|A house under construction|
The day of reckoning is definitely drawing nearer for touts and street urchins known as OmoOnile orAgajungbale in different parts of Lagos State. The inglorious era of shameless extortion of innocent property owners by the group, which calls itself the “sons of the soil” and “children of original land owners,” is about to come to an end.
A Bill seeking to criminalise their activities is currently making headway at the Lagos State House of Assembly as it had actually scaled the second reading and report on it is being expected back in the Assembly.
Like the Lords of the Manor, the OmoOnileorganise themselves into armies of occupation, wielding dangerous weapons, as they storm their targets to demand for ‘settlement’ at almost every stage of development of a property. From the foundation stage to the lintel and through the decking stage of a building, these OmoOnilewould demand ridiculous amount of money before work could start, and in most cases, they are always ready to seize the working tools of any property owner not willing to accede to their demands.
Powerful as they have become over the years, they have succeeded in grabbing land from original buyers, selling same to others, leaving tears, blood and sorrow on their trail. Frustrating genuine investors through multiple demands of ‘settlement fees,’ many property owners have even lost their lives to the activities of these hoodlums, who, in some cases, have godfathers, to whom they make returns.
A Victim’s Experience
But BabatundeAyoolaFajimi, a Cameroon-based Nigerian entrepreneur and management consultant, did not bargain for what he experienced in the hands of these OmoOnile. Having heard so much about the atrocities being committed daily by the so-called sons of the soil and children of the original land owners, Fajimi was determined not to fall into their trap.
And way back in 2005, while serving in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, he had made a move to acquire a property in the Ogijo area of Ikorodu, a sprawling community on the outskirts of Lagos. The property located in the Onafowokan Estate, Ikorodu was bought without any problem from the real owners, the Onafowokan family.
However, trouble soon started when he made the move to develop the property. A group ofOmoOnile in the area led by one Fadeyi appeared from nowhere to start making frivolous demands from Fajimi as a condition for starting work on the property.
And for close to a decade, the touts made the family their cash cow as they successfully ‘feasted’ on the Fajimis who had to dole out good money to them each time they tried to do anything on the property. But things got to a head recently when Fajimi’s wife, Ebunoluwa, who owns and manages a school, Living Legacy Private School, on the property, tried to carry out further development projects in the school premises.
Fadeyi, who had been extorting money from the family each time development works were being carried out on the property since 2005 simply came again to allegedly demand N300,000 before the decking work could be done . Threatening to wreak havoc and cause confusion if his demands were not met, he thought the Fajimis would concede to his demands this time again. But he was wrong as his ‘preys’ are now wiser now.
Fajimi would have nothing of the threat again, having paid huge sums of money to Fadeyi, who, in fact, has no relationship whatsoever with the Onafowokan family, which sold the land to him.
Saying No to Further Demands
Moving swiftly, Fajimi was determined to end the extortion once and for all. And from his base in Cameroon, he made moves to contact some of his friends who could be of assistance. In one of the mails sent to one of his friends, copy of which was made available to THISDAY, Fajimi stated: ”There is this Omo-onile called Fadeyi … whom I didn’t buy land from his father but has been extorting money from me. He has come with his threats again. I have declined and started talking to my friends in (the) security services. I do my business in Cameroon but my wife owns a school at Ogijo/Ikorodu.
“We are decking coming Saturday and he threatens to disrupt and constitute threats to lives and property. I have written electronically to Nigeria Police and SSS … I am also trying to reach out to my other friends … so that the atrocities of illegal extortion of the guy called Fadeyi can be known to the world. You will get more details that you can verify.”
Petition to SSS, Police
Apparently determined to end the years of extortion by the so-called Omo-onile, Fajimi also sent a letter dated July 1 to the Nigeria Police and the State Security Services (SSS) in which he stated: “I am BabatundeAyoolaFajimi, Nigerian, Entrepreneur and Management Consultant resident at…Off SagamuIkorodu Road with contact telephone number …. I currently work for my client in Limbe, Cameroon ...
“My wife, Mrs. EbunoluwaFajimi…owns and manages her school, Living Legacy Private School . We are currently carrying out development projects in the school premises, and one OmoOnile named Fadeyi with telephone number … who has been extorting money from me each time we carry out development works since 2005 has come again to demand N300,000 before I can do the decking work. There is no basis for demanding this money. It is a clear case of extortion and criminality.
“ I have declined his illegal demands and he has threatened to stop the work and unleash mayhem in the school premises thereby constituting threats to my life, the lives of my family members, the lives of the teachers and pupils in the school numbering 200 innocent Nigerians.
‘’ For the records, I didn’t buy land from his fathers. I bought land from the Onafowokan Estate family in Ikorodu, a reputable family which has not, to date, to the best of my knowledge, use Omo-onilenor indulge this Fadeyi man.
“I plan to do the decking work on Saturday, July 6, 2013 and I foresee that this Fadeyi would mobilise touts and area boys to cause disturbance of public peace and lawlessness. I am a law-abiding Nigerian who goes about my business peaceful and contributing to the economic development of the country by employing over 25 other Nigerians through the School and my consultancy firm, Kairos Business Services Limited. The intent and action of this Fadeyi constitute a threat to my peaceful existence as a Nigerian and the lives of other Nigerian citizens and pupils numbering over 200.
“I am using this medium to appeal for intervention, please. I will also appreciate if I can get a contact number to further discuss the details. I intend to come to Nigeria from Douala on Thursday this week to ensure that justice is done, and this Fadeyi man is called to order by the appropriate institution of government. “
We are not Trouble Maker, Says Fadeyi
When THISDAY called Fadeyi for his reaction on all the allegations made against him, he said he was not a trouble maker. “The issue has been resolved amicably. Though they didn’t buy the land directly from us, the person who sold the land to them asked them to give us something (money).
The grandmother called to plead with us. We all have our property here too. The man (Fajimi) is not a trouble maker, but the wife is always misunderstanding us,” Fadeyi told this reporter.
But Fajimi said Fadeyi was only lying. “We have decided to stop this extortion which has been going on since 2005. I was in Ghana , Sierra Leone and now Cameroon but this man won’t stop his frivolous demands . The last time, we paid him N300,000 and now he’s threatening again to cause trouble if we don’t bulge this time around,” he said.
Police to the Rescue
But the signal had been given to Fadeyi and his group as they appeared to have realised that the game was over for them. In the face of the determination to end the years of exploitation, the OmoOniles seemed to have read the handwriting on the wall that they have lost their cash cow.
And with the Police responding promptly to the petition sent to them, THISDAY gathered that a police patrol team was permanently stationed at the project site penultimate Saturday to enable the Fajimis carry out development work on their property without hinderance.
Highly elated by the relief, Fajimi told THISDAY that the Police really did a good job by responding promptly to his call. “I’m indeed grateful to the Police and all those who responded promptly to our call. The Police came and stationed a team to keep watch over the area. “The boys may have been deterred by this as none of them showed up to disturb us as they had threatened, though some of them could be seen passing and spying at what was going,” Fajimi told this reporter.
Lagos Mulls Stiffer Law
Though Fajimi is currently savouring the joy of his ‘liberation’ from the OmoOnile, hundreds and thousands of other residents of the state are still being terrorised by these street urchins. But succour seems to be on the way as the Lagos State House of Assembly is currently working on a private member Bill that will criminalise the activities of the so-called OmoOnile in the state if passed into law. Already, progress had been made on it as the Bill had already scaled the second reading at the Assembly.
Appropriately tagged the State Properties Protection Bill 2013, the Bill, which seeks to slam a three-year jail term on anyone found guilty, makes it an offence for any person or group of persons to forcibly enter and occupy any landed property in the state.
Providing for the establishment of a special court and stipulating a fine of N300,000 or three years imprisonment for any person found guilty, the Bill, when passed into law, seeks to commit anyone found with fire arm, weapon or chemical material or in company or any person so armed to a death sentence.
The report on the Bill, which had already been committed to the Committee on Lands and Housing, as well as Judiciary, Human Rights and Public Petitions, is expected back in the Assembly any time from now.
Fashola Determined to End Menace
The state governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, had, in April, expressed the determination of his administration to tackle the menace headlong. Speaking at the second Corporate Assembly at the Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ), Lekki, Lagos, he had lamented what he described as the unwholesome activities of the group.
Disclosing that a Bill had been sent to the Lagos State House of Assembly to criminalise illegal land grabbing which has assumed a frightening dimension in Lagos, Fashola said the Bill, when eventually passed into law, would completely phase the OmoOnile out of the state.
The Bill, which is already receiving the support of most members of the State Assembly, according to the chairman, Committee on Lands and Housing, Hon. BayoOsinowo, would end the havocs being wreaked by the street urchins.
“In Lagos State, land is our major resource. It is our petrol compared to oil producing states in the country,” he said, stressing that nothing would be too much to protect its sanctity.
In his own submission, the chairman, Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Public Petition, Hon. SanaiAgunbiade, expressed the hope that the Bill would also take care of land agents, who, according to him, parade themselves and seize the opportunity to take landed property forcefully, saying “The bill would protect potential buyer(s) from OmoOnilebefore or during construction work.”