Lagos chief, 2 others arrested for extortion

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Kazeem Ugbodaga

A Lagos chief, a 71-year old man and another alleged accomplice have been arrested for alleged extortion over a piece of land in Ojodu area of Lagos, western Nigeria.

Operatives of the Lagos State Taskforce on Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit stormed the area after a tip-off and arrested the land grabbers, notoriously known as Omo-Onile.

The Lagos chief, known as the Baale of Alagbole, Chief Kabiru Noah Akiolu, 47; a 71-year old man, Olajide Salami and a 65-year old man, Jubril Olaore where brought to the taskforce office in Alausa, Ikeja, for arraignment in court for land grabbing.

A dealer with Nigeria Bottling Company, who pleaded anonymity, had purchased a half plot of land for N4 million at Sule Abore area of Ojodu in 2007 where she intended to build an apartment.

Having paid the Omoniles N250,000, she thought her land was secure until Monday, 27 January, 2014 when she wanted to erect a flat and some thugs allegedly invaded the piece of land, beat up the labourers and carted away the building equipment over the woman’s refusal to pay them N1.4 million.

According to her, early January, she was approached by some omo-Oniles in the area and asked to pay N1.4 million before she could be allowed to commence construction, but she said refused to pay the money.

“They asked me to pay N1.4 million before I could be allowed to commence building, but I refused and pleaded with them that I don’t have money. On Monday morning, they went to the land and beat up the labourers and took the building tools away. I had to petition the taskforce which made them to arrest the omoniles,” she explained.

She added that she took a loan to purchase the land in 2007 and that she is still servicing the loan, which was why she has not been able to begin construction earlier as she had no money.

Taskforce Chairman, Bayo Sulaiman said on receiving the petition from the woman, his men moved to the land grabbers’ hideout and arrested Salami and Olaore and recovered the equipment they had previously seized from land owners for not meeting up with their demand.

He said those arrested indicted the Baale of Alagbole, Kabiru Noah Akiolu, alleging that he was the one sending them to invade people’s property for their refusal to part with huge sums of money.

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“In a bid to arrest the Baale, we invited him to come to our office to bail his men and he came. That was how we arrested him,” he stated, saying that the suspects would be arraigned in court to serve as deterrent to others.

The Baale told P.M.NEWS that the woman refused to ‘settle’ with the family who owned the land, saying that she had not paid any money to the owner of the land.

According to him, “we got judgment on the land from the court. We did not sell the land to her. It was those we got judgment against, the Kosheni family that sold the land to her. She refused to ‘settle’ with the real owner of the land and we went to the police station and she was invited. We wanted her to pay money to the real owner of the land,” he explained.

The other two suspects denied that they were land grabbers, saying they were arrested unjustly.

A bill is currently before the Lagos State House of Assembly, proposing 21 years imprisonment for anyone convicted of land grabbing. The bill stipulates that anyone who sells land to another person knowing that such a land belongs to a third party commits an offence and is liable to 21 years imprisonment upon conviction.

In the bill titled Law to Prohibit Forceful Entry and Occupation of Landed Properties, Violent and Fraudulent Conducts in Relation to Landed Properties in Lagos State, the lawmakers also proposed 10 years jail term for any owner of a landed property who uses violence to seek repossession of his property.

The proposed law, which underwent public hearing last Wednesday, stipulates that as from the commencement of the law, a person or group of persons are prohibited from using force to take over any landed property in the state.

“Any person or group of persons who, having used force to take over a landed property in the state…after the commencement of this law, commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a prison term of 21 years,” states Section 2, subsection 1 of the 17-section bill.

The law also stipulates a fine of N300, 000 or a prison term of three months for anyone who trespasses into another person’s land and refuses to leave even when the original owner of the land obtains justice.

It also bars the use of thugs, vigilantes or any other such group for the purpose of taking possession of a landed property in order to execute a court judgment.