‘Please note that this paper is a work of the presenter and it in no way represents the view of the Lagos State Special Taskforce on Land Grabbers or states the position of the Lagos State Government’.
Through this article I intend to do a critical analysis of the Lagos State Property Protection Law 2016 which for the purpose of this paper would be referred to as the ‘PPL’. The analysis would be in various steps, an evaluation of the provisions of the law, the strengths and the shortcoming of the law would be looked at also and most importantly the effect of the law on the people of Lagos State.
The Lagos Property Protection Law was enacted in 2016 to prohibit forceful entry and illegal occupation of landed property, violent and fraudulent conducts in relation to landed property in Lagos State and for connected purposes. One can simply put that it was enacted to bring the menace of land grabbing and the nefarious acts of land grabbers to an end.
The Lagos State House of Assembly was attentive to the cries of the citizenry in that their suffering at the hands of land grabbers who sometimes pride themselves as ‘omo-onile’ had gotten out of hand. On several occasions people had paid for plots of land only to have to repurchase that same land from some other people ‘Omo-Onile’ for no just cause and when they decide to develop the said land, they would be put under undue influence and be extorted at every level ranging from foundation, decking, roofing and fencing fees and even years on, would be made to pay when renovation is to be done.
The PPL has criminalized the actions of land grabbers and such actions which were a norm in the past would result in imprisonment of perpetrators. The PPL has also created an enforcement arm which is ‘The Special Taskforce on Land Grabbers Lagos’. The task force is set up to ensure the provisions of the PPL are upheld and anyone found in breach is arrested and prosecuted accordingly.
Criminalising land grabbing is targeted at ensuring the act is totally eradicated and to ensure that people seek to follow the lawful procedures in the act of taking possession or entering into land. As mentioned earlier the law is to kick against all form of encroachment, forceful entry and illegal occupation and fraudulent conducts in regards to landed property in Lagos.
Going further, I will examine all the Sections of the PPL with the aim of understanding their intent because it is apparent that the citizenry are ill-informed as to same and as a result would be at a loss in regards to landed properties.
Section 1: This is the Interpretation section of the PPL, The section does well to elucidate some terms which have been used in the law.
Section 2, 3 & 5: This sections prohibits a forceful or violent takeover of landed property by any individual or agent. It abolishes all forms of self-help and stipulates (10) Ten year imprisonment for persons who resort to the use of same.
Section 4: This section is directed at illegal occupation of property, simply put it states that anyone in occupation of a property as an encroacher or derived title or some form of license from an encroacher and has refused to leave upon request by the owner would be guilty of an offence. It also mentions that the grace period given the encroacher to vacate the premises does not confer legitimate possession on him as he would still be seen as an encroacher.
Section 6 & 7: Section 6 states that the execution of any Court judgment must be done in accordance with the sheriff and civil process act or any other law as provides for it and not by any law enforcement agencies, vigilante groups or ethnic or traditional militia. Section 7 simply relates to the act of encroaching on a land with a firearm or any deadly weapon whatsoever. Such a person if found guilty is liable to ten (10) years imprisonment.
Section 8: This section is particular about the sale of land stating that where a person sells knowing he has no lawful authority from the owner or has but had previously sold that property or sells family land without the consent of the family head and other accredited members of the family or sells a land previously sold without a court judgment repudiating the previous sale such person if found guilty can be liable to being imprisoned for as long as five (5) to twenty-one (21) years depending on which of the above he/she is found guilty of.
Section 9 & 10: Section 9 is centered on professional misconduct stating that professionals must not facilitate a contractual agreement between parties when they know such is in violation of the provisions of the PPL and shall not be involved in the execution of a judgment without following due process. Section 10 prohibits everyone from writing frivolous petitions to any law enforcement agency and states that a petition in regards to landed property must be accompanied by a sworn declaration by the petitioner.
Section 11: This section proscribes the request of money by anyone acting for himself or acting as an agent in regards to construction activities stating that at no point must they disrupt or obstruct construction. However, this section allows for the collection of foundation levy (customary fee of possession) by the family head from buyers or to request for ratification pursuant to a judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction in regards to the particular land covered by the judgment survey plan.
Section 12, 13 & 14: This section basically talks about the establishment of the taskforce, the power vested in the taskforce to effect arrest and the jurisdiction of the taskforce.
Section 15: This is the citation and commencement section of the law.
The above is a very brief summary of the provision of the PPL and upon close examination one can deduce that it is quite encompassing as it virtually touches on various aspect or forms in which encroachment can come in, it also ultimately protects those in possession from being victimised by more powerful persons encroaching on the land.
Even though section 11 seems to be the favourite section because of the cancellation of all arbitrary request for funds by ‘Omo-Oniles’, there has been an uproar as regards the section because even though fees were proscribed, the collection of the foundation levy was permitted and there is no formular for that to be calculated so land owners have since the inception of this law tried to extort buyers by calculating all the previous fees being requested as one and tagging it foundation levy. I believe a review of this law should be done and the parliament should infuse a means of calculating the fees permitted as foundation levy and fee for ratification where necessary.
I am of the opinion that some of the punishment for offences mentioned in the PPL are not stern enough as this issue of land grabbing is a menace that has plagued Lagos state for decades and if it’s to be totally eradicated the punishments for offence must be severe so as to serve as deterrence for would be offenders and recidivists.
In summary the effect of the Lagos Property Protection Law 2016 and the Special Task Force on Land grabbers cannot be watered down as it is evident in the lives of several lagosians. Now land grabbers know better than to perform the enterprise for which they are known for because a couple of the popular ones amongst them are being prosecuted already. Also the success of this law has influenced some neighboring states to follow suit which is really progressive as this helps to stamp out the menace of land grabbing out of those states and gradually out of Nigeria.
Thank you for reading.
Wale Adefuye is a Lagos-based Lawyer