Recently, the Lagos State House of Assembly passed a Bill which criminalises the activities of land touts and grabbers popularly known as “Omo Onile’s” or “Ajagungbale’s”, an action which has understandably been hailed in many quarters.
The reason for this is not far-fetched. These hoodlums have been making life hell for landowners and property developers in Lagos State. They have, over the years, earned their notoriety through such criminal actions as forceful entry and illegal occupation of landed properties, violent and fraudulent extortion of property developers, selling a piece of land to two or more, different, individuals leading to clashes and litigations among the buyers, amidst other acts of land touting.
They also indulge in the sale of properties without the knowledge of the real owners. What many find baffling is the fact that they have always acted with impunity, arrogantly giving the impression that they are above the law. The reality of the menace of Omo Onile to property owners in Lagos is evident in the disputes over land as well as warning notices such as: ‘This Land (or House) Is Not For Sale, Buyers Beware’ that have become common sights in most parts of the state.
Their criminal antics have been copied by hoodlums in other parts of the country, and land touting has joined the growing list of new urban crimes in Nigeria. We believe the Bill passed by Lagos State House of Assembly is a timely response to check the excesses of these notorious Omo Onile gangs and that it will hopefully bring sanity to the property and housing sector of the state.
Among the outstanding features of the Bill are the prohibition of forceful land take over, entry by force, illegal occupation of property, use of land agents, illegal use of law enforcement agents, encroaching with weapons, sales of property without authority and professional misconducts by licensed property practitioners. Those found culpable risk between five- and 21-year jail terms.
We commend those behind the Bill, especially the Majority Leader of the House, Hon Sanai Agunbiade and the Speaker, Hon Mudashiru Obasa for the role they played in creating this law which, if properly implemented, will boost investor confidence in the property sector. We call on Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to expeditiously sign the Bill into law and follow up with faithful implementation.
If Lagos State succeeds in sanitising the land and housing sector, it is bound to have a positive ripple effect nationwide. If Lagos State is serious about upgrading the city-state to a world class metropolis, it must adopt zero tolerance towards all forms of touting and street gangsterism. The rule of law must take its proper place in the nation’s economic capital.