Though not restricted to the commercial city of Nigeria, Land grabbing has always been a big issue in Lagos state. Property investors were not protected under the law and were being taking advantage of by the popularly called “Omo Onile”, meaning in loose terms “Children of the land” and their sponsors, or privileged individuals who used force, threats and sometimes violence to unscrupulously take possession of land or property belonging to other persons. It is common to see or hear of a crowd of young men gather at the sites of undergoing private construction demanding for unaccountable levies and fines.
To say, these unlawful actions have plagued the real estate industry in Lagos and other parts of Nigeria, is to put it mildly. Sometimes, law enforcement agencies are also powerless to aid or act in certain situations. The property divisions of the law courts are filled with claims bothering on forceful and unlawful possession of land or property and have been in court for quite some time.
Lagosians can however smile and be relieved, as Governor Ambode on the 15th of August, 2016, signed into law, the LAW PROHIBITING FORCEFUL ENTRY AND ILLEGAL OCCUPATION OF LANDED PROPERTIES IN THE LAGOS STATE. This new Law protects the proprietary rights of Land and Property owners in Lagos State and also criminalizes actions of forceful and unlawful entry or occupation of premises.
The law states in Section 2(1), that –
“ As from the commencement of the law, no one shall use force or self-help to take over any landed property or engage in any act inconsistent with the proprietary right of the owner in the State.
Furthermore, subsection 2(two) states that persons who have used force to take over the properties of others and still do so after 3 months from the date of commencement of the law commit an offence. Anyone who commits such offence is liable to ten (10) years imprisonment.
Also, anyone without lawful authority who applies threats or violence to secure entry into any landed property for personal use commits an offence. Regardless of if the entry is lawful, it does not give a right to use threats or violence and anyone who commits the offence shall be liable to 10 (ten) years imprisonment.
Furthermore, by virtue of section 3(4), anyone who uses fire arms or offensive weapons or is in any way armed or wounds anyone while committing the act of forced entry is liable to 4(four) years imprisonment.
Persons in illegal occupation of premises who also fail to leave the property commit an offence and are liable to a fine of
(Five Million Naira) and/or up to five (5) years imprisonment. By virtue of
Section 7, any encroacher who keeps fire arms or dangerous/offensive weapons on
the premises shall be liable to 10 (ten) years imprisonment.
Any encroacher who tries to sell the property knowing he has no lawful authority to do so commits a crime and is liable to a fine of
(Five Hundred Thousand Naira) and/or Six (6) months imprisonment. If the person
is successful in selling the property, he shall be liable to a fine not
exceeding 100% the value of the property and/or 5(five)years imprisonment as
provided in section 8.
It was always common for purported family agents to unlawfully sell family property without the consent of the head of the family. However, by virtue of the law, anyone who sells family property without the authority of the family head or sells government land without the authority of the relevant government authority shall be liable to 21 (Twenty – One) years imprisonment.
Due to the fact that many property/estate agents and sometimes, lawyers, have been known to aid the sale and unlawful encroachment of private property. Section 9, prohibits professionals from aiding in conduct that constitute an offence under the law and such professionals shall be reported to the relevant bodies for misconduct and appropriate actions.
A popular provision of the Law is the section that prohibits that harassment of property owners by the omo onile groups and other hoodlums. Section 10, states that persons who act as agents and demand a fee in regard to construction on properties shall be committing an offence and liable to a fine of 1(One) million naira and/or 2 (two) years imprisonment.
The Law also establishes a task force to enforce the law and grants jurisdiction to the Special Offences Court and other courts.
In other to prevent private persons from taking laws into their hands, no law enforcement agent, vigilante group, ethnic, cultural or traditional militia shall have the right to enforce the law except in terms with the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act.
The enactment of this law brings succor to all lawful property owners in Lagos State and is highly welcome.
Adedunmade Onibokun & Co.
Dunmade’s legal practice focuses on corporate and commercial law, regulatory compliance, due diligence, corporate advice and commercial transactions. He is the Principal partner of Adedunmade Onibokun & Co. a law firm based in Lagos, Nigeria. Dunmade is also a blogger and publishes the Legalnaija Blawg via www.legalnaija.com
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