For years, successive governments had paid lip service to developing the Lagos University (LASU), Ojo to facilitate the institution’s expansion. Unfortunately most of the land that could have been used for this purpose had been encroached on illegally which had hindered its development. The institution is currently in talk with the illegal occupants with the aim of getting them to regularize their possession. Funmi Ogundare, who has been following the development reports

In the sleepy community of Igboelerin, Alhaja Risikat Adeboye sat in her small shop forlorn and looking dejected having lost her husband to the cold hands of death just a few weeks ago. As a seamstress with four sewing machines and no one to assist her in her work at her Adekoya Street, Igboelerin, Iba Local Government Area where she resides, a place where economic activity is at its lowest ebb, she is doomed.

With four extra mouths to feed in her family, and wondering how she would cope with the demise of her husband, her fate and that of other property owners at Igboelerin, Great Challenge, Ojo Local Government Area, Jubril Community Development Area, Iba LCDA, Surulere, Isokan, Akinwale and other suburbs in the area, hang in the balance.

They have been tagged illegal occupants by the Lagos State government and management of its institution, Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, as they cannot boast of or lay claim to having a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) to the property they occupy and have been served notices on the need for them to regularize their properties.

Adeboye confirmed to THISDAY that when she moved to Igboelerin with her husband in 2000, they bought the land and built a house she and her children now occupy for N80,00 from ‘omo oniles’ from Okoko and also paid the same amount to another set of omo oniles from her Igboelerin community, without a certificate of Occupancy (C of O), adding that after paying the amount, they were charged varying amounts when they started building the house from foundation to the roofing stage.

Her neighbour, Mrs. Taibat Idris Bello, who has been living in Igboelerin since 1995 disclosed that she never knew that the property belongs to LASU until the visit of the institution’s familiarisation team which has been saddled with the task of educating the community on regularising their stay on LASU land earlier this year.

She also confirmed to THISDAY that she paid N80,000 each to omo oniles from Okoko and Igboelerin to acquire the land on which she also built a house, and was given just a receipt.

A source who preferred anonymity said there was no government approval for the land which the owners of properties in these areas occupy; neither can they boast of a certificate of occupancy nor land survey documents.

“The land was acquired from the Aworis, Ibas and Okoko community, what the illegal occupants have is family receipt,” he said.

Investigation by THISDAY reveals that the level of encroachment at the Ojo Campus of LASU is approximately 75 per cent, a situation that is hindering the development of the 35-year-old institution conceived as a multi-campus, collegiate and non-residential university which caters for a population of over 35,000 students and offers courses leading to the award of diploma and degrees at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

In December 14, 2017, the institution’s management, in collaboration with the Lagos State Ministry of Education held a stakeholders’ sensitisation meeting on the regularisation plan of LASU land encroachment. The meeting, held at the institution, had in attendance some members of community development associations, key stakeholders in the community, management team of LASU including the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Olanrewaju Fagbohun, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, Special Assistant to the Governor on Media, Mr. Obafela Bank-Olemoh, some members of the Nigerian police force, among others.

Fagbohun, who expressed concern about the level of encroachment on the institution’s property said, “one of the critical things that has affected the university is the kind of problems we have had in the area of expansion and those are the issues we have been grappling with. The regularization is to allow for some form of opportunity for the Lagos State government to turn the institution into that, that will be respected.

“We want to take decisions that will take effect on everybody involved. We must engage with everybody in relation to LASU’s land that has been encroached upon. We hope that at the end of this exercise, all of us will key into this vision.”

Bank-Olemoh also corroborated the VC’s remarks, saying that the encroachment has restricted further expansion and development of new programmes in the university and impeded the goal of being a first class university of the founders’ dream.

“Generally, over 80 per cent of LASU land measuring over 700 hectares had been acquired by settlers illegally leaving an estimated 160 hectares for LASU’s development which is grossly inadequate. That will be very difficult for the university to achieve what it wants to achieve. The goal the governor has given us for this university is to be among the top five in this country by 2020 and for us to do that, it is very critical to engage in issues of LASU land.

“It is something we are committed to do. By the grace of God, we have started this process and we are going to complete it. It is critical that this regularisation process is done properly within a time frame, we are totally committed to the process.”

He said the decision of the government to have them regularise their property was informed by its resolve to follow the path of peace with the community members, while appealing to them to cooperate with the state government to make the regularisation exercise realizable and the entire process seamless.

To become a bona-fide LASU tenant, Bank-Olemoh said an illegal occupant is expected to log in to llrp.lasu.edu.ng and enter their VBI number and passcode wherein they are expected to upload and update all personal information, as well as pay the registration fee of N100,000.

“Fees can be paid online or in the alternative, one can print an invoice from the portal with a view to paying directly at the bank. It is important to stress that this registration fee of N100,000 will be deducted from the final registration fees upon the completion of the regularisation process. Again, under no circumstance should the fees be paid in cash to anybody.”

The special adviser said the regularisation exercise will be open between now and April 30, 2018, adding that failure to complete the exercise before the April 30 deadline will attract 25 per cent increase in the fees in the first instance covering between May 1 and June 30, 2018, while a 50 per cent increase in the regularisation fees will be visited on defaulters covering the final penalty phase of July 1 and September 30.

“Any property that is not registered or regularised by the September 30, 2018 deadline will be repossessed by the state government,” he said, adding that upon the regularisation exercise, annual land use charges and rental fees would be payable to the government and LASU respectively.

Asked why it took so long for the state government to realise that people have encroached on LASU land, he confirmed to THISDAY that, “the encroachment has been an ongoing problem. Government is a continuum, and each government takes on the assets and liabilities of the previous administration. The important thing is that we are now engaging the issue decisively, and taking into consideration all relevant stakeholders.”

On what will happen if the owners of such properties cannot pay or are not ready to pay the required fees aside the registration fee online, Bank-Olemoh said, “there is a law that governs property ownership in Lagos. We are bound as government to fully implement the law. What we are trying to do here is to give government a human face; to be as fair as possible and give people a chance to come within the boundaries of the law.”

Asked why a state government would allow the omo oniles to either sell/lease out a property belonging to LASU to people without a certificate of occupancy, he said “the mandate we have from the governor is to make this process as least disruptive as possible. People have obtained property outside of the legal route and the government is working to rectify the situation. This process is to empower the people there and give them economic liberation.”

The Director, Centre for Planning Studies, who is in charge of LASU land encroachment, Professor Ayo Omotayo disclosed that about 14,400 property have currently encroached on LASU land, adding that his team had to distribute leaflets to the illegal tenants and paste stickers on the houses to educate them on how they can regularise their possessions.

“At the last meeting, we told them that if they don’t comply, LASU will repossess its property. Hopefully, people should cooperate, they have been there illegally for as long as 25 years and we are only saying they should regularise their possession. We refused to grant them approval simply because it is for LASU, none of them can produce a certificate of occupancy, it is a gazetted land.”

THISDAY investigation revealed that the government has been meeting with the institution’s management where it was decided that another stakeholders’ meeting will be held and the amount to be paid by the illegal tenants would be decided, as Professor Omotayo confirmed that the government wants to give the exercise a human face.

The efforts of the familiarization team to educate members of the community on the need for the illegal tenants to regularize their stay on LASU land, didn’t however go down well with the Baale Elerin of Igboelerin, HRH Taofeeq Toriola Aina as he issued a death threat to the team and even this reporter when she visited him in his palace to ask him about him about his views on the issue.

He denied knowledge of any stakeholders meeting, saying that the vice-chancellor should be careful of his moves not to offend the members of the community.

“The VC should go and ask his predecessors what happened to them,” he said, adding that the LASU management should have informed the baales of various communities before embarking on pasting the stickers on their possession.