By Dominic AKHIGBE
MON, OCTOBER 10 2016-August 16, 2016 marked a mild stone in the history of property law in Lagos state. This is the day the Executive governor of Lagos state, His Excellency, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, ACA signed the Property Protection Bill into Law. Prior to August 2016, when The Executive Governor signed the law more appropriately described as LAW PROHIBITING FORCEFUL ENTRY AND ILLEGAL OCCUPATION OF LANDED PROPERTIES IN THE LAGOS STATE bill into Law, Land grabbing has always been a big issue in Lagos state. Property owners, mostly investors in the Real Estate subsector investors were not protected under the law. They were exposed to severe infractions and were taking advantage of a very notorious set of traditional cabal popularly called “Omo Onile”, meaning in loose terms “Children of the land” and their sponsors, or privileged individuals who used force, threats and sometimes violence to unscrupulously take possession of land or property belonging to other persons. It is common to see or hear of a crowd of young men gather at the sites of undergoing private construction demanding for unaccountable levies and fines.
To say, these unlawful actions have plagued the real estate industry in Lagos and other parts of Nigeria, is to put it mildly. Sometimes, law enforcement agencies are also powerless to aid or act in certain situations. The property divisions of the law courts are filled with claims bothering on forceful and unlawful possession of land or property and have been in court for quite some time.
Lagosians can however smile and be relieved, as Governor Ambode on the 15th of August, 2016, signed into law, the LAW PROHIBITING FORCEFUL ENTRY AND ILLEGAL OCCUPATION OF LANDED PROPERTIES IN THE LAGOS STATE. This new Law protects the proprietary rights of Land and Property owners in Lagos State and also criminalizes actions of forceful and unlawful entry or occupation of premises.
The law states in Section 2(1), that –
“As from the commencement of the law, no one shall use force or self-help to take over any landed property or engage in any act inconsistent with the proprietary right of the owner in the State.”
Furthermore, subsection 2(two) states that persons who have used force to take over the properties of others and still do so after 3 months from the date of commencement of the law commit an offence. Anyone who commits such offence is liable to ten (10) years imprisonment.
Also, anyone without lawful authority who applies threats or violence to secure entry into any landed property for personal use commits an offence. Regardless of if the entry is lawful, it does not give a right to use threats or violence and anyone who commits the offence shall be liable to 10 (ten) years imprisonment.
Furthermore, by virtue of section 3(4), anyone who uses fire arms or offensive weapons or is in any way armed or wounds anyone while committing the act of forced entry is liable to 4(four) years imprisonment.
Persons in illegal occupation of premises who also fail to leave the property commit an offence and are liable to a fine of N5,000,000 (Five Million Naira) and/or up to five (5) years imprisonment. By virtue of Section 7, any encroacher who keeps fire arms or dangerous/offensive weapons on the premises shall be liable to 10 (ten) years imprisonment.
Any encroacher who tries to sell the property knowing he has no lawful authority to do so commits a crime and is liable to a fine of N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) and/or Six (6) months imprisonment. If the person is successful in selling the property, he shall be liable to a fine not exceeding 100% the value of the property and/or 5(five) years imprisonment as provided in section 8.
Akhigbe is a consultant in Real Estate & an investment portfolio manager and a seasoned Nigerian Micro, Small & Medium Scale Business Coach. Contact:08034846284