May 2, 2017

Critiquing the Provisions of the Lagos Anti-Land Grabbing Law - Prince Ikechukwu Nwafuru


Proem
This article aims to critique  the Lagos State Properties Protection Law, 2016 (“Anti-Land Grabbing Law” or “the Law”) for the purpose of  appraising the likely efficacy of the legislation in tackling the menace of land grabbing and identifying any potential shortfalls  that might hamper the effective implementation of the Law and the actualization of the goals set for the Law.


Before going into the meat of the piece, it is pertinent to state the importance of investor-friendly business environment which has been identified as a sine qua non for economic growth and development in any country. Therefore, it behooves every government to improve its business operating environment and ease of doing business in order to attract both local and foreign investors. The strategic position occupied by the State of Lagos[1], Nigeria’s largest business and commercial city, accounts for its choice as a relevant study location for business practices, processes and regulations such as urban planning laws, land registry laws, environmental laws, state laws, and local government taxes in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Survey which incidentally makes use as part of its key indicators, acquisition and registering of properties. Unfortunately Nigeria as a country has continued to be relegated to the bottom of the table in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report[2] due to factors which include those discussed in this work.

In a bid to address the challenges affecting the business operating environment, particularly those relating to the acquisition and ownership of landed properties, the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode prior to the 2015 Governorship Election, made it one of his campaign promises, the creation of more investor-friendly business environment by improving the ease of doing business in the State. One of the ways he proposed to actualize this was by flushing out land-grabbers and outlawing their nefarious activities in the State. That promise, which could have passed as “election campaign rhetoric”, was however, recently fulfilled with the signing into law on 15 August 2016 of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law by the Governor.
The menace of land grabbing itself has always been with us as a country but the problem seems to be more pronounced in Lagos as a result of its afore-noted strategic economic position and the crucial need for land in the aquatic State. Land has often being jocularly referred to as the “oil” of Lagos. Notwithstanding, the perennial problem of land grabbing, the political will to legislate against it only manifested with the enactment of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law of 2016. To be fair to the previous administrations in Lagos, the Anti-Land Grabbing Law, contrary to the widely held belief, is not the first legislative attempt to deal with the issue of land grabbing. The Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011 has several provisions that are geared towards addressing some of the challenges faced in land transactions and ownership such as forcible entry to land, fraudulent alteration of title documents at the Land Registry[3] and other nefarious activities by land grabbers[4]. The 2016 Law, however, may well be described as the most specific and most decisive so far.

Provisions of LPPL
The Anti-Land Grabbing Law is by all means a short legislation. Therefore, a section by section consideration of the provisions will be done in this work, in no particular order, in order to aid proper understanding of the Law. In terms of structure, the Law contains 15 sections with some of the sections having sub-sections except sections 1, 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14 and 15. The language of the Law is simple devoid of the antiquated diction often seen in most of our legislations particularly those inherited from our colonial past. The dictional deviation is commendable and reflects the modern approach to legislative drafting.

Definition/Interpretation Section
Section 1 of the Law is the interpretation section and has six defined terms, viz: “agent”, “access”, “construction activities”, “encroachment” “landed property” and “State”. For reasons that will be shown later, three of these definitions will be considered in this work and they are reproduced as follows:

Agent” is defined to mean “a person who acts or purports to act on behalf of any party to a real property transaction, whether in respect of a sale, lease, license, mortgage or other dealings or disposal of, or relating to the property including any person engaged for the purpose of forceful takeover of a landed property”

Encroachment” means entry into another’s property without right or permission; trespass, violation, intrusion and usurpation:”

Landed property” on the other hand means “a property, a parcel of land, an improvement on land, a building, any land ancillary to a building, a site comprising of any building(s) with any land ancillary to it”

One common trend with the definitions is the use of the word “means” which suggests an intention to restrict the meaning of the defined terms as against the word “include” which when employed in interpretation section suggests a wider meaning. For instance, the definition of “constructive activities” in the Law preceded with the word “include” and this could also explain the draftsman’s intention to enlarge the meaning of “constructive activities”.

As can be gleaned from the afore-referenced definition of “agent”, it extends to a person engaged for the purpose of forceful takeover of a landed property. The question is, can an “agent” charged with any offence under the Law invoke as a defence, the principle of agent of a disclosed principal? It is submitted that such defence will not avail the agent as this principle only applies in civil cases. Similarly, the concept of vicarious liability has no place in our criminal jurisprudence, as the offender whether he acted as an agent or otherwise will be personally liable for the crime committed either alone or together with the principal depending on what the proof of evidence discloses. However, where the facts and available evidence disclose the offence of conspiracy or aiding and abetting, the conspirators whether acting as the agent or principal will be jointly liable. The likelihood of charging together the offender and the principal is very high given the definition of “agent” which as noted above extends to “any person engaged for the purpose of forceful takeover of a landed property”. It is therefore very unlikely that the agent will be charged alone in such scenario discussed above.

Another point worth mentioning under this sub-head is the inconsistency in the use of the terms “land”, “property” and “landed property” which refer to the same thing i.e. interest in land. As one would observe, they are used interchangeably in the Law. One would have expected consistency in the use of those terms to avoid confusion. Nonetheless, the definition of landed property is wide enough to guide the Court and in any case, land in law, includes anything affixed to land and improvements thereon.[5]

Substantive Provisions
Sections 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the law create various offences. Some of the offence-creating sections however, do not provide for punishments for the respective offences created therein and the effect of this legislative lapse will be considered later in this work.

Forceful Take-over of Landed Property
Section 2(1) prohibits the use of force or self-help to take over any landed property or to engage in any act inconsistent with the proprietary right of the owner. The use of the disjunctive “or” means that the offence under subsection 1 of section 2 can be committed in two alternative ways, viz: (1) “use of force or self-help to take over any landed property” or (2) “use of force or self-help to engage in any act inconsistent with the proprietary right of the owner”. The Law does not define “self-help” or “force” and recourse will be made to an external aid in construing these words. It is safe to assume that self-help includes using any measure not prescribed or permitted by the law to take over any landed property, often referred to in local parlance as taking the law into one’s own hand.

A property owner can be found criminally liable under the first limb of the subsection if he employs force or self-help to eject a trespasser on his property. As can be deduced from the letters of the Law, a property owner is required to follow due process in ejecting a trespasser or enforcing his right in any property and it is not a defence to the offence under section 2(1) of the Law that the property belongs to the offender. It remains to be seen whether the defence of bona fide claim of right under section 23 of the Criminal Law of Lagos will avail a property owner caught by this subsection.

Section 2(2) gives a three-month window period to any person or persons who use force to take over any landed property before the commencement of the Law, to vacate the property. Failure to vacate the property and remaining in possession of the said property three months after the commencement of the law will expose the defaulter to an offence under the sub-section. By calculation, three months after the commencement date of 15 August 2016 (i.e. the day the Governor gave his assent) would have lapsed on or about 14 November 2016.[6] It has been argued that the provision of section 2(2) appears to convey a retroactive effect given that the actus reus of the offence, which is the “use of force to take over a landed property” predates the Law.[7] However, this impression can be doused since the law does not seek to punish the offender for what has been done in the past but makes the continuous infraction of “remaining or being in unlawful possession of another’s property”, the sole physical element of the offence. It was further argued that the way to make the provision of section 2(2) clearer is to delete the seemingly retroactive aspect from the text of the subsection and make the act of “remaining or being in unlawful possession of another property” the sole element of the offence.[8]

I cannot agree more with the above view except to add that even in the absence of such suggested amendment, the provision as it is, is still capable of curbing the mischief which it sets out to cure. It will be preposterous for an offender who has been in unlawful possession of another’s property after the expiration of the three months grace period to be heard arguing that he entered into possession prior to the commencement of the Law. Thus, aside the civil remedy available to the property owner which can be defeated by laches and acquiescence if not enforced within a reasonable time, a liberal interpretation of this provision will clearly reveal the legislative intention which is to forestall an act of being in unlawful possession of another’s property. The emphasis, as noted by Okanga[9], should be on “remaining in possession” which by its nature and in my view is a positive act. Viewed differently, remaining in possession in such circumstance could also amount to encroachment and the offender can be charged under section 4 of the Law for being an encroacher provided there is a prior demand for him to leave the property and it is of no moment that he entered into possession prior to the commencement of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law.

What is not clear under section 2(2) is whether a property owner who uses force to retake possession of his own property and so remains in possession three months thereafter can be criminally liable. One would have expected the draftsman to include in section 2(2), a similar provision as found in section 3(2) of the Law to the effect that a person’s right to possession or occupation of a property shall not constitute lawful authority for the use of force to retake any property. In my view, a property owner can be found criminally liable under section 2(2) as there is nothing in the Law to suggest otherwise. The mischief that is sought to be prevented under section 2 generally is the use of force to take over any property, whether by the owner, or owner’s agent or by a trespasser. It is not therefore a defence that the offender has a right to possession or occupation of the property as the Law expects such owner to follow due process of law in recovering or retaking possession.

An offender under the provisions of section 2(1) and (2) is, on conviction, liable to ten (10) years imprisonment.

Threat or Use of Violence to secure Entry into Landed Property
Section 3(1) of the Law criminalizes the use or threat of violence for the purpose of securing entry into any landed property either for oneself or for another, without lawful authority. As already noted earlier in this work, a person’s right to possession or occupation of any property shall not constitute lawful authority or a defence for the purpose of this section. As can be seen from subsection 3 thereof, the offence is committed whether or not the violence is directed against the person or against the property provided the violence is intended to secure entry for the purpose of acquiring possession of the property or for any other purpose. Section 3(4) creates two categories of punishments – thus, while section 3(4)(a) provides for ten (10) years imprisonment for an offence of forceful entry, section 3(4)(b) provides for four (4) years imprisonment for any person who (i) makes forceful entry with fire arms, offensive weapons, or any obnoxious or chemical materials (ii) is in company of any person so armed or (iii) wounds or uses violence on any person. It follows that the cumulative punishment for an offence under section 3(1) is 14 years depending on whether such offender makes use of fire arms, offensive weapons, or chemicals as provided under the sub-section.

It has been argued that the provisions of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law is not applicable to tenancy relationship[10], perhaps (though not so expressly stated), in view of the provisions of section 44 of Tenancy Law of Lagos State, 2011 which prohibits forceful ejection and re-possession and further provides for a punishment of a fine not exceeding Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira (N250,000:00) or a maximum of six (6) months imprisonment for an offender.

My view on this is different as there is nothing in the Anti-Land Grabbing Law that precludes its application to landlord/tenant relationship. A landlord or a lessor who threatens or uses violence or force or self-help to eject a tenant or lessee from his property can be held criminally liable under section 3 of the Law. Of course, the facts of each case will determine whether to charge under the Anti-Land Grabbing Law or under the Tenancy Law. To further drive home the point, the afore-quoted definition of “agent” under section 1 of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law is wide enough to include the agent of a landlord. In fact, the words “lease” and “license” were both mentioned in that definition and tenancy includes lease. Similarly, section 47 of the Tenancy Law defines “tenancy” as “holding of interest in land or property by a tenant under a tenancy agreement” and goes further to define tenancy agreement as “an agreement whether written or oral, express or implied between a landlord and a tenant regarding possession of premises and use of common areas and includes leases and sub-leases.”

Therefore, it can be argued that the provisions of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law on use of force, self-help or violence to retake possession complement the Tenancy Law provision and the prosecutor will readily resort to the former given the more severe punishment provided therein as against the 6 months imprisonment or paltry fine of 250,000,000 provided in the latter.

Illegal occupation of Landed Property (Encroachment)
Section 4 criminalizes any encroachment on peoples’ properties and provides for fine not exceeding N5 million or 5 year imprisonment or both, against any such encroachment. A condition precedent for the activation of the offence is a demand by the owner or his agent that the encroacher leaves the property and it is only when the encroacher fails to leave after such demand that an offence is committed. Okanga in his afore-referenced article has queried the absence of timeline within which the encroacher shall vacate the property after being asked to leave and opined that there exists a vacuum in this regard. In my view, the demand period should be reasonable depending on the circumstances of each case. For instance, if the property is developed, the timeline will be longer to enable the encroacher remove his belongings from the property. Another lacuna in the Law is the failure to provide for the form the demand will take – will an oral demand suffice? It is safer to put the demand in writing as it will be easier to prove a written demand coupled with the fact that such written demand will ordinarily state the timeline within which the encroacher shall vacate the property.

Section 4(2) seems to have expanded the definition of “landed property” by providing that “a reference to property includes reference to an access to the property, whether or not such access itself constitutes property within the meaning of this Law”. Incidentally, the Law only defines “landed property” and not “property”. In the writer’s view, such extended definition is not necessary given that the right of way is often appurtenant to proprietary right and the extent of such right is a question of fact. The section also goes further to provide that any person who enters into occupation of any property by virtue of any title derived from an encroacher or license or right given by an encroacher shall himself be treated as an encroacher.

Encroachment with Weapon
Section 7 addresses encroachment with firearms or dangerous/offensive weapons and provides for punishable of ten (10) years imprisonment. What constitutes “firearms” or “dangerous/offensive weapons” will be left to the court to decide, relying on external aids, as the Law provides no guide.

Use of Agent for Forceful Take-over of Landed Property
Section 5 complements the provisions of section 3 on the use of force by prohibiting the placing of land agent on any land or landed property for the purpose of forceful takeover of the said land. On the surface, it will appear that no punishment is provided for the offence created under section 5 of the Law. Were this to be the case, it would mean that no person can be convicted for the said offence based on the legal principle to the effect  that no person shall be convicted of a criminal offence unless that offence is defined and the penalty is prescribed in a written law. This principle which is in section 36(12) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) was applied in the case of Aoko v. Fabgemi (1961) 1 All NLR 400. However, a closer look at Section 3(4)(a) will reveal that the punishment provided therein will cover the offence created under section 5 of the Law. Section 3(4)(a) of the Law provides that “any person who commits the offence of forceful entry under the provisions of this Law” shall on conviction be liable to ten (10) years imprisonment. What follows is that the offence of forceful takeover by whatever means is punishable under section 3(4)(a) of the Law. Similarly, where the offender is armed or is in company of a person who is armed, section 3(4) (b) will apply as well. Thus, section 3(4) is a one-size-fits all punishment provisions for the offence of forceful entry under the Law.

Illegal Use of Law Enforcement Agent/Vigilante Group to enforce Judgment
Another offence-creating provision that is silent on punishment-provision is section 6 of the Law which prohibits the illegal use of law enforcement agent, vigilante group, ethnic, cultural/traditional militia to execute the Judgment of a Court under. The reason for omitting the punishment provision by the lawmakers is not clear; neither is it clear what consequence will flow if someone commits the offence under the said provision. It is submitted that there is no legal consequence for committing the offence under section 6 of the Law in view of the express provision of section 36(12) of the Constitution. However, flowing from the preceding analysis in respect of section 5 of the Law, and given that illegal use of Law Enforcement Agent or Vigilante Group will sometimes (but not always) entail the use of force, it can be argued that an offence under Section may be punishable under section 3(4) of the Law provided that the illegal use of law enforcement agent or vigilante group involves “force” in a bid to enforce the Judgment and take over the landed property. Other than this arguable, limited and possible application of section 3(4) to the offence created under section 6 of the Law, it is doubtful if any punishment will be imposed on any person found liable for illegal use of law enforcement agent or vigilante group to enforce Judgment.

Sale of Property without Authority
Section 8 of the Law provides three categories of offences in relation to sale of landed property. First, under section 8(1)(a) of the Law, any person who “offers for sale” any property knowing that he has no lawful title to the property or the authority to offer for sale is criminally liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000.00 or six months imprisonment or both. All that is required to ground this offence is to “offer for sale” and it is not a defense that the actual sale was not consummated. Knowledge plays a very important role under this category as the person selling or offering for sale must know that he has no lawful title at the material time. It is submitted that where the seller establishes that he has a bonafide claim or honest belief that the land belongs to him, such claim or belief is capable of vitiating the requisite mens rea necessary to ground conviction provided there is evidence to support such claim.

The second category of offence is provided under section 8(1)(b) & (c) of the Law which is targeted at the actual sale. Thus, a person who “sells” a property knowing that he has no lawful title to the property or that the property has been previously sold by him or his privies or without the lawful authority of the owner sells a property entrusted to him is criminally liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 100% of the value of the property or to imprisonment for five years or both and the property shall revert to the lawful owner. By providing that “the property shall revert to the lawful owner”, the Law seems not to have taken into consideration, a situation where it will be impossible to so do, such as where an innocent purchaser without knowledge of the defect in title has made substantial improvement on the property. Even in our civil jurisprudence, a court will not order specific performance of a contract for sale of land where a third party had acquired the subject matter of the contract. Specific performance will, in such circumstances, be defeated by the concept of impossibility of performance.[11] Thus, section 8(1)(b)(c) did not consider the impossibility of reverting the property to the lawful owner in such circumstance as noted above and to further demonstrate the injustice that will arise from strict application of the subsection, no remedy is provided for the innocent third party who may have invested heavily in improving such property. The purchaser no doubt has his remedy in civil court against the seller who sold to him without lawful authority.
The third category of offence under section 8 which incidentally carries the heaviest punishment under the Law is at section 8(2)& (3). Under these subsections, it is an offence (i) to sell or cause to be sold, a family land or property without the consent of the family head and other accredited family members (ii) to sell Government land or property without the consent of the authority of the State, (iii) to sell or offer for sale any land that has been previously sold without a Court Judgment repudiating the initial sale. Any person or persons convicted for any of the offences under this category shall be liable to twenty-one (21) years imprisonment. Again, as noted by Okanga, the subsequent seller of the property must be aware of the previous sale at the time he was attempting to make the subsequent sale as it would be absurd for the law to sanction a vendor who genuinely sells his own property. I agree with this view as it further supports my earlier position that a bonafide claim of right can vitiate the requisite mental element required to ground conviction under the section. Even though knowledge of previous sale is not specifically mentioned in this category 3 offence, the severity of punishment is such that the prosecutor will be required to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the seller knew or ought to know that the land has been previously sold.

Professional Misconduct
Section 9 targets professionals such as lawyers and estate agents who engage in professional misconducts in respect of land transactions. The professional misconducts prohibited under section 9(1) and (2) of the Law are: (1) facilitating contractual agreement between land owning family and any other party in contravention of the Law or any other law; and (2) execution of Court Judgment without following due process as provided in the Sheriff and Civil Processes Act or any other law. Going by the provision of section 9(3), contravention of the provisions of section 9(1) by a professional constitutes an offence of aiding and abetting the commission of such offence. This is a laudable provision as it will curtail professional malfeasances often seen in land transactions. Clearly, the offence created under section 9(1) is aiding and abetting. Thus, a professional who facilitates contractual agreement between parties knowing that such contract will contravene any provision of the Law or any other Law is liable to face the punishment provided for that offence. Illustration will aid a better understanding if this provision. If Mr A who is a lawyer facilitate or prepares an Agreement for a sale of land by Mr B to Mr C, and such sale is contrary to say section 8 of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law, Mr A commits the offence of aiding and abetting the offence created under section 8 thereof and will be liable for the punishment provided under the said section 8 of the Law. The above illustration is not exhaustive of possible scenario where a professional can be found criminally liable for aiding and abetting under the Law or any other law. However, there is a lacuna in section 9(3) in view of the fact that the offence of aiding and abetting is only restricted to facilitating contractual agreement under section 9(1) without more. It does not extend to the offence of executing Judgment without following due process under section 9(2) of the Law. Thus, it remains to be seen what offence, a professional will be charged with if he is suspected of aiding and abetting illegal use of law enforcement agent or vigilante group to enforce Court Judgment under section 6, as there is no specific punishment for the offence created under the said section 6 as already noted above. It is suggested that the Law be amended to address these obvious shortfalls.

Section 9(4) of the Law provides that any professional found guilty “under the provisions of the Law” shall be reported to the relevant professional body for misconduct and necessary action. A holistic consideration of the provisions of section 9 will reveal that the only offence created under the said section is the offence of “aiding and abetting”.

False and Frivolous Petitions
In other to minimize incidents of false and frivolous petitions, section 10 specifically prohibits writing of frivolous and unwarranted petitions to any Law Enforcement Agency knowing the content to be false. The Section further makes it a statutory requirement for a petitioner to accompany with his petition a sworn declaration in form of Affidavit. Surprisingly, no punishment is provided for the offence of writing false and frivolous petition under the section. However, the only consolation in the midst of this legislative lapse is that such a petition writer will be exposed to perjury[12] since the petition as a matter of law must be accompanied by a sworn affidavit. Thus, the fear of perjury alone is enough deterrent to false and frivolous petitions.

Illegal Demand for Fees
Another laudable provision in the Law is section 11 which addresses the recurrent issue of illegal demand for fees and all sorts of levies by the “Omonile”. It prohibits any person from demanding either personally or through an agent any fee or levy in respect of construction activities on any property or from disrupting construction work. There is however, a proviso in section 11 to the effect that the section shall not prohibit land owning families under the authorization of family head to demand customary fee for possession from buyers or ratification fees pursuant to Court Judgment. What qualifies as customary fee for possession or ratification fees is left to conjecture as no clue or definition of these vague terms are provided under the Law. It is submitted that a lot of illegal demands and extortions can still be made under the guise of “customary fee for possession” as all that is required is to have the support of family head to legitimize such extortion. The only good news is that a person who has paid such customary fee to the family head cannot be subjected to subsequent demands or extortions by the Omonile as often seen in most parts of the State especially where a construction work is about to be commenced. It is advisable that the person making the payment insists on having a receipt to serve as a proof of such payment in the event of subsequent demand by any other group under whatever guise.

An offender under section 11 is liable to a fine not exceeding N1 million or two years imprisonment or both.

Other provisions
The Law establishes a Task Force under section 12 without specifically providing for its duties except the general power to enforce the Law. It is also not clear whether the Task Force can sue or be sued. It is submitted that even in the absence of such express provision, the Task Force can be sued for any act done under the Law in view of its power under section 13 to arrest offenders. The power of arrest under the Law can also be exercised by any other Law Enforcement Agency or Unit in the State.

Section 14 provides that Special Offences Court or any other Court shall have jurisdiction to try offenders under this Law. Lastly, section 15 is the citation and commencement section.

Conclusion
In the preceding paragraphs, I have critically considered the provisions of the Law and the target menace of land grabbing, which manifests in many forms such as forceful takeover and possession of landed properties, encroachment, illegal sale and resale of land, illegal use of Law Enforcement Agents and Vigilante Groups to enforce Judgments, misconducts by professionals in land transactions, writing of frivolous and false petitions, unlawful demands by Omonile, touting, amongst other ills which have become the nightmare of stakeholders involved in land transactions. Like in most legislations, few lacunae have also been identified, particularly the failure to provide punishments for some of the offences created in the Law, which failure, as earlier noted, has the effect of hampering the effective implementation of the Law, particularly the affected provisions. Notwithstanding the few identified lapses, the Law is nonetheless laudable and will go a long way in curbing land grabbing in the State. I have also made reference to some provisions of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011 which I believe will complement the provisions of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law, in checkmating the incidents of land grabbing in the State. To achieve this and more, there is a need for the necessary will power and mechanism to ensure proper implementation and enforcement of the law as the objectives of the Law can only be achieved when its provisions are implemented to the letter and without fear or favour. It is hoped that this think piece will guide the lawmakers in possible future amendment as well as provide the needed insight for other States that might want to enact a similar legislation.

[1] Lagos is reportedly the 5th largest economy in Africa.
[2] For more on the Ease of doing business, see this writer on “Suspension of FRCN Codes of Corporate Governance: Lessons Learnt”,https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/suspension-frcn-codes-corporate-governance-lessons-learnt-nwafuru - published 12 December 2016,  the article discussed in some details, Nigeria’s current position in World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report..
[3] See for instance, sections 52 and 53 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011 which respectively provide for the offences of forcible entry into land in actual and peaceable possession of another and illegal possession of land without a claim of right in a manner likely to cause a breach of the peace. The offences under sections 52 and 53 are punishable with 2 years imprisonment. Similarly, section 56 of the Criminal Law also prohibits threat to break or damage a residential house and offenders risk one year imprisonment or 3 years imprisonment if the offence is committed in the night. See also the offences of concealment of register of title and deed of assignment evidencing title to land at sections 286 and 288 of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2011 respectively.
[4] Section 324 of the Criminal Law of Lagos, 2011 which specifically targets the activities of Land speculators and professional misconduct of real estate lawyers provides as follows “Any person who, being a seller or mortgagor of any property or being the solicitor of agent of any such seller or mortgagor, with intent to induce the purchaser or mortgagee to accept the title offered or produced to him, and with intent to defraud – (1) conceals from the purchaser or mortgagee any instrument to the title, or any encumbrance; or (2) falsifies any false pedigree on which the title depends or may depend; or (3) makes any false statement as to the title offered or conceals any fact material to it, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.”
[5] The principle is quic quid plantatur solo solo cedit – meaning whatever is affixed to the land becomes in contemplation of law as part of it. What this implies is that once a party is adjudged to be the rightful owner of the land in dispute, such land together with what is on it automatically becomes his.
[6] In Akeredolu v. Akinremi (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt.10) 787, the Supreme Court held that computation of months or years is done in days.
[7] See Okanga Okanga “Understanding the Lagos State Properties Protection Law, 2016”https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/understanding-lagos-state-properties-protection-law-2016-okanga - accessed on 07 January 2017.
[8]Ibid
[9] Ibid
[10] Ibid
[11]Oshafunmi & Anor v. Adepoju & Anor(2014) LPELR-23073(CA)
[12] Perjury carries the punishment of 7 years imprisonment under the Criminal Law of Lagos, 2011. Writing of frivolous petition may also give rise to any of the offences under sections 94 – 96 of the Criminal Law, 2011 which relate to making false accusation and false statements.


Prince Ikechukwu Nwafuru
Associate at Paul Usoro & Co

Ed's Note - This article was fist published here

Photo Credit - www.akinwunmiambode.com 
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