Land grabbers

Lagos State Government Sets Up Task Force To Tackle Land Grabbers

…The Task Force, HotLine 09096667123 and 09020085005
…The Task Force eMail Address omoonileTF@lagosstate.gov.ng

The Lagos State Government on Monday 27th June, 2016, 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 calledOmo-Onile with the full deployment of resources of government and applicable law once and for all.

Speaking while inaugurating the Task Force, the State’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, 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 said henceforth, anybody who uses threat of arms or physical threat to dispossess people of their legitimate property will be treated as criminals in accordance with Sections 52, 53 and 281 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State.

The Commissioner said it was noteworthy 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.

According to Kazeem: “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.

The Task Force, according to Kazeem, can be reached on 09096667123 and 09020085005 and on email address via omoonileTF@lagosstate.gov.ng.

Kazeem also disclosed that the State House of Assembly was in the process of passing a law that would exclusively deal with the activities of land grabbers by prescribing appropriate stiff punishment for offenders.

The terms of reference of the Task Force which will operate under the supervision of the Attorney General include: “To reduce to a barest minimum the activities of persons or corporate entities who use force and intimidation to dispossess or prevent any person or entity from acquiring legitimate interest and possession of property acquired through State Government or private transactions; to co-ordinate the efforts of the various agencies of Government charged with enforcing the State Government rights over land in Lagos; and to work with all security agencies to ensure enforcement of State Government and private property rights in Lagos State.”

Members of the Task Force are Mr. Akinjide Bakare, a Deputy Director in the Ministry of Justice who will act as Alternate Chairman; Dr. Afolabi Abiodun representing the Commissioner for the Environment; Mr. Olayinka Wasiu Adebayo and Mr. Faiq Abou both representing the Lands Bureau; Mr. Saheed Kassim, Chief Security Officer to Governor Ambode; Mr. Ganiyu Adebowale, Commander of Governor’s Monitoring Team (GMT) and Ms Mosunmola Balogun, who is to act as the Secretary of the Task Force.

Responding on behalf of members of the Task Force, Mr. Bakare pledged that though the terms of reference was a very onerous task, the Committee would rest on the might of the State Government.

He said already petitions had been received from several citizens including retired civil servants, who had served the State meritoriously, adding that it was pathetic that some people could forcibly dispossess people of their legitimate property, the more reason, according to him, why the Task Force would vigorously pursue the cause.

FAQS

  1. There has been an increase recently on complaint about land grabbing on estates and individual lands in the state. What are the measures in place to address this concern?

The Office of the Lagos State Special Taskforce on Land Grabbers was set up specifically to eliminate the menace of land grabbing by implementing the provisions of the Lagos State Properties Protection Law of 2016.

In handling cases we receive, the Task Force uses different means such as mediation and reconciliation. Parties are invited for a meeting, in the spirit of Audi Alteram Partem (fair hearing). In this way, we get to hear from both sides instead of jumping to conclusions.

There are instances where it is necessary the Task Force liaises with the Surveyor-General’s Office, the Lagos State Building Control Agency, the Lands Bureau and the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development. There are some cases we receive as a matter of urgency, which requires the assistance of the Police.

  1. How many of such cases has the anti-land grabbing task force attended since its inception?

The Task Force has received about 3,000 petitions from the public since its inception. About 1000 have been resolved and about 1500 are currently being handled.  Presently, there are some matters being prosecuted in Court.

  1. What should victims do when faced with such challenge?

The victims should never resort to self-help as the Task Force was set up specifically to combat this problem.  Once a situation of land grabbing arises, the following steps should be taken:

  1. A petition should be sent to the Task Force, addressed to the Honourable Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, with special attention to the Coordinator, Lagos State Special Task Force on Land Grabbers
  2. The petition should include all the details, facts and photocopies of title documents in relation to the land in question
  3. An Affidavit should be attached to the petition with a passport photograph
  4. Details of the alleged encroachers should also be included in the petition, i.e. their names, addresses and mobile numbers

Once the above-mentioned steps are carried out and the necessary information is provided, both parties would be invited for a fact finding meeting.  Observations from cases handled show that some of these issues emanate from lack of communication.

In matters of urgency, the Task Force liaises with the other stakeholders to provide a solution. For example, in a case where illegal construction is ongoing without the requisite planning permits, a letter would be sent to the Lagos State Building Control Agency asking that the illegal construction be looked into.

  1. There has been an increase recently on complaint about land grabbing on estates and individual lands in the state. What are the measures in place to address this concern?

The Office of the Lagos State Special Taskforce on Land Grabbers was set up specifically to eliminate the menace of land grabbing by implementing the provisions of the Lagos State Properties Protection Law of 2016.

In handling cases we receive, the Task Force uses different means such as mediation and reconciliation. Parties are invited for a meeting, in the spirit of Audi Alteram Partem (fair hearing). In this way, we get to hear from both sides instead of jumping to conclusions.

There are instances where it is necessary the Task Force liaises with the Surveyor-General’s Office, the Lagos State Building Control Agency, the Lands Bureau and the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development. There are some cases we receive as a matter of urgency, which requires the assistance of the Police.

  1. How many of such cases has the anti-land grabbing task force attended since its inception?

The Task Force has received about 4,300 petitions from the public since its inception. About 1,700 have been resolved and about 2,600 are currently being handled.  Presently, there are some matters being prosecuted in Court.

  1. What should victims do when faced with such challenge?

The victims should never resort to self-help as the Task Force was set up specifically to combat this problem.  Once a situation of land grabbing arises, the following steps should be taken:

  1. A petition should be sent to the Task Force, addressed to the Honourable Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, with special attention to the Coordinator, Lagos State Special Task Force on Land Grabbers
  2. The petition should include all the details, facts and photocopies of title documents in relation to the land in question
  3. An Affidavit should be attached to the petition with a passport photograph
  4. Details of the alleged encroachers should also be included in the petition, i.e. their names, addresses and mobile numbers

Once the above-mentioned steps are carried out and the necessary information is provided, both parties would be invited for a fact finding meeting.  Observations from cases handled show that some of these issues emanate from lack of communication.

In matters of urgency, the Task Force liaises with the other stakeholders to provide a solution. For example, in a case where illegal construction is ongoing without the requisite planning permits, a letter would be sent to the Lagos State Building Control Agency asking that the illegal construction be looked into.

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