Forcible seizure of any landed property across Oyo State or an attempt to do so, otherwise known as land grabbing, has become a criminal offence that attracts a maximum of 15 years imprisonment or a fine of N500,000 or both.
This is one of the provisions of the new Real Properties Protection Law, 2016, which the Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, signed into law, at the Executive Council Chambers, in Ibadan, on Friday.
The law is titled, “A law to protect the rights of property owners and prohibit forceful entry, illegal occupation, violent and fraudulent conducts, in relation to real properties in Oyo State and for purposes connected therewith.”
At the signing ceremony were the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Michael Adeyemo; Commissioner for Lands, Housing, Survey and Urban Development; Mr. Ajiboye Omodewu; and Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Seun Abimbola.
The law also prescribes ten years jail term or a fine of N500,000 upon conviction for illegal entry into any construction site “for the purpose of stopping, disturbing or otherwise” demand for any fee or levy in respect of construction activities.
Under the new law, any professional who in the conduct of his duties facilitates a contractual agreement between a land owning family and any other person knowing that such agreement will contravene the provisions of the new law is also liable to imprisonment for three years, a fine of N500,000 or both.
Similarly, anyone that writes whatever is deemed to be a frivolous and unwarranted petition, containing false claims, under the anti-land grabbing law is liable to imprisonment for 10 years on conviction.
Part of the law reads, “Any person who, without lawful authority, uses or threatens violence for the purpose of grabbing any real property for himself or for any other person commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment of 15 years or a fine of N500,000 or both.
“Any person who encroaches on any real property commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for 5 years or a fine not exceeding N500,000.
“Any person who is on any property as an encroacher and having with him any firearm, dangerous or offensive weapons commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for five years.
“Any person who offers for sale any property knowing that he has no lawful title to the property or authority of the owner or sells a property knowing that that he has no lawful title to the property or that the property has been previously sold by him or his privies is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for 5 years.”
At the ceremony, the governor said that the law was meant to protect the rights of property owners and to stop the nefarious activities of land merchants who willfully and violently seize people’s land.
Ajimobi said, “We want to use this opportunity to allay the fears of property owners and investors across Oyo State that it will no longer be business as usual. Where there is no law, there is no offence, but now we have a law in place.
“We will ensure the full implementation of this law. I, therefore, advise those bent on encroaching on other people’s property, most times using violence, threats or imaginary connection with the powers that be to have a rethink.
“I salute our ever-reliable members of the House of Assembly, led by the distinguished speaker, Hon. Michael Adeyemo, for the industry put into this holistic law that is meant to give property owners a new lease of life.”