By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Property owners and residents of Gloryland Estate in Egbe-Idimu Local Council Development Area, LCDA, of Lagos State have sent a Save Our Soul, S.O.S, letter to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu following encroachment on government land by land-grabbers also called Omo Oniles.
The Federal Government designed estate was allegedly being trespassed by Omo Oniles led by one of the sons (names withheld) of a royal father in the area.
The prince was said to have boasted that he is untouchable due to his connection to government and police authorities.
The residents, in their SOS to Sanwo-Olu accused the Omo Oniles of selling the Right of Ways, RoWs, under high tension wires to members of tipper operators who have invariably degraded the road infrastructure and thus pose security threat in the area.
In the latest development, the Omo Oniles allegedly sold part of the land in the area to ignorant buyers who have started building structures.
It will be recalled that immediate past Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, sometime in 2016, signed Lagos State Property Protection and Neighbourhood Safety Corps Bills into law, both of which prohibit the activities of land grabbers and land encroachment.
The measures aimed at eradicating land grabbing, kidnapping and other criminal activities in the state.
The law empowers the Special Task Force on Land-Grabbers to work with security agencies to protect government and private property rights in the state.
Meanwhile, the law stipulates 21 years jail term for anyone convicted of land grabbing.
While signing the bills into law, the-governor lamented that the activities of land grabbers had continuously “discouraged investors and hindered the ease of doing business in Lagos.”
He continued, “This marks the end of the road for such land grabbers as the Property Protection Law gives legal backing to law enforcement officers to arrest anyone who uses force to dispossess any person of his landed property.
Then-Chairman of Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr. Dele Oloke, alleged that the core sponsors of land grabbers were monarchs and chiefs in Lagos, saying, “Sometimes when security agencies arrest land grabbers, their sponsors who are respected members of the society often go for their release.”
LASG goes tough
Meanwhile, the state government has urged all legitimate land and property owners in Lagos to perfect title documents and other documents pertaining to their lands and properties to checkmate land grabbers.
The Coordinator of Lagos State Special Taskforce on Land Grabbers, Mr. Owolabi Arole, who gave the advice while reviewing the activities of the taskforce for the first and second quarters of 2019, noted that undocumented and incomplete transactions as well as untidy property documentation make it difficult for property forcefully taken to be retrieved through legal means.
He said: “A large chunk of the land grabbing cases the taskforce is working is fraught with issues of improper and incomplete legal documentation and such issues cause delay in getting justice for rightful owners of land.”
Arole explained that the task force had, since inauguration, received over 1,300 petitions bordering on land grabbing and related issues, treated and concluded 550 cases, made 35 arrests and presently working on 330 petitions.
He warned land grabbers to desist from their illicit acts, stressing that the state government would bring the full wrath of the law on anybody caught forcibly taking another person’s land.
“The state government, through the Lagos State Property Protection Law 2016, set up this task force in the realisation that the activities of land grabbers, over the years, have caused havoc and unrest in different parts of the state, stifling commercial activities and preventing prospective investors from carrying out business activities in Lagos”, he added.
In a related development, Lagos House of Assembly has raised a committee to review the state’s survey law and advise it on how best to contain issues arising from land disputes in the course of surveying. The legislative chamber held that the tinkering would bring the law to terms with emerging realities.
The resolution followed a motion moved by the Majority Leader, Sanai Agunbiade, and co-sponsored by others during plenary presided over by Speaker Mudashiru Obasa.
Agunbiade had stressed the need to check the unwholesome activities of surveyors in the state.
The Speaker consequently named Abiodun Tobun as chairman of the panel.
In the letter by residents of Glory Land Community Development Association, CDA, to the state government through the Ministry of the Environment, they stressed the need for immediate intervention in the area.
In the petition co-signed by their Chairman, Mr.C. Ejezie, and Olumide Adewale, they accused the Omo Oniles of illegal sale of government properties as well as constituting environmental degradation in the area.
One of the residents, Alhaji Lateef Olayinka, explained that the dual carriageway that leads to the federal sites and services scheme and which also houses the Federal Craft Centre for the Blind had been completely taken over by encroachers and land grabbers.
He stated: “Efforts by the community to fix the roads have been resisted by squatters and tipper drivers to whom the land grabbers have sold the road and setback.
“The roads have been completely taken over by illegal structures occupied by miscreants and people suspected to be aliens who snatch residents’ bags at night.
“The worst part is that the road is on the pipeline and under power-line, but we now have permanent structures there including residential houses, restaurants, malls and hotels.
“The encroachment has blocked the flood channels of both access roads to the estate.
“The kerbs used to demarcate the roads were excavated and carted away by unscrupulous tipper drivers aided by Omo Oniles.
“They have even encroached into the estate, selling government setbacks and buffers.”
Some of the structures, it was gathered, have been marked for demolition with government ‘stop work’ sign on them because they were erected under the power-line and over the pipeline of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, with the road completely taken over.
“We, therefore, appeal to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to save our soul and, by so doing, protect the federal and state governments’ institutions and sites in the estate”, the residents said.
“We implore you (governor) to urgently intervene by removing squatters and demolishing all illegal structures on the two access ways to the estate”.
Lagos Badagry Expressway
Meantime, a pressure group, made up of residents and motorists, under the umbrella of “#Fix Lagos-Badagry Expressway Now,” has issued a fresh one month ultimatum to Lagos State government to accelerate rehabilitation job on the axis.
Spokesperson for the group, Saheed Oluwadare, in a statement, explained, “Thursday, August 29, 2019 made it exactly 100 days since the ‘Mass Movement Protest’ that brought out road users to express their grievances on the bad state of the Federal Government owned Lagos-Badagry Express Road on Wednesday, May 20, 2019.
“As it stands today, CGC, WIZCHINO ENGINEERING LTD, CCECC and FERMA have been deployed to the various construction sites which, to us, is still not impressive in terms of job done so far.
“But by and large, we are happy to say that the protest has begun to yield positive results from various ends though not satisfactorily.
“We want to acquaint the general public with the information at our disposal that the government has appealed to the entire group of members that partook in one way or the other during the protest to exercise a little patience as they (government) improve on the palliative measures.
“To this end, therefore, we declare the SHUTDOWN postponed for further action if proper palliative works are not done especially by CGC within the next 30 days which, by our calculation, has been slated for Monday, September 30, 2019”.