Lagos Land grabbers: Violent returns, leaves trail of blood, deaths

The menace of land grabbing is one that has eaten deep into the fabric of Lagos society for several years, yet with no end in sight.

Popularly called “omo onile” (landowners’ children), land grabbers operate with reckless abandon in Lagos State such that several residents believe that they must have the backing of some persons in authority in carrying out their nefarious activities.

More often than not, land grabbers invade building construction sites with different kinds of dangerous weapons to either extort site workers/labourers or chase them away from the site with claims that the piece of land upon which they are working belongs to someone else.

The dare-devil land grabbers are also in the business of forcefully taking over landed properties from rightful owners and reselling them to higher bidders.

In some cases, benevolent ones among the land grabbers may reallocate another piece of land in an entirely different location to the victim of their illegal act.

Activities of land grabbers in Lagos do not just end with the forceful taking over of landed properties, these weapon-bearing assailants also beat, batter, dehumanise and even kill their victims without remorse.

In recent times, the spate of violent land-grabbing activities has increased in Lagos resulting in incessant crises in some areas of the state, especially in Lekki, Ibeju Lekki, and Epe, among others.

Among these was the case of an alleged killing of a late traditional ruler of Lotu Town in the Ibeju Lekki area of Lagos State, Fatai Jubril, who was alleged to have been shot dead over a land dispute in the area on July 15, 2023.

Jubril’s widow, Ejiro, who was nursing a three-month-old baby at the time the tragedy struck, had alleged that another traditional ruler in the area killed her husband and told her that “he (Jubril) got what he deserved.”

Narrating her ordeal to reporters, Ejiro had said after the traditional ruler and the hoodlums he allegedly came with had beaten up brutalised her husband, “Suddenly, the Baale hit the butt of the gun on the ground three times and the next thing I heard was a loud bang. He shot my husband. I cried out ‘You have killed my husband’ but he simply said my husband’s eyes had seen what he was looking for and that the deed had been done.”

The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Benjamin Hundeyin, who confirmed the incident to reporters, assured that the police had launched a manhunt for the suspected killers, after which a suspect was said to have been arrested.

However, the spokesperson for the Zone 2 Command, Hauwa Idris-Adamu, later told reporters that the prime suspect had been released on bail.

Jubril’s case was just one of several cases of how land-grabbing activities in Lagos have continued to thrive unabated, causing residents untold pain and loss of their loved ones and property.

In another land-grabbing matter, a Lagos resident, Shamsudeen Oluwo, is demanding justice over an alleged assault on him by one Saheed Mosadoluwa, also known as Ibile, in the Epe area of the state.

In a video currently in circulation on social media, Oluwo alleged that he was working on his site on July 8 when Ibile stormed the location with some policemen and armed thugs while they started to shoot sporadically.

In the three-minute video, Oluwo was forced to go on his knees while he was thereafter stripped naked by the thugs. The policemen could also be seen rounding up some men in the video.

The video, which was seen by our correspondent, showed some young men being brutalised, dehumanised and stripped naked by suspected land grabbers, while officers in police uniform were seen at the scene, forcing other men to lay on top of one another in one heap, and doing nothing to stop the suspected land grabbers.

While narrating his ordeal in another video, Oluwo said, “I have a serious issue that I want Nigerians to help me on. On July 8, I was working on my site around 10. By past 10 a.m., I saw people coming to the site. I saw Mr Saheed with many policemen and cultists with guns, cutlasses, machetes and jazz.

“They started shooting sporadically. Some people ran away while bullets hit some who escaped with gunshot wounds. But because I didn’t want to be shot, I lay down there with my boys.

“They came there and beat us. They took me to the police station in Lagos. From there, they took me to Abuja where I spent two weeks. Since then, I cannot go outside to work. Now I can’t go outside to work. These Ibile boys are targeting me. They have told them to injure me.

Speaking further, Oluwo narrated how he was blindfolded alongside his boys and taken into the bush by Ibile.

He alleged, “After beating us, Ibile took us into the bush and covered our eyes. They wanted to kill us but thank God, two men heading to their farm showed up at that moment and when they the people heading towards them, Saheed Ibile asked his boys to remove the veil on our eyes so that the people would not know what was happening and they also warned them not to take the route when returning. They said people had seen them and that they could not kill us again.

“They removed my clothes, tore them and naked me and my boys; they recorded us and posted it on Facebook without doing anything to him.”

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Responding to the allegation, Mr Ibile, who spoke to reporters in a telephone conversation, expressed his regrets for “overreacting” in what he said was a case of “self-defence.”

“I owe Nigerians an apology for overreacting and stripping him (Oluwo) naked,” Ibile said, adding “but it was an act of self-defence.”

He alleged that Oluwo called him on the phone while he (Ibile) was in Saudi Arabia to tell him that he (Oluwo) had been paid the sum of N12, 000,000 to assassinate him (Ibile).

“He is a renowned hired assassin. And I will prove it. He called me on phone while I was in Saudi that somebody paid him N12, 000,000 to assassinate me, but if I could part with N100, 000,000 he was ready to let me go,” Ibile alleged.

“After that, when I came back from Saudi, he actually attempted to come and assassinate me. But I’m well-prepared. Not that I’m happy, but nobody will hear (that) somebody wants to kill him and you see the fellow that wants to assassinate you and won’t overreact at that moment,” he added.

He further alleged that Oluwo confessed in the presence of the police that he was paid N12,000,000 to assassinate him (Ibile), a claim that could not be independently verify as of the time of filing this report.

Ibile said he filed a petition to the office of the Inspector-General of Police against Oluwo on the matter which led to the arrest of Oluwo and five others who were later released. He added that Oluwo has been charged to court.

A certified true copy of a document said to be a Police Investigation Report and Legal Advice on the case, marked CR:3000/X/FHQ/ABJ/ADMIN/PPRO/VOL.273/82, but which could not be independently verified by reporters, was obtained from Ibile by our correspondent.

The document states the case as “Case of criminal conspiracy, threat to life, attempt to assassinate, forcible entry, malicious damage, land grabbing, criminal trespass, and conduct likely to cause breach of peace.”

Speaking on the viral video and the presence of some police officers at the scene, Ibile alleged that Oluwo led some hoodlums to one of his properties and started shooting sporadically. He said he was with his personal security detail comprising some mobile policemen, adding that a team of policemen also came from Abuja following his petition to the Force Headquarters.

“The team from Abuja was around. We didn’t even know because the team didn’t have a direct conversation with me. They came to arrest them (Oluwo and others) and these boys were running towards where we were, where my construction staff were working at the back of the estate.

“Luckily, we were outside and heard the sound of gunfire exchange between the operatives that came from Abuja and Oluwo and his boys.

“Somebody just called me that Esho Olobo (Oluwo) was part of those land grabbers (being chased by the police). I had to join the police myself to launch a manhunt for Esho Olobo and he was arrested,” Ibile said.

He added that five of the boys were also arrested and stripped naked by the police. He said when they came out of the bush where the arrests were made, he faced Oluwo and said he (Oluwo) should also be stripped naked.

Efforts to reach Oluwo were unsuccessful as calls to his telephone for two straight days were not answered and he had yet to reply to a text message sent to him as of press time.

Meanwhile, a group of public interest lawyers, Lawyers for Reform Group, who is demanding justice for Oluwo, raised concerns in a video over the recent activities of land grabbers in the state.

Speaking on behalf of the group, the Executive Project Director, LRG, Oladotun Hassan, narrated that a victim of attempted murder (Oluwo) was converted to a suspect by the Nigeria Police Force.

“We, the Lawyers for Reform Group, a group of public interest lawyers committed to ensuring the protection of fundamental rights and equitable justice, readily offer to rescue Mr Shamsudeen Oluwo and Mrs Igbinoba Adeyinka who are victims of an attempted murder case but rearrested and converted in a separate matter whereby Oluwo was converted as a suspect in a matter he is the actual victim alongside his coworkers who we all see as victims and on whose behalf and instruction we call on the Inspector-General of Police to match his words with immediate action for onward sanitisation and reform of the Nigeria Police Force so as to pull out all bad eggs,” Hassan said.

In a telephone conversation with The PUNCH, Hassan said he had written a petition on behalf of Oluwo and others to the IG on the matter.

He also said that the Lagos State Commissioner of Police had waded into the matter between Oluwo and Ibile, and, according to Hassan, the CP had asked all parties to look for ways to resolve the issues amicably while maintaining the status quo.

“But Ibile on his own violated that stand of agreement. It was on the heels of parties maintaining the status quo and that issues should be reported back to the CP of Lagos State that Ibile took laws into his own hands.

“He admitted on his own (social media) timeline that if not for God, Mr Oluwo would have been killed. He said Mr Oluwo was lucky to only be stripped naked,” the lawyer told our correspondent.

Hassan, commenting on the viral video, said, “On that fateful day, Ibile came with his boys and some policemen and they meted harms and attacks and wreaked havoc, shooting sporadically with people sustaining injuries.

“Oluwo and other workers on the site were beaten to stupor and stripped naked. They were all piled up and packed like sardines. They took them from that same spot, having stripped them naked, into the bush and wanted to kill them. It was just the intervention of two farmers who were passing by that saved them from being killed. And that’s what happened.”

He added that Ibile is claiming assassination threats after attempting to kill Oluwo and others, wondering, “How can someone you beat to stupor with (the aid of) over 100 thugs and policemen be the one attempting to assassinate you?”

Hassan further stated that Oluwo and others were taken to the Force Headquarters in Abuja where they spent two weeks before they were returned to Lagos “and Ibile went ahead to charge them to court,” after he (Ibile) had “taken the law into his own hands.”

Reacting to the video showing the stripping of Oluwo and others, the Force Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Police Force, ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said the Lagos State Commissioner of Police was already on the case, assuring that the Lagos Police Command would update Nigerians on the matter.

Adejobi wrote, “Lagos State CP is on this matter. We will do the needful, and justice will be seen to have been done. I am sure the Lagos State command will update us as and when due. Thanks.”

Efforts to reach the Lagos State PPRO, Hundeyin, were unsuccessful as calls to his telephone were not answered for two days and a text message sent to him had yet to be replied to as of press time.

Speaking with reporters in a telephone chat, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Mr Gboyega Akosile, said the Sanwo-Olu-led government frowns upon the issue of land-grabbing in the state and is doing everything possible to curb it.

“It is an issue that the Lagos State Government frowns upon very seriously. It is not something that the government is taking lightly considering what the menace does to society.

“We’ve had several cases of land-grabbing and, of course, the government has waded in.

“We have a department in the Ministry of Justice where land-grabbing cases are treated. And those that tend to be criminal in nature are taken up, and, of course, people have been happy because there are some people who have taken their cases through the land-grabbing department and whose cases have been resolved,” Akosile said.

He encouraged those having issues relating to land-grabbing “to come to the government,” urging them not to “resort to self-help which may turn them also into criminals when they take up arms against those suspected criminals (land grabbers). Just come to the government and the government will help you with your land-grabbing case.”

“The Ministry of Justice has a very effective and efficient unit that handles such cases,” the governor’s aide added.

“The administration of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu frowns on the issue of land-grabbing. It is something that the government does not condone and will always treat it with the measures that it deserves,” Akosile stressed.

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