Building experts have expressed concerns about the increasing level of land grabbing in the country.
They accused the government of paying lip service towards tackling the menace in the country.
The Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Lagos Chapter, Gbenga Ismail, told Sunday PUNCH that though the law had no provision for ‘Omo Onile,’ (land grabbers’ louts) they had continued to harass legitimate land buyers in Lagos and many South-West states.
He also stressed that the government of the South-West states had continued to encourage the activities of the land grabbers because of the subtle political loyalties that government enjoy from them.
Making reference to the 2016 Lagos State Property Protection Law, and the establishment of the state task force against land grabbing cases, he lamented that the laws did not yield commensurate results that would curb such acts in the state.
Speaking further, he said, “You know that the government has been very rascally with their definitions of certain things and these ‘Omo Oniles’ have operated under that guise, by using politics to hide under the umbrella of authority and that itself is an indictment on any government.
“Whenever you see that land grabbing is a phenomenon, it is the failure of the government. Any government in that area should be indicted. Land grabbing should not be promoted in any sane environment.
“Lagos State passed a law that they used to set up a land-grabbing task force, but even that is not effective because you go to a panel (arbitration) and you see a political crowd gathering in the same place, and then you see the land grabbers at the helms of the same panel. How do you want to win such a case? The government is pretending that we can’t see the people.
“So, there is a law Lagos State has passed but I think it is just pretence because nobody has been prosecuted for land grabbing.”
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“Even the people who have Certificates of Occupancy are threatened and their lands were taken from them. So, it is not the slow process of acquiring C of O, it is the competence of the government to effectively endorse a legitimate transaction.”
Similarly, a former President of the Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria, Mr. Moses Ogunleye, blamed the states of the federation for not engaging, consulting, and compensating some communities before acquiring their lands.
He said, “It is unfortunate, there are instances where ‘Omo Onile’ would say the government didn’t acquire our land appropriately, in order words, the government has the right to acquire. It is in the Land Use Act.
“He can acquire in the public interest, but there are instances where the government didn’t acquire appropriately.
“For instance, the government will acquire, and people will not be paid compensation. The government will acquire and people will not be properly consulted.
“You are supposed to consult them to say, ‘we are acquiring this portion and we know you are on it. There is a provision for compensation.’ So, there is a flaw in the acquisition process. Government tends to run roughshod (on the people) to acquire any land.
“The law says the governor can acquire but then you must also engage, consult them, and pay them what the law says with regards to compensation. Although the compensation is not worth its salt, the government will say they can’t pay you the exact value. ‘If we do that, it means we are buying the land from you.’”
Ogunleye advised that the Land Use Act should be revisited to correct misconceptions about property acquisition.
He also stressed that the land management agencies across the country needed to create ease of acquiring Certificates of Occupancy, and enable justice on land issues within a reasonable timeframe.
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