Land tussle and Omo niles are part of Lagos history. It is a constant battle between developers and those bequeathed with the ancestral inheritance. At present, Ofiran and adjoining communities are boiling. While developers cry against ‘land grabbers’, the Omo niles insist they are taking back what rightfully belongs to them. So, who own the lands? ISIOMA MADIKE, TOSIN MAKANJUOLA AND OLAMIDE SOLANA, who have been following this ugly fracas, report
One of the biggest decisions to make when buying land in Lagos State is who to buy from. Dealing with Omo ‘niles are not usually easy; it could be a bit risky. Though not every Omo ‘niles’ property deals go bad.
However, prospective land buyers could be treading on a thin line, especially if the Omo ‘nile sell ing the land is not the true owner. This may be the reason why the peaceful environment of Igando Orudu communities was disrupted recently. According to one account, those who unleashed terror on residents and landlords are hoodlums, who the people described as land grabbers. This account has however, been rubbished as the Omo ‘niles insist the lands are their ancestral heritage as they bent on taking back what rightfully belongs to them. The tussle, which saw the gladiators moving from one site to another is fast gaining unwanted momentum and gradually but steadily getting out of control. Foot soldiers are said to have been recruited from all over South-Western communities.
They, according to sources, came in from Ibadan, Ondo, Ilaje, and Ekiti. Those alleged to have become notorious faces in the fracas, the sources add ed, were believed to be constantly assembled in a camp provided by their patrons and usually close to the disputed lands. Some of the affected communities are Ofiran, Alakun, Aiyeteju, Onipanu, Elepete, and Gbarada. These communities occupy a sizable portion of Ibeju-Lekki Local Government Area, home to Lekki Free Trade Zone and Epe with over 30 Community Development Areas (CDAs). The attraction is high, making dealers, house owners, builders and artisans to flock the area in their hundreds for business and daily breads. This makes the region the most sought after by property investors. Its rapid development is due mainly to the proposed multimillion dollars projects; the Dangote Refinery, $450 million Lekki International Airport and the 4th Mainland Bridge. Chairman, Ofiran Community Development Association (CDA), Comrade Agogo James, said: “For about six months now, they (land grabbers) have been coming to our community to wreak havoc. They don’t come empty handed but with charms, machetes, and sometimes with guns.
They usually come in groups of three, sometimes 10 and could be up to 30 on motorcycles in some instances. “It’s easy to spot them because they drive recklessly without consideration for other road users.
Whenever they come children and adults will run for their lives. School proprietors will have to be on standby to guide their wards to safety while parents rush to schools to pick their children out of fear. We live in constant fear here; fear of the unknown. We need government’s attention and help.” To show their grievances, people in Ofiran community held peaceful protests at different times. “At one time, the women in the community led the protest and the acting chairman of the local government, Jelil Odofin, said he would call the land grabbers for peace. But as I am talking to you now, we have not seen his intervention in any way.
“On June 12, we held another peaceful rally in our community to make government know what we are going through. We learnt that the governor was supposed to visit us then but for the crisis in Ajah at the time. We had written petitions to Area J and Elemoro Police stations, in Ibeju-Lekki, before that. “The following day, scores of land grabbers forcefully entered the community and while they were trying to pack workers’ tools, a woman challenged them, and she was beaten up. This led to a free for all as the women defended themselves and threw bottles at them. In the process many women sustained serious injuries and one of them got injured too. This has been our lot for some time now. “Four days after, on June 17, I was invited to Elemoro Police Station, seven others, including a woman were taken away about 2am from their respective homes. I personally spent 15 days in custody while others spent an average of 10 days before our bails were facilitated by the community,” James said.
He added that the land grabbers were open to negotiations with landlords, who were ready to meet their usually huge demands. Some landlords, he further said, resorted to negotiate with them to keep their property. “Out of fear, some landlords went on to discuss with them and pay to complete their housing project. Such payments usually run into millions of naira. It’s like buying the land afresh and at prevalent market rate. Unfortunately, not all the landlords were willing to negotiate. For others, they could not meet such stringent condition,” he said. But, the assistant Secretary to the Orudu Royal Family, Ibrahim Adewale, has put a lie to all allegations by James and others living in the communities. On the contrary, Adewale said they had been the ones terrorising the communities with hoodlums. According to him, the name of the kingdom is Igando Orudu.
He said: “It has been its name from time immemorial; that is what is in the archive. It was not only the name of Orudu that was written in the archive, also Debojo, Idajo, Arapaju, Ibeju-Lekki, Onimedu of Orimedu were written in the archive too and they wrote about the villages that were under each town.
“Apart from the archive facts, it was mentioned that the first settlers at Igando Orudu were from Ipemoko. According to impostors, the town bears different kind of names; they call it Igando Orudu Confederation or Oku Igando. The other names they mentioned are not in the archive. What the Igando Orudu kings met right from the inception, is how it is presently.
“They took us to court for chieftaincy issues, and we won the judgement against them, which shows that we are the rightful owners of the land. They quoted a document in some publications that the king of Onilekki was the one that did the document. “The king of Lekki is not the paramount ruler of Ibeju-Lekki kingdom. The only paramount ruler we have in Ibeju-Lekki is Oba Rafiu Salami and he is still the present ruler. He was the one that enthroned Baale Surajudeen Olukayode Bello in that position and did not dethrone him till now. The chieftaincy affairs of Lagos State and that of Lekki confirmed that Surajudeen Olukayode Bello is the proper person who should lay claims to the throne. He is the one that has authority over the lands in that town and not Chief Fatai Agbaje, Taiwo Agbaje or anyone else.
“There was a man named Bashiru Oruye who said he is the head of the 13 communities in the villages. But I can tell you for fact that Bashiru is not connected to Igando Town. Let them bring any document they claimed to have to prove their stake in the town; let them come forward to defend it. They only portray themselves as the Igando Orudu Family. If truly they are the owner of the land and bears Igando Orudu’s name, they should come forward with the document to buttress the fact that they bear Orudu.” Chief Ganiu Giwa, General Secretary to the Royal family of Igando Orudu, also confirmed to this reporter that they were, indeed, the original owners and founders of Igando Orudu in Ibeju-Lekki comprising Aiyeteju, Alakun, Ofiran, Ofiolokun and Okeya villages.
“At the beginning of this crisis, we went to the Lagos State government, which advised that the issue we are talking about is of two folds. The people we met advised that we take the one concerning chieftaincy to the ministry of chieftancy affairs in Alausa and the second one should be taken to the ministry of land and civil matters of which we wrote two separate letters to them.
Thereafter, we were advised to direct the chieftaincy issue to Ibeju-Lekki chieftaincy committee and we have been attending their meeting for over two and half years on a monthly basis. “It was confirmed that Orudu was founded by our great grandmother. Having shown them the archive, they gave us the authority to ascend the throne of Baale. The Onibeju crowned our Baale. So, we were given the authority to ascend the throne of Baaleship. “I can also confirm that we sold the land they claimed belong to them to Baba Mutairu Owoeye because the lands belongs to the Orudu Royal family. The family sold the land to him several years ago. The other family is saying that we don’t have right and we told them that we are the owners and we have been following them to Ibeju-Lekki Local Government chieftaincy meeting for many years.
“They took us to Magbon Magistrate’s Court; so, I don’t know why they are causing trouble. They burnt all our properties including cars and houses. Just of recent, Baba went to show a customer that wanted to buy land, when they got to the site, a man came and approached Baba Owoeye threatening to kill him and he was arrested by the security agent that accompanied him to the site and was taken to court.” Baale Bello also said his kingdom has enough evidence to show that the land sold to Owoeye belongs to his forefathers.
“My people collided with the Ajagungbales that came to our town in 2015 and destroy our properties including houses and cars. “Our document is here, and we have them in archives too because when we went to the Lagos State government to discuss this matter, they made us to understand that we have to go to the national archive in Ibadan, we have the document there. In the archives, it’s there that Orudu is the founder and owner of Igando and this Orudu they are talking about was the Orudu that came from Epe and they itemised the way we own the land.
“Therefore, we don’t want anybody to carry any erroneous publication against us, especially against Baba Owoeye because he is a gentle man.
Baba Owoeye will never do anything untoward to collect anybody’s land with force. Turning around to label him an Ajagungbale is most unfortunate. “We have known him from the year 2000 and we have been together since then. I am saying this on behalf of the royal family of Igando, Aiyeteju, Alakun and Ofiran. The place that was mentioned, Ofiran; our mother was the founder of that land and the owner of the land.
The descendants of those she brought to work for her are the ones causing these problems. They don’t have any stake here. So, I don’t know why they are making trouble with us.” Incidentally, the petitioners have thus far failed to follow up with their petition at the state Ministry of Justice and the Anti-Land Grabbing Task Force offices. Although he claimed that one Emma from the Admin office of the anti-land grabbers office sent him a text message on August 8, to come and collect the acknowledged copy of the petition, a source in the justice ministry alleged that since after the petition over two and half months ago, nobody has come forward to furnish the office with further information on the issue.
“It is not feasible for us to know about all land fracases in Lagos. We rely on such communities to come out, file petition and do follow up. That is the only way we can help them,” the source added. Also, the image maker of the Lagos State Special Anti-Land Grabbers Task Force, Mrs. Bukola Bakare, confirmed to one of our reporters in her Alausa office that a petition was indeed submitted on May 2, on the CDA letter head but that the phone contact on the letter was not going through when a call was put across to the petitioners. She said: “It was acknowledged by our office and a file was opened for them with number 3301. But as I speak with you, we have not heard from them.
Once they come with the required documents, and the Attorney General authorises us, we shall definitely step into the case. It is our duty to investigate and mediate between feuding parties.” Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has advised all legitimate land and property owners in the state to perfect title documents as well as other legal documents pertaining to their parcels of lands and properties. It said this would help put land grabbers at bay and ensure easy administration of justice in the event that such properties were forcefully taken.
The coordinator of the state Task Force on Land Grabbers, Owolabi Arole, gave this advice recently at his office while reviewing the activity report of the taskforce for the first and second quarter of 2019. He noted that undocumented and incomplete transactions as well as untidy property documentation made it difficult for property forcefully taken to be retrieved through legal means. He said: “A large chunk of the land grabbing cases the taskforce is working is fraught with issues of improper and incomplete documentation and such causes delay in getting justice for rightful owners of land.
These issues however have not deterred us from carrying out our mandate and getting justice for rightful owners of land from unscrupulous element that forcibly encroach and dispose them of their property.”
He explained that the taskforce had continued to vigorously carry out its mandate to reduce to a barest minimum the activities of persons or corporate entities that use force and intimidation to disposes or prevent any person or entity from acquiring legitimate interest and possession of property in Lagos State. Arole noted that the task force has since inauguration received over 1, 300 petitions bordering on land grabbing and related issues, treated and concluded 550 cases, made 35 arrest and presently working on 330 petitions. While urging citizens who are victims of land grabbers whose land has been encroached upon not to take the laws into their hands, the coordinator advised them to report such incident to the special taskforce on land grabbers who would take it up and ensure that justice was done. He warned land grabbers to desist from their illicit trade, stressing that the state government would through the task force bring the full wrath of the law on anybody caught for forcibly taking another person’s land. The activities of land grabbers were rampant but relative calm and peace prevailed following the Lagos State Government Properties Protection Law on August 15, 2016.
The 15-section law prohibits forceful entry and illegal occupation of landed properties, violent and fraudulent conducts in relation to landed properties in Lagos State and for connected purposes. The main objective of the law is to ensure that investors, businessmen, and the general populace carry on their legitimate land/property transactions without hindrance or intimidation. With the passage of the law, a Special Anti-Land Grabbers Task Force was inaugurated to help investigate, mediate and execute the law. The task force was also giving the power to arrest and prosecute those who go contrary to the law.