Anybody that has had dealings in the real estate sector in Nigeria, particularly in the urban areas like Lagos and its environs will know the numerous dirt and risks associated with land acquisition and development. Prominent among the hazards that bewitch the process of land acquisition and ownership in Nigeria is the menace of the ‘omo onile’ (as it is popularly called) which literally means ‘sons of the landowners’; the ‘ajagungbale’ (meaning one that ‘fights war to obtain land’) who forcefully take land from one party and give it to another; the vice of encroachment on land; unlawful sale of land and the unending litigation for declaration of title to mention but a few.
These vices have been ravaging the real estate industry for years un-end especially in the big cities and commercial centers like Lagos and they have gone on for so long that it seems as if the government is oblivious to the plight of the people in relation to land purchase and property development. And these activities have discouraged investors and hindered the ease of doing business in such areas.
Lagosians can however smile and be relieved now, as Governor Akinwumi Ambode on the 15th of August, 2016, signed into law, ‘the Lagos State Properties Protection Law’ which seeks to curb most of the negativity plaguing the real estate sector. The 15-sections Law, which according to its long title is geared at prohibiting forceful entry and illegal occupation of landed properties, violent and fraudulent conducts in relation to landed properties in Lagos state and for connected purposes, is enacted to save would-be property owners and investors from being harassed and exploited by land grabbers. The main objective of the Law is to ensure that investors, businessmen, and the general populace carry on their legitimate land/property transactions without any hindrance or intimidation henceforth.
The provisions of the Law are as discussed hereunder:
Section 1 is the interpretation section. It defines some keywords and the meanings ascribed to them under the Law.
FORCEFUL LAND TAKEOVER OR ENTRY BY VIOLENCE
In times past, many land grabbers have resulted in the use of ‘ajagungbale’ in Lagos to obtain or recover land. Many have lost their lives in the process while some have been maimed for life and several more have been traumatized by having their land seized and resold without a kobo for compensation, not to mention those locked in a cycle of unending court cases over trespass to their land. This practice of use of force or self-help or engaging in any act inconsistent with the proprietary right of the owner to take over any landed property has now become prohibited by virtue of section 2 of the Lagos State Properties Protection Law. Consequently, any person or group of persons who use force from the commencement of the Law, or who has used force to take over a landed property in the State before the commencement of the Law and still remains in possession of the said property three (3) months after the commencement of the Law commits an offence punishable by ten (10) years imprisonment.
Similarly, a person who, without lawful authority, uses or threatens violence for the purpose of securing entry into any landed property for himself or for any other person commits an offence punishable on conviction to ten (10) years imprisonment and such person’s right to possession or occupation of the property shall not constitute lawful authority for the use or threat of violence by him or anyone acting on his behalf for the purpose of securing entry into that property and this shall be irrespective of whether or not the violence is directed against the person or against the property and the violence is intended to secure entry for the purpose of acquiring possession of the property or for any other purpose.
In the same vein, any person who makes forceful entry with firearms, effective weapons or any obnoxious or chemical materials or is in company of any person so armed or wounds or uses violence on any person commits an offence and is liable on conviction to four (4) years imprisonment.
The Law goes further to prohibit a person from placing or causing to be placed on any land or landed property, any land agent(s) for the purpose(s) of forcefully taking over the said land.