Idake village, Ajao Oki, Ladegbole, Imedu, Iratirin, Obadimisi, Ogombo, Eti-Osa, among others.
“These land grabbers have now taken their game to a new level as they have the audacity to erect signpost bearing government logo and excision application file numbers in their desperate attempt to deceive prospective buyers into believing that sales of such lands are genuine transactions and have government backing.
“In line with our vision to be a platform for efficient land resources management that promotes easy access to land and title registration in Lagos State and our mission to entrench a culture of excellence, that ensures prompt and efficient service delivery anchored on the most current technology, we are doubling efforts to confront all circumstances that may undermine transparency and integrity in the process of accessing land for either residential or commercial purposes.
“The Attorney-General of the state has drafted the proposed amendment bill and presently with the state House of Assembly for public hearing. In the next two months or less, we expected the law to be in operation.
‘The focal point of the review is to remove the aspect of option of fines and make it mandatory of six years in jail for convicted landgrabber (s).
“We cannot afford to fold our arms while some persons continue to take advantage of hardworking and responsible Lagosians by selling illegal lands to them.
“This is even so as the consequences of those transaction put lands bureau under unnecessary pressure when the buyers eventually come forward to process title documents. That is why it is better to proactively tame this preventive action now.
“Without address the omonile syndrome, we would have left a big monster, plaguing investment in real estate in Lagos state to continue festering.
“There are many well-meaning corporate organisations, some of which are represented here today who cannot easily make investment decisions due to the confusion, anarchy and avoidable conflicts caused by land grabbers activities. All these have to stop.
“It is regrettable that many of the faces behind this criminal acts are supposedly responsible leaders in the communities affected. It is hoped that after this engagement they will see that the government is willing and ready to confront this menace and bring it to the barest minimum if not totally eradicated.”
Also, Chairman of the state Special Taskforce on Landgrabber s, Mr. Owolabi Arole, said, “Prior to the enactment of the LSPPL Law 2016_ the issue of unlawful entry and forceful takeover of land was rampant.
“The reason is not far-fetched, Lagos state being an urban centre by virtue of the designation of all lands in Lagos pursuant to the Land Use Regulation Notice of 1981 and section 34 of the Land Use Act has limited accessibility to land hence, competitive underhand tactics in order to have their hands on this scarce and limited resources.”
Arole explained that the Lagos State Government is a proactive government sponsored the bill, enacted by the State House of Assembly in 2016.
According to him, “It should be noted that this law has its shortcomings as it does not adequately address issues that may arise in the course of enforcement.
“The law is presently undergoing a review in order to meet the yearning and aspiration of the teeming Lagos population.
“However, the essence of this paper is to see how private property developers can successfully work within the framework of the LSPPL 2016. It is important to highlight the salient provisions of the law: Section 2 – prohibition of the forceful land takeover, section 3 – prohibition of entry by violence, section 4 – the illegal occupation of the property.
“The offence of land grabbing is a strict liability offence; hence you need not prove the elements of actus reus and men’s rea.
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“Section 12 – this is the section that establishes and empower the state special task force on land grabbers
“Section 14 – this section gives jurisdiction to the special offences court to prosecute cases of land grabbing.
“The Lagos state government has control over practically all lands in Lagos and any prudent developer should approach the lands bureau and apply under the private property developer scheme.
Arole continued, ” The unwholesome activities of this so-called omo onile have remained unchecked and have since brought about the loss of confidence by private developers as most of them are often swindled and at other times made to pay for a particular property several times.
“In order to drastically reduce incidences of land grabbing and encourage private developers, the LSPPL 2016 the Lagos state special taskforce on land grabbers may enforce the law and vest in it the power to arrest in pursuance of the law alongside any other enforcement unit/agency in the state, while jurisdiction in respect of the offences under the law was granted to the special offences court.
“On possession 9/10 of the law because it is a prima facie evidence of the right of ownership, hence this right is given against everyone except the rightful owner and there is always an implied covenant to deliver possession pursuant to section of the law 2016.
‘A person who is occupying a property as an encroacher after having as such and fails to leave the property on being required to do so or by or on behalf of the owner of the property commits an offence.”
He, therefore, urged, anyone who is desirous of acquiring an interest in any landed property should ensure that he followed due diligence by verifying if the intended property is free from any form of encumbrance before investing in such, furthermore that such property is duly registered to forestall third party claim in future.
Arole, noted that the inception of the LSPPL 2016 has brought about new dawn to the real estate world, thereby giving full armour and protection to investors who may wish to invest in real estate.
The role of the state government led by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in ensuring the continued protection of properties and their owners, he stressed cannot be over-emphasized.
“However, in order to maximally achieve the aim of the Lagos state properties protection law and to forestall activities of land grabbers, all property owners and developers should ensure they conduct a search in order to ascertain that there has not been any registered interest on the property before purchase.
“The Lagos State special taskforce on land grabbers with collaboration with other ministries/agencies of government have been able to curtail the activities of land grabbers subject to the provision of section 13 of the state law 2016, and this agency won’t stop at that as the task force on land grabbers is determined to tussle land grabbing to the very end and ensure sanity in the real estate industry,” Arole stated.
When asked about petitions the taskforce has on its table, he said, ” We have received about 5,000 petitions in the last one year over land grabbing matters in the state. We will not be deterred in combating the hydra-headed monster of land grabbing.”
Vanguard News Nigeria
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