Ambode’s anti-land grabbing law

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode

It qualifies easily as the most audacious move in the nation’s recent democratic experience. Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on August 15 signed the Properties Protection bill into Law. The anti-land grabbing law is in fulfillment of the governor’s electioneering pledge.

The law specifies a maximum of 21 years imprisonment and minimum of five years’ imprisonment for land grabbers, if convicted. By a stroke of his signature, Ambode effectively outlaws land grabbing, which has been a big menace in the commercial nerve of the nation.

It is instructive to recap what obtained before the takeoff of the Properties Protection Law. For decades, land agents and grabbers ruled with impunity in communities across the state. They ran a fearful fiefdom that placed many investors and landowners under dire strait.Whenever they appeared, communities cowered in absolute, forced subjection. They operated as vampires and blood-sucking spirits, leaving a trail of agonies and wailings in their domains.

In active connivance with armed thugs and agents, grabbers became laws unto themselves. They operated a government within an established government. Their massive machinery spread far and wide across the state, creating a vast industry of violent youths with malevolent intents.

Owning a landed property became not only a nightmare but also a painful investment option. Many landowners became slaves to grabbers and their agents. They paid over and over for the same piece of land, losing the joy that comes with ownership of such an asset. Backed sometimes by security agencies, especially the police, the grabbers were virtually untouchable.

The few daring landowners who took them to courts almost certainly lost out. The grabbers, in active connivance with judicial officials, always emerged victorious. They got many court injunctions and judicial instruments to shut-off authentic landowners.Those who succeeded in overpaying for landed properties then contended with challenges associated with property development. This is where the land agents stepped into operation. Of course, they are an offshoot of grabbers, working in tandem to fleece off land investors and owners.

At the foundation-laying stage, agents request for insidious fees, threatening to stop artisans and developers from work. Owners and developers paid as much as N1million, depending on the location within the metropolis, to scale through this stage.At the decking level, owners have to cough out much more fees designed to appease the agents, who always invade project sites with gun-wielding thugs. Of course, they always got whatever they wanted. But things got bloody sometimes.
Obstinate property owners who care enough to raise dusts always got maimed or killed. Corporate organisations, left with no choice, negotiated over and over again with the grabbers. They kept greasing their itching palms, which ate hugely into their profit margins.

That was the precarious situation with land ownership in several parts of Lagos until Ambode’s daring intervention. It started during his electioneering campaign. The then governorship candidate promised Lagosians he would flush out land-grabbers and the attendant challenges associated with the sector.

Many considered it mere rhetoric. That is how politicians make empty talks, some sneered. Others dared him to take on the powerful cabals involved in land-grabbers. The cartel, they pointed out, has powerful, well-oiled machineries among traditional rulers and even judges.Going against them, they said would be tantamount to committing political suicide. No governor in his right-thinking sense, they stated, will dare such an adventure. A few skeptical residents dismissed the promise as arrant rubbish that will never see the light of the day.

But on Monday, August 15 2016, Ambode proved critics wrong. He demystified the powerful cabals inflicting pains and agonies on Lagosians. The governor chose to align himself with the people and write his name in gold. He decided he was going to leave an indelible legacy in governance.The governor confirmed his place in the annals of history makers with the feat. It is not only a daring move but also an audacious one. With the law, Ambode has proven to be a tough-minded governor with the capacity to take on powerful in the interest of the masses.

He has also shown he is a fearless people-friendly governor with a big heart for big measures. In signing the law, he said: ‘’The Lagos State Properties Protection Law will give legal backing to the operations of our law enforcement officers. The main objective of this Law is to ensure that our investors, businessmen and the general populace carry on their legitimate land/property transactions without any hindrance or intimidation henceforth.

“The Properties Law will eliminate the activities of persons or corporate entities who use force and intimidation to dispossess or prevent any person or entity from acquiring legitimate interest and possession of property, ensure that the Special Task Force on Land-Grabbers work with all Security agencies to ensure enforcement of state government and Private property rights in the state and ensure proper coordination of the efforts of the various agencies of Government charged with enforcing the state government’s rights over land in Lagos.’’

The governor did not stop at just signing the anti-land grabbing law, he also established up a Special Task Force on land grabbers to comb vicinities prone to such nefarious activities. The Task Force is empowered to dislodge the grabbers, arrest them and prosecute them in courts of law.

These moves will not only address the challenges associated with land grabbing but also buoy the confidence of investors. Lands, which have become almost unreachable for peace-loving Lagosians, will become a safe haven of investments.The governor is on the right track going by the reactions that greeted the signing of the law. Many shocked Lagosians praised him for the daring move. They hailed him as a silent liberator of the masses.

Communities within the state have been jumping for joy, jubilating for the unexpected change in their fortunes. Many harassed, molested landowners can now heave a sigh of relief. Investors can take advantage of the law to make deserved profits from their sweats and resources.

Developers can now make genuine progress, boosting activities in the sector and pay tax happily to the government that cares so much to regulate their nemesis. Since his historic signing of the bill into law, other states have been having a second look at their books.Indigenes and residents in other states have been nudging their governors to go the Ambode’s way. There is no better way to go anyway. The Ambode’s way is the only way.The performing Lagos governor has shown the entire country the way to go.

Land grabbing should never be allowed in a decent, civilised society. Other states will do well to follow the path charted by Ambode in making lands available without much hassles for investors and developers.
• Olamiti lives in Lagos

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Akinwunmi Ambode


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