Omo Onile’s reign of terror in Onibuku, Baba Ode communities
Residents of Onibuku, Baba Ode, NAHCO and other neighbouring communities in Atan area, along the Sango-Idiroko expressway in Ado-Odo/Ota Local Council of Ogun State, are fleeing the area in droves following the incessant onslaught of land speculators, otherwise known as Omo onile terrorising the area.
Those staying behind, especially the landlords are living in perpetual fear, as they can no longer sleep with their two eyes closed, due to the growing intimidation of the heavily armed gangs of the indigenous speculators.
The Guardian investigation shows that the onslaught had become a recurring decimal in the area, a development that has made the locale inhabitable and unsafe for investment, business and tourism.
When the former Governor of the state, Ibikunle Amosun enacted the anti-land grabbing Act in 2016, with stiff penalties for its infringement – imprisonment for 25 years or death sentence for culprits – many thought an end had come to the heinous act of land robbery in the state, but this has turned out to be a fluke as the land grabbers have been carrying out their activities unhindered.
The law prohibits “forcible entry and occupation of landed properties, violent and fraudulent conducts in relation to landed properties, armed robbery, kidnapping, cultism and allied matters incidental thereto…” It is stipulated that death sentence applies when a life or lives are lost in such forceful take-over of land. Kidnappers also risk life sentence.
Recently, the area was turned to a theatre of war, as rival groups of land grabbers invaded the area in their large numbers, shooting, wielding weapons and terrorising the people.
Reports have it that the land speculators, who turned the face-off to a public brawl, brandished various weapons, thus causing panic among the inhabitants of the area. Though nobody died, but many were injured while trying to escape from the scene.
For three days, shops, markets and other business points were closed down, while some schools ran skeletal services for the fear of being caught in the melee.
It was also learnt that the unrest was the second incident this year. It was gathered that the land grabbers invaded the area last May, and in the process laid ambush on some policemen, injuring a good number of them with various degree of injuries.
Investigations showed that Ota in particular has been economically and developmentally stagnant for decades due to the reign of terror perpetrated by the vandals called Omo Onile.
They sell and re-sell the same land many times over to a thousand and one persons. They encroach occupied property and break down perimeter fences to make way for new and exorbitant transactions.
It was also learnt that they exact outrageous levies when a property is set to be developed. And during construction, they move in again to demand even more killer sums. They form violent gangs that disturb the peace of the community.
They maim and kill when resisted, as they have become law unto themselves, forming parallel governments where they operate.
A landlord in Baba Ode, Chief James Ekundayo told The Guardian that the activities of the touts have not only retarded the development of the area and the state at large, he said it has discouraged investors who fear they would be grounded by the land robbers.
“The potential investors are apprehensive about their personal security and safety. They fear for their families and what might happen to the enormous capital they would be pumping into their planned undertakings.”
Another resident, James Egbe, said he was appalled with the extent of the onslaught in the area. While recounting his experience during the last incident, he said: “For the period the unrest lasted, no security personnel, including the Nigerian Police Force were seen around to protect the people. Aside the financial losses incurred by the people for their inability to open their shops, residents’ lives are not secured because the land speculators might strike again, unannounced.
“We are appealing to the officials of the Nigeria Police to intervene in the crisis and prevent the mayhem from escalating further. Their quick intervention would lead to restoration of law and order in the area.
“Worshippers have also been unable to gather for services. We are calling on the police to patrol the areas for peace to return to our community. The land speculators alleged that they are enforcing a court order for control of the land.”
When The Guardian visited the palace of the Olota of Ota, Oba Adeyemi Obalanlege, he wasn’t around, but he told The Guardian on phone from UK that he heard about the incident and has called the attention of the law enforcement agents.
“Hopefully when I return, I will be able to get the full gist of the incident and I can assure you that we are always on top of it, especially as it affects the land grabbing law. If it requires that we apply the law fully, I will see that with the Commissioner of Police on my arrival.”
When the Director General, Lands & Survey, Barr. Aina Ololade Salami, who doubles as the Special Adviser Ogun State Governor was reached on how this menace could be tackled, he gave assurance that the matter was being addressed decisively.
He said: “It’s not something one can talk about in a jiffy like that. I think it’s better we structure a meeting so that we’ll be able to talk for like 10 minutes. We can chat and then I’ll tell you when to come and we can talk about what has being on ground before and what government is trying to do.”
Efforts to get the position of the Ministry of Justice also failed as the Commissioner was said to have resigned. But a reliable source in the ministry told The Guardian that the effectiveness of the law has been an issue. She said even the House of Assembly who made the law has been inactive as cases of land grabbing brought before them have been treated with disdain.
All efforts to get the position of the police were also unsuccessful, as all the calls made across to the phone of the State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Abimbola Oyeyemi, were not picked for two days.