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Police rescue pastor from land-grabbers

Builders at a site

Builders at a site

Their feet stomp menacingly into the building construction site kicking away all that lies in their way. “Oga yin da?” meaning where is your boss in Yoruba language rents the air from the raucous voice of the fierce militant kingpin, who is leading a felonious band armed with clubs, sticks, metal rods amongst other destructive weapons.

His voice booms all over the site and his aura like that of his gang reeks of belligerence that can bomb the entire construction site to smithereens, halting all activities. Welcome to the world of the dreaded Lagos land-grabbers, who are known in local parlance by several sobriquets like Omo Onile and Ajagungbale, and whose activities can only be curtailed by some monetary settlement or ‘peace offering’.

Every property owner has had no little worries dealing with these hysteric jobbers in the past and if the state government should be taken seriously, the menace may become rubbished to the annals of history as the Lagos State government has said it would no longer tolerate the illegal activities of land grabbers in any part of the state, warning that anyone found using such to disturb public peace and illegally disposing people of their property would be prosecuted.

Men of the Lagos State police command on Tuesday arrested an alleged land-grabber, identified as Jelili Bolaji, for allegedly attacking a pastor, who was trying to erect a church building. The Rapid Response Squad (RRS), who arrested the suspect after a distress call by the cleric, described the arrest as an “execution of the state governor’s directive on the menace of land-grabbers in the state.

Jelili has reportedly led a team of six-man gang with the aim of attacking an Apostolic Church located at No. 12, Oladeinde Street, off Oduduwa Street, Aguda, Surulere. The pastor of the church, who had about three years ago paid a group of Omo-Oniles a huge sum of money for the foundation and roofing of the church called the state emergency number, which the RRS promptly responded to.

The Pastor, Okeleye Solomon said, “Jelili Bolaji and five others entered the church and requested that they should be settled before embarking on plastering work on the church. I told them, I had no money to give them. They beat the artisans, church workers and ordered them to leave the premises immediately. Bolaji rough handled me, snatched my phone and smashed it on the floor. He called me different names and told me that I am not worth to be a pastor.”

The image-maker in charge of the state police command, Dolapo Badmos, confirmed the arrest of the suspect and added that he would be charged to court soon.

A lady architect based in Ogbomosho, Oyo State on a field assignment to inspect a client’s land on the outskirts of Ajah, Lagos, Margaret Ajayi, in her frustration, sought police help for the arrest of some land-grabbers after several harassments, but unfortunately, she was advised in her own interest to accede to their demands as the only term they understand is money.

But the story is different for another developer, Mr. Benzak Uzuegbu. He said the practice is cultural and there are three stages of extortion. “The first is at the foundation stage of the building. The next is at the decking stage, and the last is the roofing stage. Each phase demands as much as N50,000 – N100,000 depending on the developer’s negotiating ability. The only problem is that caution needs to be applied to avoid paying the wrong set of land-grabbers as this may warrant trouble from the supposed right set.”

An associate professor of the department of Estate Management at the University of Lagos, Dr. Modupe Omirin, urged government to march its words with action and advised anyone faced with such situations not to physically engage the land-grabbers. “What you should do is get details, video, and any other information you can get on them and pass them to the government.”



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