New Telegraph

February 26, 2024

Land Thieves: The Task Before IGP

The atrocities of land grabbers in Ogun State constitute the most serious security challenge presently confronting the state government. Despite the government’s determination to curb their excesses, these notorious land grabbers, like phoenix- es, are always able to rise from the ashes of their ruins. Nonetheless, the state government is more than ever before, determined to put a stop to their nefarious activities in the state. From experience, the police have a crucial role to play in checkmating the activities of these land grabbers.

It is important to note that the state government maintains a liberalised, non- discriminatory policy on land acquisition in Ogun State to promote investments, growth and development. Intending land owners can purchase from customary landowners and enjoy direct allocation from the government acquisition, accommodation or ratification of land purchased unknowingly from customary land owners within government acquisition for land sizes more than 5000 or less than 5000 square meters respectively.

For each parcel of land acquired, the state government issues a certificate of occupancy within a reasonable time after the payment of all relevant charges. However, the land grabbers deliberately avoid this due process and rather choose to forcefully enter and take over people’s lands, using thugs armed with guns, cut- lasses, bows and arrows, axes and charms. In the process, some landowners, family members and agents are either injured or killed. Thereafter, the land grabbers proceed to protect the illegally acquired lands with armed agents to prevent repossession by the owners while they sell them to unsuspecting members of the public.

Through this, they make huge wealth at the expense and detriment of the landowners. The land grabbers also dubiously manipulate police offices and the force hierarchy to evade arrest and prosecution. For instance, when cases emanating from their illegalities are reported to the police in Ogun State, the land grabbers cause the land owners involved to be transferred out of the state through petitions in which they make false and malicious allegations of grievous harm, murder and threatening life against them.

With the petitions and ill-gotten money at their disposal, the land grabbers take the landowners, now suspects, through a long and tortuous process of transfers of the cases from the Ogun State Command to AIG Zone 2 Lagos, through to Force CID Annex, Alagbon, Lagos, IGP monitoring, DIG Intelligence and DIG Force CID, Abuja. The Ogun State Government is more than ever before determined to put a halt to the activities of land grabbers in the state. The governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun has directed that the state’s Land Grabbers’ Law, that criminalises the nefarious activities of land grabbers, should be given full effect.

In compliance with the directive and extant law, a task force headed by a serving Assistant Commissioner of Police has been constituted to arrest, investigate and prosecute all land grabbers in the state. The Task Force is under the office of the Attorney General of the state who provides needed legal guidance. The operations of the Task Force are supervised by the Senior Special adviser on Security to the government, a retired Assistant-Inspector General of Police who is assisted by the Senior Security Consultant on Security to the State Governor, a very experienced retired Commissioner of Police who had once served in the state and is very familiar with the activities of the land grabbers.

The Task Force has made several arrests and recovered some weapons. The State Commissioner of Police, Ogun State, is equally committed to this cause with renewed enthusiasm. The State Police Command under the able leadership of CP Mustapha Alamutu has also started giving land grabbers unusual heat, resulting in the recent arrest of many of them. Some of the suspects so far arrested by both the Command and the Task Force have been arraigned while others are undergoing investigations.

However, there is the fear that the land grabbers in their usual treacherous gambit of playing the victim may soon cause some of these cases and the recovered exhibits to be transferred from the Command to higher police offices of their choice to suppress them. But the state governor has vowed that the manipulation of the police hierarchy by land grabbers to perpetrate illicit land deals in the state is now a thing of the past, especially as he is backed on this legitimate and noble cause by a very imaginative and focused Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, who is very determined to redeem the image of the force.

The IGP will be etching his name in the minds of the good people of Ogun State if he gives all the necessary support and encouragement in the renewed determination of the state governor to terminate the menaces of land grabbers in Ogun State. This is important especially as their activities constitute a discouragement to investors whom the state government is wooing to the state with the liberal policy on land acquisition among other attractions.

As an investigative journalist and one who is familiar with the atrocities of the land grabbers in the state and whose family has once been victimized by the land grabbers, I would suggest that the Inspector- General of Police should issue a directive to the AIG Zone 2, Force CID Annex, Alagbon, Lagos, Force CID and Force Intelligence Departments in Abuja not to take over land- related cases emanating from and undergoing investigations in Ogun State.

However, if it becomes necessary for the IGP office to review a case, he may deploy a team of investigators to the state to conclude the investigation and submit a report to him for final directive. With this, the poor folks who are made to suffer undeserved pains and horrors of invitations to Abuja over frivolous and malicious allegations of murder, attempted murder, armed robbery and the like, all in a bid to grab their lands will be done justice.

It is expected therefore that where there is no truth in a case reported by the land grabbers, the complainants are immediately arraigned for giving false information and the policemen found culpable for complicity sanctioned appropriately. Once the land grabbers are denied the opportunity to use the top hierarchies of the police to frustrate the land owners and cause them to surrender their lands to them, and equally face the risk of being charged with false information, they will be out of business in the state and forced to relocate.

The IGP teams that will be sent to the state to review investigations must be officers with proven integrity who cannot be compromised by the huge ill-gotten money at the disposal of the land grabbers which they use mindlessly to finance their cases. The IGP may also call for a comprehensive list of all the officers who have handled land cases in the past five years in all the aforementioned offices in Lagos and Abuja. For the sake of fairness, the IGP may call for a list of all the cases from Ogun State they have handled for review.

Similar names of complainants (land grabbers) or their proxies, titles of the headings of complaints, investigating police officers, inconclusive investigations, prolonged detentions of suspects (genuine owners of lands) unsustainable charges and arraignments amounting to malicious prosecutions, and pending non-diligent prosecutions will be discovered. It is also important to state that most of these land grabbers move about with many armed police guards which they deploy to the lands they target for grabbing.

The policemen are visible with them in their offices, on the road, and especially when they want to frighten genuine owners out of their lands including assaulting and injuring them with their armed thugs and miscreants. The IGP should withdraw the policemen from them and similarly advise the Civil Defence and military not to fill the spaces left by the police. The state government must protect the tormented landowners from the illegalities of the land grabbers which they have taken as the new normal in Ogun State, despite existing legislation banning their activities.

At least they must be told that under Governor Dapo Abiodun’s dispensation, they cannot be a law unto themselves. I do not doubt that going by his antecedents, the IGP will not permit land grabbers to continue to thrive in his state nor permit any of his officers to hobnob with them. From all indications, the days of land grabbers in the state are not numbered. lBranco sent this piece through funmibranco@aol.com

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