Lagos community accuses state agency, firms of intimidation, land grabbing

ffddd a resident tied down by security operatives

For many residents of Roseville Estate in Ogombo, Sangotedo, Lagos State, three emotions accurately describe what has engulfed their state of mind – anxiety, frustration and despondency.

Undoubtedly, Sangotedo, which is where the Eti-Osa Local Government Area ends, is known for its serenity, notable landmarks, fast-growing businesses and residential estates with beautiful architectural masterpieces.

However, several landowners in this plush estate are plunged into a metaphorical limbo and uncertain about the eventual fate of their property due to the invasion of the area by land grabbers known popularly as omo onile.

gathered that older residents of the estate purchased plots of land in the area between 2003 and 2011. The lands, some of which are yet to be developed, are owned by retired government workers, security operatives and working-class citizens.

It was gathered that Ogombo land is controlled by seven ruling families recognised by the state government. Those who intend to purchase a piece of land usually go through any of these families, who in turn issue them the Deed of Assignment, and with it, they can obtain the governor’s consent to the land.

A Deed of Assignment is simply a contract or an agreement between the seller of a piece of land and the buyer showing details and evidence that all title, rights, and interest of ownership of the land has been transferred to the buyer.

It was, however, learnt that on December 7, 2014, representatives of the state government came to the community, claiming that houses there were built on government acquisition land meant for specific use in the near future.

Consequently, some plots were taken over by the government – a move which some of those affected contested in the court of law.

The residents argued that they purchased the land not from the government but from its original owners the Bakare family.

Some of the estate residents, who spoke to our correspondent explained that they secured the governor’s consent – an integral part of a land transaction – which refutes the claim of the government’s acquisition of the land.

gathered that the tussle over the land began sometime in 2014 and there was a cessation, only for it to start again in 2018, after the death of Mrs Hannah Bakare, the matriarch to one of the ruling families.

Another trouble reared its head in 2022 when security operatives allegedly deployed by the Lagos State Building Control Agency and the Lagos State Special Task Force on Land Grabbers, and some firms stormed the community and harassed several residents.

In September this year, it was learnt that state task force officials came through a back road leading into the estate and violently pulled down all the fences in the estate, reiterating that the land belonged to the government.

It was learnt that in the same month, residents woke up to markings made by LASBCA on a number of houses, indicating that they would be demolished for lacking building approval permits.

However, when the agency with the state task force and policemen arrived at the community in October to carry out the exercise, they were firmly resisted by residents and house owners.

A prominent member of the community, who gave his name only as Mr Tochukwu, due to security reasons, told that the had first come to them in 2018, informing them that the land was sold after their father’s death.

“The first time the state government came to claim this land in 2014, they demolished the building on my land. I took the case to court and later on, secured the governor’s consent, which indicated that my land was within the Ogombo Global Certificate of Occupancy, which is registered at the Lands Registry Office in Alausa, Ikeja.

“I purchased the land from Mama Hannah Bakare who was in charge of all the Idowu Bakare’s property at the time. But in 2018, when Mama Bakare died, the Bakare children, which included Ambali, Sahaffideen, Tajudeen, and Afolabi, came here to tell us that the land had been sold by their late father.

“By then, I had gotten most of my papers. The family sued us at the Epe High Court describing us as unknown people encroaching on their land. I reported the family to the Lagos State Special Task Force on Land Grabbers, which was then led by Mr Owolabi Arole. For about two years now, the family has not been coming to court again but they have been using other methods to try and hijack the land from us,” Tochukwu stated.

The resident claimed that the court mandated that all activities on the land should stop, a move which he said deterred some people, who had bought plots of land from completing their construction.

Narrating what transpired last year, another resident of the estate, Mr Timothy Omilani, accused state agencies of colluding with some firms to deploy security operatives to harass residents.

He explained, “It started in April last year when a company came here, saying the land belonged to them and started to mark our buildings for demolition. We started to see different signposts erected in the community warning people to stay off the land. The state agencies and the firms would come here with policemen and military men to intimidate us.

“A number of us here are retirees and older citizens who sweated to build at the evening of our lives and we went through the right process. But we are in constant anxiety over the land tussle. Some residents have developed hypertension and one of us here, Mr Lanre, had to be hospitalised for a week when his house was marked for demolition.

“These men returned in September last year to demolish all the fences in the community and for the next 10 days, policemen were coming here to harass us, blocking us from entering the estate. One day, the policemen apprehended a member of our community and tied him up on the ground.”

Omilani claimed that a civil engineering firm, Multipurpose Infrastructural Development Construction, informed them that in conjunction with the state and federal government, they would take over the land and build low-cost housing on it.

“This is not the state government’s land. That is why we took this case to the state House of Assembly. There, they asked MIDC to bring the title deed given to them that secures this place as a government project, but since then, they have not shown up at the House,” he added.

Another resident who also spoke to , Sam Adeniji, said when the House Committee on Human Rights and Public Petitions summoned the residents, the original land owners and the agencies, the Bakare family admitted that their father did not sell the land to anyone.

“The family said they don’t know the people harassing us and contrary to what one of them had made up, they didn’t sell the land. The committee then called for the removal of police presence from the community, and said nobody should come here to disturb anybody until their investigation has been completed and report filed.”

Findings by our correspondent showed that within a period of three years, there has been a rise in cases of land tussles in the Eti-Osa LGA, involving monarchs, political elites, ruling families and alleged land grabbers, most of which have been settled in and out of courts.

On October 6, during a press briefing held at the old LASBCA office, the General Manager of the agency, Gbolahan Oki, threatened to embark on a demolition spree in the Ogombo community.

He said, “This issue has been going on around Ogombo, in the Eti-Osa area of the state in the last five years, and I have been on it for one and a half year. Hence, we are doing the needful by removing the illegal structures because the government must perform their duty. About 80-90 per cent are shanties and between five to 10 structures at Ogombo are without building plan approval.

“We have been in the Ogombo, Eti-Osa area of the state for over five – 10 years. The land is owned by the state government and meant for housing. The land grabbers keep going there to disturb the government officials, sell the lands, and continue to build on those lands meant for the state government. Some even come with fake Certificates of Occupancy.”

A resident of the Roseville estate, Tade Ogunniran, would later reveal that, “They brought two caterpillars here with more than 100 policemen and they said they would demolish houses without approval and permits, saying that this place is a shanty.

“Their intention was to clear all the buildings from the back, but our monarch and lawmaker representing Eti-Osa Constituency 1 at the House stopped them. We want Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to intervene in this matter. We know he means well for us, but we don’t like how some people are using the name of the state government to cause us pain.”

Also speaking with our correspondent, another resident, Mr Wale Kupoluyi, lamented that he was yet to be given the building approval permit by LASBCA, despite meeting all the requirements.

“I applied for my building permit in 2018, the state government came here to conduct an integrity test on my house, and every assessment was done. They gave me a tax of N1.2 million to pay and I had run out of cash at that time.

“But last month, when I learned they wanted to demolish our houses, I obtained a loan from the bank and paid it and up till now, LASBCA has not given me my building permit and they said the permit is usually issued within 10 days. What else do they want me to do?

“I also have a governor’s consent and it was stated there that the government has nothing to do with this land. If this land belonged to the government, would they have issued me the consent? No! Before you are given this consent, you will be issued a survey plan. In it, you will have a Deed of Assignment given by the Ogombo community, which is signed by this current monarch.

“I have been living here for seven years and nobody has come to disturb me, even the provided some materials I needed while building, so how can it now become a government’s land overnight,” he asked.

Commenting on the processes involved, a real estate consultant, Ademola Olabanji, stated, “If you are getting a land in Lagos State, you will conduct a land survey and then obtain a document known as Deed of Assignment. It is an agreement where an assignor assigns his or her ownership in land to an assignee.

“It contains the names of both parties, the history of the land in question and other details. This deed is drafted by a lawyer or surveyor. So if there is a dispute over a piece of land, it will show in the deed of assignment. The party laying claim to the land will show the deed of assignment and who signed it.”

Contacted, the Head of Public Affairs at LASBCA, Mr Segun Olaoye, said the agency never embarked on intimidation of residents or illegal activity in the Ogombo community.

“We conduct structural integrity tests on buildings and we issue a permit after it has been concluded. We test the building materials and certify them through laboratory agencies to be sure that structures are constructed according to the Lagos State building codes.

“For the resident who said he has not been given the permit, what he should do is come down to our office with all the documents that he has. He can visit any of our regional offices or headquarters.

“We don’t intimidate people in our agency, in fact, Lagos State government officials don’t intimidate people. If those demolished fences fail regional planning laws, or are built on drainage alignment, then we will have to remove them. Any structure that goes against the state planning laws or the state building codes has to be brought down,” he stated.