By Olasunkanmi AKONI
In recent time, Lagos State Government has been having running battles with faceless groupsÂ and individuals known as â€œland-grabbersâ€Â including those whoÂ encroach on governmentâ€™s lands.
The activities of the swindlers have led to lose of huge revenueÂ accruable to government.
In spite of warnings as well as stakeholders meetings convened to find solution to problem, the cankerworm still persist.
With about seven million land document stored in the Electronic data Management System (EDMS), at the land registry consisting details of documented lands and properties in Lagos , land grabbers will surely have tough times.
That of course is, if members of the public are willing to take the right steps guiding intending land buyers within the state.Â The case of Mr. and Mrs. Johnson who recently fell victim of fraudster is instructive.
Eager to have their own property, the couple had gathered all they had including loan from the co-operative in their offices, it turned out to be a painful story. The couple made payment to the property agent and went to the land bureau to carry out further documentationÂ only to find out it was a fraud.
Aware of the activities of illegal land allotees which occur regularly, the state Land Bureau in taking steps towards sensitizing the people, adviseÂ anyone wishing to acquire properties on what to do and the right steps to take before purchase.
To this effect, the office called on members of the public to cross check any land matter in the office to avoid falling victim to swindlers.
In one of the many fliers made available by the office read thus: â€œIt is your right to demand for land information. This will help to know the true state of the particular property, to be sure it has not been acquired by government.â€
The most appropriate properties to buy according to the office, are those whose papers have been perfected. Having registered such, information on it is readily available at the land registry. This made it easy for future sales as the survey can be tendered at the registry for verification.
Fraudsters have for long thrive on the ignorance and sometimes reluctance of buyers to take measures confirming genuineness of properties before purchase.
In what can be described as the slogan of the Land bureau, regularly placed on television, radio and news papers and other means of communications, is a public awareness campaign, warning members of the public to always use the appropriate office channel to verify the status of land by consummating any land transaction.
They are encouraged to obtain land information from the office of the Surveyor-Generalâ€™s office and ensure proper â€˜secure of titleâ€™ of a particular land.
It is not uncommonÂ to find that native heads and their subjects take advantage of the on-going development in the outskirt of Lagos to engage in fraudulent act such as selling off government acquired lands in their locality to unsuspected buyers.
Some village heads were recently apprehended by the state authority in Igbo-olomu, Ikorodu West of Lagos state, for conniving with hoodlums to forcefully invade some acres of land from its original owners.
Unfortunately, there are cases of lands that are not documented for the fact that they are claimed to have been inhabited by ancestors as such, they are owned by customary.
The certificate of occupancy (C-Of-O) issued with the name of the original owners on it is for that reason not transferable. Not giving up as usual, in their several attempt to beat security, fraudsters now clone C-Of-O. Such forged papers can be detected by the authority at the point of presentation before payment is made for particular property.
However, as a secondary owner, legal document of transfer of ownership known as governorâ€™s consent can be obtained. To encourage the public to document their properties with the state, government has slashed the payment by 50 per cent. Thus 15 per cent of the value of the property is what is required to enable the new owner obtain necessary document in his name.
The Lagos state government explained that it could revoke the land left fallow after two years of issuance of the land document.
To solve the menace of encroachers headlong, the Lagos State Government last week announced its plans to embark on a massive removal of all illegal structures built on government land.
Permanent Secretary,Â Lands Bureau, Mr. Gbenga Ashafa said the move became necessary following his observation during a two-day working tour of government schemes in Ikorodu, Epe and Badagry divisions of the state.
Ashafa, who expressed concern over the large scale of encroachments and contravention on the state land after several warnings stated that the government would not condone such act any longer.
According to him, all illegal structures and buildings constructed on state land by persons, companies or institutions without valid titles will be removed accordingly by the appropriate government agencies.
Ashafa who frowned at the large scale of encroachment on Igbogbo Millenium, Ikorodu GRA III, Ijanikin Rose Garden, Sunnyfield, Oko-Afo schemes among others, also alerted members of the public on the widespread, and illegal sale of government land by unauthorized persons and families.
He, however, advised that persons who wants to acquireÂ any land in the state should ascertain the status of such land from the office of the Surveyor-General before committing money.
Ashafa, therefore passionately appealed to government Allottees to take physical possession of land allocated to them by way of developing them in order to prevent illegal encroachment as well as unlawful activities of squatters on their allocated land.
He also reminded the general public that, the state government will intensify efforts to remove all kinds ofÂ shanties and illegal structures erected by squatters on government schemes in the state.
He enjoined the citizens of the state to support the state government policy of transforming the state into a functional and efficient model mega-city of which everyone would be proud of.
One of the celebrated land cases in recent time, was the controversial sale of Maiyegun Beach, by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Waterparks Nigeria Limited, Otunba Feyisayo Winfunke who is currently facing a two-count charge of stealing Certificate of Occupancy and swindling a famous billionaire before an Ikeja High Court. But upon his arraignment, Winfunke pleaded not guilty before Justice Joseph Olubunmi Oyewole of Ikeja High Court penultimate week
The travail of Winfunke specifically started when he was arrested over the controversial sale of Maiyegun Beach , a resort centre located in the Ajah area of Lagos State .
But upon the advice of state Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Mrs. Olabisi Ogungbesan, Winfunke was charged to court. Further hearing of the case is adjourned till November 2, 2009.