By Henry Ojelu
The Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, has advised families with a large expanse of land to embrace lease holding instead of freeholding in the management of their family land.
Onigbanjo stated this at a Stakeholders Meeting on Land Grabbers, organized by the Lagos State Special Taskforce on Land Grabbers held at the Ikorodu Town Hall on Thursday.
Onigbanjo who was represented by a Director in the Ministry of Justice, Sahid Quadri said that by putting up their land on lease holding, large landowners will prevent the invasion of land grabbers into their land.
He explained that where they embrace lease holding, the family will be receiving rent on such land annually and avoid rancor because they would have enough money to spread around in the family.
Also speaking at the meeting, the Coordinator of the task force, Owolabi Arole expressed concern that the ancient town of Ikorodu accounted for over 50 percent of about 5,000 petitions received on land grabbing in Lagos state since the inception of the Taskforce on Land Grabbers in 2016.
Arole, in a welcome address, said that the town hall meeting was organized to find a lasting solution to cases of land grabbing in the ancient town.
He said it was important to tackle land grabbing in all parts of the state stressing that unless this is done, “we would have a situation on our hands where the issue will become a bigger problem.”
Two clerics, Sheik Yayah Osoala and Evangelist Emmanuel Adegoke who also spoke at the town hall meeting also blamed activities of land grabbers in Ikorodu and environs on traditional chiefs in the different communities, the Police, and lawyers.
The cleric also blamed the ugly development on delay in justice delivery and refusal of heads of families to respect the decision of some right-thinking chiefs of some communities in the ancient town.
Sheik Osoala, who is also the Grand Imam of Oriwu Central Mosque, argued that there is a lot of injustice on the part of some greedy heads of families who want to sit on lands that should belong to the entire family.
He noted that where there is resistance by other family members, they would in turn invite the land grabbers into the matter.
He said such families are the worst for it because the land grabbers usually end up taking a juicy part of the land for payment. The cleric also blamed the Police, both in Lagos and Abuja for allowing land grabbers’ activities to flourish in the town. He said the Police have disappointed the people they should be protecting.
“They have let us down. Once they are bribed by these land grabbers with land and money to subvert justice, they side with the wrong parties.
Sheik Osoala described lawyers handling land cases as dishonest for not telling the truth to prospective clients because of their greed for money.
He also held them responsible for causing delays in justice delivery on land matters in the courts.
“Lawyers are dishonest. Instead of telling the people that they have no case, greed doesn’t allow them to do this.
“Justice delivery takes too long in court especially in situations where lawyers go behind to see the judge.
He lamented that university graduates without employment have taken to land grabbing instead of tilling the land.
For peace to reign and curb activities of land grabbers, he advised that families should respect the judgment of the courts and decisions of honest traditional chiefs and government where they mediated in land matters.
Evangelist Adegoke who represented the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ikorodu aligned with the submission of Sheik Osoala.
He lamented that most family heads don’t tell the truth to their children on land matters when it matters most because of their selfishness and greed for money.
He advised them to speak the truth and save the communities from killings and bloodshed which today has become the hallmark of Ikorodu and giving the ancient town a bad name.
The Commissioner of Police (CP) in Lagos State, Hakeem Odumosu, in his remarks, pointed out that criminal activities of land grabbers occurred because of some greedy conspirators within families in Ikorodu.
CP Odumosu, who was represented by an Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations in Lagos,(ACP) Oladotun Odugbona noted: “conspirators from outside would be so mean that they do not care if people die in the process of grabbing land for their co-conspirators within families.
He said where Police are invited, what they do is to maintain peace, make an arrest as necessary, and gather evidence. According to him: “There are laws regarding land grabbing; our job is to arrest, investigate and prosecute. Anything outside that is beyond the scope of police work,” he said.
A representative of the Ikorodu branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Shakiru Omolaja, educated the people on the law on land grabbing in Lagos State. Omolaja said the law prescribes imprisonment for anybody convicted of taking land from another forcefully or invites land grabbers into land matters.
He said it is illegal for a son to re-sell a land already sold by his late father as such act attracts terms of imprisonment upon conviction.
According to him, Section 11 of the Lagos State Property Protection Law, 2016, prescribes 10 years’ imprisonment for anyone convicted of land grabbing.