It is no longer business as usual for land grabbers, known as Omo oniles, in Ogun State whose activities have caused many deaths and breakdown of law and order, with the proposed 25 years jail term for anyone found guilty of involvement in the act. Sheriff Balogun writes
Following the illegal and reckless activities of land grabbers,, also known as Omo oni’le, who had been violently dispossessing people of their landed property in Ogun State, a bill was passed by the Ogun State House Assembly on Tuesday to curb the illegal act. The activities of the land grabbers are a well-known issue to land owners preparing to put up structures on their landed property in Ogun State.
The land grabbers constitute a serious menace to communities across the state, as they always emerge to fiercely extort money whenever a structure is about to be constructed by property owners. After all payment that include foundation laying, fencing and roofing of buildings, is made, the Omo oni’le comes up with an illegal demand starting from digging of boreholes, soak away pit, lintel and other menial construction works.
Efforts to comply with the illegal extortion leads to exchange of words and at times physical combat, resulting in the stoppage of work on the property until the demands are met.
But respite came for land owners with the bill proposing 25 years imprisonment or death sentence if life is involved, for anyone found guilty of placing on any land or landed property any agent for the purpose of forceful takeover. The bill, H.B. No. 03/2016, entitled, “A bill for a law to Prohibit Forcible Entry and Occupation of Landed Properties, Violent and Fraudulent Conducts in Relation To Landed Properties, Armed Robbery, Kidnapping, Cultism and Allied matters and For other Matters Incidental thereto or Connected Therewith,” was passed at the plenary presided over by Speaker, Suraju Ishola Adekunbi.
The bill equally spells out a N5 million fine or 10 years imprisonment or both for anyone found guilty of placing on any land or landed property any agent for the purpose of forceful takeover of the said land. It also provides that in case of kidnapping, abduction, violent rituals resulting in death or grievous bodily harm, forcible detention and related offence, “where the person kidnapped, restrained detained, kept, abducted or seized dies in the course, the offender shall be liable on conviction to such punishment as provided for the offence of murder under Section 319 (1) Criminal Code Law of Ogun State, 2006 or such other law for the time being in force.”
It adds that where “the person does not die in the course, the offender shall be liable on conviction to punishment for life with hard labour and without an option of fine.”
The bill says, “Any person who commits the offence of robbery shall upon trial and conviction under the law be liable to a sentence of imprisonment of a term not less than 21 years,” while that of conviction for armed robbery attracts death sentence.
Adekunbi said the bill was meant to protect the life and property of the citizens of the state. He clarified that as representatives of the people, it was imperative for the Assembly to promptly protect the sanity of human life from criminals parading themselves as land grabbers or kidnappers through relevant legislations.
According to him, a situation where hoodlums would mobilise themselves to unleash terror on communities under the guise of enforcing court judgement and forcefully take over landed property from rightful owners, engage in kidnapping or robbery could not be tolerated by the Senator Ibikunle Amosun-led government in the state.
On this note, the speaker enjoined people of the state to always exercise caution and follow due process when engaging in any transaction, including the purchase of landed property, so as to avoid being swindled by criminals.
In line with the proposed bill, the state police authorities have reiterated their commitment to move against the practice by the omo onile. The command warned that anybody caught would be made to face the full wrath of the law. It called on the police to beam the searchlight on men and officers aiding and abetting the practice.
The Nigeria Institute of Surveyors, Ogun State chapter, has also thrown its weight behind the bill, which is awaiting assent by the governor. Chairman of the chapter, Babatunde Ashaye, described the illegal activities of the land speculators as a serious menace in the state over the years, saying the bill is a welcome development which must be embraced by all responsible citizens and residents of the state.
While urging Amosun not to waste time in signing the bill into law, Ashaye said everyone wanted the law to take immediate effect by putting an end to the illegality of the criminals.
The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Ogun State branch, applauded the state House of Assembly for passing the bill to deal decisively with the long-standing affront on human rights in the state as regards the rights to ownership of landed properties and peaceful coexistence. CDHR chairman, Com. Folarin Olayinka, recalled that the CDHR in Ogun State was invited to the public hearing on the passed bill in August and several contributions were made as input to the bill, which includes: That the Chieftaincy Certificate of any King or Baale be seized by the state government if found guilty of orchestrating forceful takeover of landed property or conniving to deprive people of their landed property or influence breach of public peace, such traditional ruler be suspended for a period not less than 10 years and at the same time be subjected to due trial at a court of competent jurisdiction;
That any serving or retired civil servant from any of the ministries who has connived to unlawfully sell or allocate government lands be recalled back to pay a fine of N10 million and serve five years imprisonment and above.
Olayinka said, “The bill which is long awaited and described as the human bill by the CDHR Ogun will protect the human rights of the people, bring an end to the unimaginable communal disputes and fraudulent activities of some traditional rulers, Ajagungbales, security operatives among others in the business of defrauding people of their hard earned money under the guise of selling landed properties and unlawful arrests.
“Every stakeholder should understand well that the wrath of the law reserved for the violators shall be given maximum support by the human rights community.”
While commending the Ogun State House of Assembly for the giant stride over the bill, Olayinka said, “We are equally tempted to request an accelerated assent of the Executive Governor of Ogun State to enable it become enforceable. We must know that our human rights are protected under the law and our rights are our freedoms always.”
The passage of the bill followed the presentation of the report of the special/ joint Committees on lands and housing as well as justice, ethics and public petitions led by the deputy speaker and sponsor of the bill, Hon. Olakunle Taiwo. Thereafter, he moved a motion for its adoption, seconded by Hon. Adebiyi Adeleye, and supported by the whole house. The members later did clause –to-clause reading and adoption of the bill in the Committee of the Whole after which the Majority Leader, Hon. Adeyinka Mafe, moved the motion for the third reading, seconded by Hon Adebowale Ojuri, and supported by the whole house through a voice vote. Thereafter, the Assembly’s Acting Clerk, Mr. ‘Deji Adeyemo, did the third reading.
With the passage of the anti-land grabbing bill, all eyes are on the governor to see how expeditiously he would sign it and effectively enforce the expected law.