How To Recover Small Debt Claims In Lagos State | Adedunmade Onibokun

How To Recover Small Debt Claims In Lagos State | Adedunmade Onibokun

A friend once wanted to recover
the sum of N35,000 (Thirty – Five Thousand
Naira) which had been erroneously deposited into a wrong bank account. Due to
the inability to locate the account owner, my friend was informed by the bank that
only via a court order could the payment be reversed, hence leading to my
friend calling me for help. Would you believe it cost over N5,000 (Five Thousand Naira) to institute a court proceeding at the
Magistrate Court and effect service on the Defendants? Leaving my friend with N30,000 (Thirty Thousand Naira) as the
value of the sum sort to be recovered.

Sometimes, the value of the sum
sort to be recovered could be much higher, for instance N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand); N3,000,000
(Three Million Naira) or N5,000,000
(Five Million Naira). No matter the amount, a creditor will usually be required
to pay legal fees, most especially if a lawyer is instructed or one proceeds to
court as an option to recover the debt owed.  More often than not, creditors find the legal
and other fees paid to recover a debt as too high. Also, the long period of
time associated with court proceedings further discourages such creditors and
many usually choose to petition the police as an option of recovering the sum. Though
the police do not have the jurisdiction to act as debt recovery agents except
the petition also includes allegations of fraud or deceit.

This high cost of litigation
suffered by creditors especially those seeking to recover small sums, instigated
a cry for a small claims court with a mandate to address the issues of high
cost of litigating small claims and abridge also time of litigation. Thankfully,
the Lagos State Judiciary has established such a court with the introduction of
by Hon. Mr. Justice Opeyemi O. Oke, Chief
Judge of Lagos State on 24th April, 2018. The objective of the small claims procedure is to provide
easy access to an informal, inexpensive and speedy resolution of simple debt
recovery disputes in the Magistrates’ Courts.

The Small Claims Practice
Direction is novel in that it provides in Article 12 (2) that the entire period
of proceedings from filing till judgment shall not exceed sixty (60) days) and
for matters to come under this provisions it must have the following elements
as stated in Article 2 –  

(a)     The Claimant or one of the Claimants resides
or carries on business in   Lagos State;

(b)     The
Defendant or one of the Defendants resides or carries on business in Lagos

(c)      The cause of action arose wholly or in part in Lagos State.

(d)     The claim is for a liquidated monetary
demand in a sum not exceeding N5,000,000
(Five Million Naira), excluding interest and costs.

(e)     The Claimant has served on the Defendant, a

The Practice Direction also recognizes
in Article 10 that Parties may represent themselves at the proceedings in the
Small Claims Court. Partnerships and Registered Companies can be represented by
either a Partner, Company Secretary or any other Principal Officer of the
Partnership or Company.

This is good news for
businesses and persons in Lagos seeking to recover sums below N5, 000, 000 (Five Million Naira) at the Magistrate
Court as it reduces the cost of litigation and abridges the time spent in
court. To institute a proceeding for debt recovery according to the Small
Claims Practice Direction, one may a fill the Small Claims Complaint Form and
file same at the Magistrate Court. For further information on how to take
advantage of the new practice direction in recovering your debt, you may
consult a lawyer or visit the Registry of the Magistrate Court.

Adedunmade Onibokun

Principal Partner

 Photo Credit – 


Critiquing the Provisions of the Lagos Anti-Land Grabbing Law – Prince Ikechukwu Nwafuru

Critiquing the Provisions of the Lagos Anti-Land Grabbing Law – Prince Ikechukwu Nwafuru

This article aims to
critique  the Lagos State Properties Protection Law, 2016 (“Anti-Land
Grabbing Law
” or “the Law”) for the purpose of  appraising the
likely efficacy of the legislation in tackling the menace of land grabbing and
identifying any potential shortfalls  that might hamper the effective implementation
of the Law and the actualization of the goals set for the Law.

Before going into the meat
of the piece, it is pertinent to state the importance of investor-friendly
business environment which has been identified as a sine qua non for
economic growth and development in any country. Therefore, it behooves every
government to improve its business operating environment and ease of doing
business in order to attract both local and foreign investors. The strategic
position occupied by the State of Lagos[1], Nigeria’s largest business and commercial city,
accounts for its choice as a relevant study location for business practices,
processes and regulations such as urban planning laws, land registry laws,
environmental laws, state laws, and local government taxes in the World Bank
Ease of Doing Business Survey which incidentally makes use as part of its key
indicators, acquisition and registering of properties. Unfortunately Nigeria as
a country has continued to be relegated to the bottom of the table in the World
Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report[2] due to factors which include those discussed in
this work.

In a bid to address the
challenges affecting the business operating environment, particularly those
relating to the acquisition and ownership of landed properties, the Lagos State
Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode prior to the 2015 Governorship Election, made it one
of his campaign promises, the creation of more investor-friendly business
environment by improving the ease of doing business in the State. One of the
ways he proposed to actualize this was by flushing out land-grabbers and
outlawing their nefarious activities in the State. That promise, which could
have passed as “election campaign rhetoric”, was however, recently fulfilled
with the signing into law on 15 August 2016 of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law by
the Governor.
The menace of land
grabbing itself has always been with us as a country but the problem seems to
be more pronounced in Lagos as a result of its afore-noted strategic economic
position and the crucial need for land in the aquatic State. Land has often being
jocularly referred to as the “oil” of Lagos. Notwithstanding, the perennial
problem of land grabbing, the political will to legislate against it only
manifested with the enactment of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law of 2016. To be fair
to the previous administrations in Lagos, the Anti-Land Grabbing Law, contrary
to the widely held belief, is not the first legislative attempt to deal with
the issue of land grabbing. The Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011 has
several provisions that are geared towards addressing some of the challenges
faced in land transactions and ownership such as forcible entry to land,
fraudulent alteration of title documents at the Land Registry[3] and other nefarious activities by land grabbers[4]. The 2016 Law, however, may well be described as the
most specific and most decisive so far.

Provisions of LPPL
The Anti-Land Grabbing Law
is by all means a short legislation. Therefore, a section by section
consideration of the provisions will be done in this work, in no particular
order, in order to aid proper understanding of the Law. In terms of structure,
the Law contains 15 sections with some of the sections having sub-sections
except sections 1, 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14 and 15. The language of the Law is
simple devoid of the antiquated diction often seen in most of our legislations
particularly those inherited from our colonial past. The dictional deviation is
commendable and reflects the modern approach to legislative drafting.

Section 1 of the Law is
the interpretation section and has six defined terms, viz: “agent”,
access”, “construction activities”, “encroachment” “landed
” and “State”. For reasons that will be shown later, three
of these definitions will be considered in this work and they are reproduced as

Agent” is defined
to mean “a person who acts or purports to act on behalf of any party to a real
property transaction, whether in respect of a sale, lease, license, mortgage or
other dealings or disposal of, or relating to the property including any person
engaged for the purpose of forceful takeover of a landed property”

means entry into another’s property without right or permission; trespass,
violation, intrusion and usurpation:”

Landed property
on the other hand means “a property, a parcel of land, an improvement on land,
a building, any land ancillary to a building, a site comprising of any
building(s) with any land ancillary to it”

One common trend with the
definitions is the use of the word “means” which suggests an intention to
restrict the meaning of the defined terms as against the word “include” which
when employed in interpretation section suggests a wider meaning. For instance,
the definition of “constructive activities” in the Law preceded with the word
“include” and this could also explain the draftsman’s intention to enlarge the
meaning of “constructive activities”.

As can be gleaned from the
afore-referenced definition of “agent”, it extends to a person engaged
for the purpose of forceful takeover of a landed property. The question is, can
an “agent” charged with any offence under the Law invoke as a defence,
the principle of agent of a disclosed principal? It is submitted that such
defence will not avail the agent as this principle only applies in civil cases.
Similarly, the concept of vicarious liability has no place in our criminal
jurisprudence, as the offender whether he acted as an agent or otherwise will
be personally liable for the crime committed either alone or together with the
principal depending on what the proof of evidence discloses. However, where the
facts and available evidence disclose the offence of conspiracy or aiding and abetting,
the conspirators whether acting as the agent or principal will be jointly
liable. The likelihood of charging together the offender and the principal is
very high given the definition of “agent” which as noted above extends to “any
person engaged for the purpose of forceful takeover of a landed property
It is therefore very unlikely that the agent will be charged alone in such
scenario discussed above.

Another point worth
mentioning under this sub-head is the inconsistency in the use of the terms “land”,
“property” and “landed property” which refer to the same thing i.e. interest in
land. As one would observe, they are used interchangeably in the Law. One would
have expected consistency in the use of those terms to avoid confusion.
Nonetheless, the definition of landed property is wide enough to guide the
Court and in any case, land in law, includes anything affixed to land and
improvements thereon.[5]
Substantive Provisions
Sections 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,
8, 9, 10 and 11 of the law create various offences. Some of the
offence-creating sections however, do not provide for punishments for the
respective offences created therein and the effect of this legislative lapse
will be considered later in this work.

Forceful Take-over
of Landed Property
Section 2(1) prohibits the
use of force or self-help to take over any landed property or to engage in any
act inconsistent with the proprietary right of the owner. The use of the
disjunctive “or” means that the offence under subsection 1 of section 2 can be
committed in two alternative ways, viz: (1) “use of force or
self-help to take over any landed property” or (2) “use of force or self-help
to engage in any act inconsistent with the proprietary right of the owner”. The
Law does not define “self-help” or “force” and recourse will be made to an
external aid in construing these words. It is safe to assume that self-help
includes using any measure not prescribed or permitted by the law to take over
any landed property, often referred to in local parlance as taking the law into
one’s own hand.

A property owner can be
found criminally liable under the first limb of the subsection if he employs
force or self-help to eject a trespasser on his property. As can be deduced
from the letters of the Law, a property owner is required to follow due process
in ejecting a trespasser or enforcing his right in any property and it is not a
defence to the offence under section 2(1) of the Law that the property belongs
to the offender. It remains to be seen whether the defence of bona fide claim
of right under section 23 of the Criminal Law of Lagos will avail a property
owner caught by this subsection.

Section 2(2) gives a
three-month window period to any person or persons who use force to take over
any landed property before the commencement of the Law, to vacate the property.
Failure to vacate the property and remaining in possession of the said property
three months after the commencement of the law will expose the defaulter to an
offence under the sub-section. By calculation, three months after the
commencement date of 15 August 2016 (i.e. the day the Governor gave his assent)
would have lapsed on or about 14 November 2016.[6] It has been argued that the provision of section
2(2) appears to convey a retroactive effect given that the actus reus of
the offence, which is the “use of force to take over a landed property”
predates the Law.[7] However, this impression can be doused since the
law does not seek to punish the offender for what has been done in the past but
makes the continuous infraction of “remaining or being in unlawful possession
of another’s property”, the sole physical element of the offence. It was
further argued that the way to make the provision of section 2(2) clearer is to
delete the seemingly retroactive aspect from the text of the subsection and
make the act of “remaining or being in unlawful possession of another property”
the sole element of the offence.[8]
I cannot agree more with
the above view except to add that even in the absence of such suggested
amendment, the provision as it is, is still capable of curbing the mischief
which it sets out to cure. It will be preposterous for an offender who has been
in unlawful possession of another’s property after the expiration of the three
months grace period to be heard arguing that he entered into possession prior
to the commencement of the Law. Thus, aside the civil remedy available to the
property owner which can be defeated by laches and acquiescence if not enforced
within a reasonable time, a liberal interpretation of this provision will
clearly reveal the legislative intention which is to forestall an act of being
in unlawful possession of another’s property. The emphasis, as noted by Okanga[9], should be on “remaining in possession” which by its
nature and in my view is a positive act. Viewed differently, remaining in
possession in such circumstance could also amount to encroachment and the
offender can be charged under section 4 of the Law for being an encroacher
provided there is a prior demand for him to leave the property and it is of no
moment that he entered into possession prior to the commencement of the
Anti-Land Grabbing Law.

What is not clear under
section 2(2) is whether a property owner who uses force to retake possession of
his own property and so remains in possession three months thereafter can be
criminally liable. One would have expected the draftsman to include in section
2(2), a similar provision as found in section 3(2) of the Law to the effect
that a person’s right to possession or occupation of a property shall not
constitute lawful authority for the use of force to retake any property. In my
view, a property owner can be found criminally liable under section 2(2) as
there is nothing in the Law to suggest otherwise. The mischief that is sought
to be prevented under section 2 generally is the use of force to take over any
property, whether by the owner, or owner’s agent or by a trespasser. It is not
therefore a defence that the offender has a right to possession or occupation
of the property as the Law expects such owner to follow due process of law in
recovering or retaking possession.

An offender under the
provisions of section 2(1) and (2) is, on conviction, liable to ten (10) years

Threat or Use of
Violence to secure Entry into Landed Property
Section 3(1) of the Law
criminalizes the use or threat of violence for the purpose of securing entry
into any landed property either for oneself or for another, without lawful
authority. As already noted earlier in this work, a person’s right to possession
or occupation of any property shall not constitute lawful authority or a
defence for the purpose of this section. As can be seen from subsection 3
thereof, the offence is committed whether or not the violence is directed
against the person or against the property provided the violence is intended to
secure entry for the purpose of acquiring possession of the property or for any
other purpose. Section 3(4) creates two categories of punishments – thus, while
section 3(4)(a) provides for ten (10) years imprisonment for an offence of
forceful entry, section 3(4)(b) provides for four (4) years imprisonment for
any person who (i) makes forceful entry with fire arms, offensive weapons, or
any obnoxious or chemical materials (ii) is in company of any person so armed
or (iii) wounds or uses violence on any person. It follows that the cumulative
punishment for an offence under section 3(1) is 14 years depending on whether
such offender makes use of fire arms, offensive weapons, or chemicals as
provided under the sub-section.

It has been argued that
the provisions of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law is not applicable to tenancy
relationship[10], perhaps (though not so expressly stated), in view of
the provisions of section 44 of Tenancy Law of Lagos State, 2011 which
prohibits forceful ejection and re-possession and further provides for a
punishment of a fine not exceeding Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira
(N250,000:00) or a maximum of six (6) months imprisonment for an offender.

My view on this is
different as there is nothing in the Anti-Land Grabbing Law that precludes its
application to landlord/tenant relationship. A landlord or a lessor who
threatens or uses violence or force or self-help to eject a tenant or lessee
from his property can be held criminally liable under section 3 of the Law. Of
course, the facts of each case will determine whether to charge under the
Anti-Land Grabbing Law or under the Tenancy Law. To further drive home the
point, the afore-quoted definition of “agent” under section 1 of the Anti-Land
Grabbing Law is wide enough to include the agent of a landlord. In fact, the
words “lease” and “license” were both mentioned in that definition and tenancy
includes lease. Similarly, section 47 of the Tenancy Law defines “tenancy” as
“holding of interest in land or property by a tenant under a tenancy agreement”
and goes further to define tenancy agreement as “an agreement whether written
or oral, express or implied between a landlord and a tenant regarding possession
of premises and use of common areas and includes leases and

Therefore, it can be
argued that the provisions of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law on use of force,
self-help or violence to retake possession complement the Tenancy Law provision
and the prosecutor will readily resort to the former given the more severe
punishment provided therein as against the 6 months imprisonment or paltry fine
of 250,000,000 provided in the latter.

Illegal occupation
of Landed Property (Encroachment)
Section 4 criminalizes any
encroachment on peoples’ properties and provides for fine not exceeding N5
million or 5 year imprisonment or both, against any such encroachment. A
condition precedent for the activation of the offence is a demand by the owner
or his agent that the encroacher leaves the property and it is only when the
encroacher fails to leave after such demand that an offence is committed.
Okanga in his afore-referenced article has queried the absence of timeline
within which the encroacher shall vacate the property after being asked to
leave and opined that there exists a vacuum in this regard. In my view, the
demand period should be reasonable depending on the circumstances of each case.
For instance, if the property is developed, the timeline will be longer to
enable the encroacher remove his belongings from the property. Another lacuna
in the Law is the failure to provide for the form the demand will take – will
an oral demand suffice? It is safer to put the demand in writing as it will be
easier to prove a written demand coupled with the fact that such written demand
will ordinarily state the timeline within which the encroacher shall vacate the

Section 4(2) seems to have
expanded the definition of “landed property” by providing that “a reference to
property includes reference to an access to the property, whether or not such
access itself constitutes property within the meaning of this Law”.
Incidentally, the Law only defines “landed property” and not “property”. In the
writer’s view, such extended definition is not necessary given that the right
of way is often appurtenant to proprietary right and the extent of such right
is a question of fact. The section also goes further to provide that any
person who enters into occupation of any property by virtue of any title
derived from an encroacher or license or right given by an encroacher shall
himself be treated as an encroacher.

Encroachment with
Section 7 addresses
encroachment with firearms or dangerous/offensive weapons and provides for punishable
of ten (10) years imprisonment. What constitutes “firearms” or
“dangerous/offensive weapons” will be left to the court to decide, relying on
external aids, as the Law provides no guide.

Use of Agent for
Forceful Take-over of Landed Property
Section 5 complements the
provisions of section 3 on the use of force by prohibiting the placing of land
agent on any land or landed property for the purpose of forceful takeover of
the said land. On the surface, it will appear that no punishment is provided
for the offence created under section 5 of the Law. Were this to be the case,
it would mean that no person can be convicted for the said offence based on the
legal principle to the effect  that no person shall be convicted of a
criminal offence unless that offence is defined and the penalty is prescribed
in a written law. This principle which is in section 36(12) of the Constitution
of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) was applied in the case
of Aoko v. Fabgemi (1961) 1 All NLR 400. However, a closer
look at Section 3(4)(a) will reveal that the punishment provided therein will
cover the offence created under section 5 of the Law. Section 3(4)(a) of the
Law provides that “any person who commits the offence of forceful entry under
the provisions of this Law” shall on conviction be liable to
ten (10) years imprisonment. What follows is that the offence of forceful
takeover by whatever means is punishable under section 3(4)(a) of the Law.
Similarly, where the offender is armed or is in company of a person who is
armed, section 3(4) (b) will apply as well. Thus, section 3(4) is a
one-size-fits all punishment provisions for the offence of forceful entry under
the Law.

Illegal Use of Law
Enforcement Agent/Vigilante Group to enforce Judgment
Another offence-creating
provision that is silent on punishment-provision is section 6 of the Law which
prohibits the illegal use of law enforcement agent, vigilante group, ethnic,
cultural/traditional militia to execute the Judgment of a Court under. The
reason for omitting the punishment provision by the lawmakers is not clear;
neither is it clear what consequence will flow if someone commits the offence
under the said provision. It is submitted that there is no legal consequence
for committing the offence under section 6 of the Law in view of the express
provision of section 36(12) of the Constitution. However, flowing from the
preceding analysis in respect of section 5 of the Law, and given that illegal
use of Law Enforcement Agent or Vigilante Group will sometimes (but not always)
entail the use of force, it can be argued that an offence under Section may be
punishable under section 3(4) of the Law provided that the illegal use of law
enforcement agent or vigilante group involves “force” in a bid to enforce the
Judgment and take over the landed property. Other than this arguable, limited
and possible application of section 3(4) to the offence created under section 6
of the Law, it is doubtful if any punishment will be imposed on any person
found liable for illegal use of law enforcement agent or vigilante group to
enforce Judgment.

Sale of Property
without Authority
Section 8 of the Law
provides three categories of offences in relation to sale of landed property.
First, under section 8(1)(a) of the Law, any person who “offers for sale” any
property knowing that he has no lawful title to the property or the authority
to offer for sale is criminally liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000.00
or six months imprisonment or both. All that is required to ground this offence
is to “offer for sale” and it is not a defense that the actual sale was not
consummated. Knowledge plays a very important role under this category as the
person selling or offering for sale must know that he has no lawful title at
the material time. It is submitted that where the seller establishes that he
has a bonafide claim or honest belief that the land belongs to him, such claim
or belief is capable of vitiating the requisite mens rea necessary
to ground conviction provided there is evidence to support such claim.

The second category of
offence is provided under section 8(1)(b) & (c) of the Law which is
targeted at the actual sale. Thus, a person who “sells” a property knowing that
he has no lawful title to the property or that the property has been previously
sold by him or his privies or without the lawful authority of the owner sells a
property entrusted to him is criminally liable on conviction to a fine not
exceeding 100% of the value of the property or to imprisonment for five years
or both and the property shall revert to the lawful owner. By providing that
“the property shall revert to the lawful owner”, the Law seems not to have
taken into consideration, a situation where it will be impossible to so do,
such as where an innocent purchaser without knowledge of the defect in title
has made substantial improvement on the property. Even in our civil
jurisprudence, a court will not order specific performance of a contract for
sale of land where a third party had acquired the subject matter of the contract.
Specific performance will, in such circumstances, be defeated by the concept of
impossibility of performance.[11] Thus, section 8(1)(b)(c) did not consider the
impossibility of reverting the property to the lawful owner in such
circumstance as noted above and to further demonstrate the injustice that will
arise from strict application of the subsection, no remedy is provided for the
innocent third party who may have invested heavily in improving such property.
The purchaser no doubt has his remedy in civil court against the seller who
sold to him without lawful authority.
The third category of
offence under section 8 which incidentally carries the heaviest punishment
under the Law is at section 8(2)& (3). Under these subsections, it is an
offence (i) to sell or cause to be sold, a family land or property without the
consent of the family head and other accredited family members (ii) to sell
Government land or property without the consent of the authority of the State,
(iii) to sell or offer for sale any land that has been previously sold without
a Court Judgment repudiating the initial sale. Any person or persons convicted
for any of the offences under this category shall be liable to twenty-one (21)
years imprisonment. Again, as noted by Okanga, the subsequent seller of the
property must be aware of the previous sale at the time he was attempting to
make the subsequent sale as it would be absurd for the law to sanction a vendor
who genuinely sells his own property. I agree with this view as it further supports
my earlier position that a bonafide claim of right can vitiate the requisite
mental element required to ground conviction under the section. Even though
knowledge of previous sale is not specifically mentioned in this category 3
offence, the severity of punishment is such that the prosecutor will be
required to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the seller knew or ought to know
that the land has been previously sold.

Section 9 targets
professionals such as lawyers and estate agents who engage in professional
misconducts in respect of land transactions. The professional misconducts
prohibited under section 9(1) and (2) of the Law are: (1) facilitating
contractual agreement between land owning family and any other party in contravention
of the Law or any other law; and (2) execution of Court Judgment without
following due process as provided in the Sheriff and Civil Processes Act or any
other law. Going by the provision of section 9(3), contravention of the
provisions of section 9(1) by a professional
constitutes an offence of aiding and abetting the commission of such offence.
This is a laudable provision as it will curtail professional malfeasances often
seen in land transactions. Clearly, the offence created under section 9(1) is
aiding and abetting. Thus, a professional who facilitates contractual agreement
between parties knowing that such contract will contravene any provision of the
Law or any other Law is liable to face the punishment provided for that
offence. Illustration will aid a better understanding if this provision. If Mr
A who is a lawyer facilitate or prepares an Agreement for a sale of land by Mr
B to Mr C, and such sale is contrary to say section 8 of the Anti-Land Grabbing
Law, Mr A commits the offence of aiding and abetting the offence created under
section 8 thereof and will be liable for the punishment provided under the said
section 8 of the Law. The above illustration is not exhaustive of possible
scenario where a professional can be found criminally liable for aiding and
abetting under the Law or any other law. However, there is a lacuna in section
9(3) in view of the fact that the offence of aiding and abetting is only
restricted to facilitating contractual agreement under section 9(1) without
more. It does not extend to the offence of executing Judgment without following
due process under section 9(2) of the Law. Thus, it remains to be seen what
offence, a professional will be charged with if he is suspected of aiding and
abetting illegal use of law enforcement agent or vigilante group to enforce
Court Judgment under section 6, as there is no specific punishment for the
offence created under the said section 6 as already noted above. It is
suggested that the Law be amended to address these obvious shortfalls.

Section 9(4) of the Law
provides that any professional found guilty “under the provisions of the Law”
shall be reported to the relevant professional body for misconduct and
necessary action. A holistic consideration of the provisions of section 9 will
reveal that the only offence created under the said section is the offence of
“aiding and abetting”.

False and Frivolous
In other to minimize
incidents of false and frivolous petitions, section 10 specifically prohibits
writing of frivolous and unwarranted petitions to any Law Enforcement Agency
knowing the content to be false. The Section further makes it a statutory
requirement for a petitioner to accompany with his petition a sworn declaration
in form of Affidavit. Surprisingly, no punishment is provided for the offence
of writing false and frivolous petition under the section. However, the only
consolation in the midst of this legislative lapse is that such a petition
writer will be exposed to perjury[12] since the petition as a matter of law must be
accompanied by a sworn affidavit. Thus, the fear of perjury alone is enough
deterrent to false and frivolous petitions.

Illegal Demand for
Another laudable provision
in the Law is section 11 which addresses the recurrent issue of illegal demand
for fees and all sorts of levies by the “Omonile”. It prohibits any person from
demanding either personally or through an agent any fee or levy in respect of
construction activities on any property or from disrupting construction work.
There is however, a proviso in section 11 to the effect that the section shall
not prohibit land owning families under the authorization of family head to
demand customary fee for possession from buyers or ratification fees pursuant to
Court Judgment. What qualifies as customary fee for possession or ratification
fees is left to conjecture as no clue or definition of these vague terms are
provided under the Law. It is submitted that a lot of illegal demands and
extortions can still be made under the guise of “customary fee for possession”
as all that is required is to have the support of family head to legitimize
such extortion. The only good news is that a person who has paid such customary
fee to the family head cannot be subjected to subsequent demands or extortions
by the Omonile as often seen in most parts of the State
especially where a construction work is about to be commenced. It is advisable
that the person making the payment insists on having a receipt to serve as a
proof of such payment in the event of subsequent demand by any other group
under whatever guise.

An offender under section
11 is liable to a fine not exceeding N1 million or two years imprisonment or

Other provisions
The Law establishes a Task
Force under section 12 without specifically providing for its duties except the
general power to enforce the Law. It is also not clear whether the Task Force
can sue or be sued. It is submitted that even in the absence of such express
provision, the Task Force can be sued for any act done under the Law in view of
its power under section 13 to arrest offenders. The power of arrest under the
Law can also be exercised by any other Law Enforcement Agency or Unit in the

Section 14 provides that
Special Offences Court or any other Court shall have jurisdiction to try
offenders under this Law. Lastly, section 15 is the citation and commencement

In the preceding
paragraphs, I have critically considered the provisions of the Law and the
target menace of land grabbing, which manifests in many forms such as forceful
takeover and possession of landed properties, encroachment, illegal sale and
resale of land, illegal use of Law Enforcement Agents and Vigilante Groups to
enforce Judgments, misconducts by professionals in land transactions, writing
of frivolous and false petitions, unlawful demands by Omonile,
touting, amongst other ills which have become the nightmare of stakeholders
involved in land transactions. Like in most legislations, few lacunae have also
been identified, particularly the failure to provide punishments for some of
the offences created in the Law, which failure, as earlier noted, has the
effect of hampering the effective implementation of the Law, particularly the
affected provisions. Notwithstanding the few identified lapses, the Law is
nonetheless laudable and will go a long way in curbing land grabbing in the
State. I have also made reference to some provisions of the Criminal Law of
Lagos State, 2011 which I believe will complement the provisions of the
Anti-Land Grabbing Law, in checkmating the incidents of land grabbing in the
State. To achieve this and more, there is a need for the necessary will power
and mechanism to ensure proper implementation and enforcement of the law as the
objectives of the Law can only be achieved when its provisions are implemented
to the letter and without fear or favour. It is hoped that this think piece
will guide the lawmakers in possible future amendment as well as provide the
needed insight for other States that might want to enact a similar legislation.
[1] Lagos is reportedly the 5th largest economy in
[2] For more on the Ease of doing business, see this
writer on “Suspension of FRCN Codes of Corporate Governance: Lessons Learnt”, –
published 12 December 2016,  the article discussed in some details,
Nigeria’s current position in World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report..
[3] See for instance, sections 52 and 53 of the
Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011 which respectively provide for the offences
of forcible entry into land in actual and peaceable possession of another and
illegal possession of land without a claim of right in a manner likely to cause
a breach of the peace. The offences under sections 52 and 53 are punishable
with 2 years imprisonment. Similarly, section 56 of the Criminal Law also
prohibits threat to break or damage a residential house and offenders risk one
year imprisonment or 3 years imprisonment if the offence is committed in the
night. See also the offences of concealment of register of title and deed of
assignment evidencing title to land at sections 286 and 288 of the Criminal Law
of Lagos 2011 respectively.
[4] Section 324 of the Criminal Law of Lagos,
2011 which specifically targets the activities of Land speculators and
professional misconduct of real estate lawyers provides as follows “Any
person who, being a seller or mortgagor of any property or being the solicitor
of agent of any such seller or mortgagor, with intent to induce the purchaser
or mortgagee to accept the title offered or produced to him, and with intent to
defraud – (1) conceals from the purchaser or mortgagee any instrument to the
title, or any encumbrance; or (2) falsifies any false pedigree on which the
title depends or may depend; or (3) makes any false statement as to the title
offered or conceals any fact material to it, is guilty of a felony and is
liable to imprisonment for seven years.”
[5] The principle is quic quid plantatur solo
solo cedit
 – meaning whatever is affixed to the land becomes in
contemplation of law as part of it. What this implies is that once a party is
adjudged to be the rightful owner of the land in dispute, such land together
with what is on it automatically becomes his.
[6] In Akeredolu v. Akinremi (1985) 2 NWLR
(Pt.10) 787
, the Supreme Court held that computation of months or years
is done in days.
[7] See Okanga Okanga “Understanding the Lagos State
Properties Protection Law, 2016” –
accessed on 07 January 2017.
[9] Ibid
[10] Ibid
[11]Oshafunmi & Anor v. Adepoju & Anor(2014)
[12] Perjury carries the punishment of 7 years
imprisonment under the Criminal Law of Lagos, 2011. Writing of frivolous
petition may also give rise to any of the offences under sections 94 – 96 of
the Criminal Law, 2011 which relate to making false accusation and false

Prince Ikechukwu Nwafuru
Associate at Paul Usoro & Co

Ed’s Note – This article was fist published here

Photo Credit – 
Provisions of the Lagos State Properties Protection Law  2016

Provisions of the Lagos State Properties Protection Law 2016

Though not restricted to
the commercial city of Nigeria, Land grabbing has always been a big issue in Lagos
state. Property investors were not protected under the law and were being taking
advantage of by the popularly called “Omo Onile”, meaning in loose terms “Children
of the land” and their sponsors, or privileged individuals who used force,
threats and sometimes violence to unscrupulously take possession of land or
property belonging to other persons. It is common to see or hear of a crowd of
young men gather at the sites of undergoing private construction demanding for
unaccountable levies and fines. 

To say, these unlawful actions
have plagued the real estate industry in Lagos and other parts of Nigeria, is
to put it mildly. Sometimes, law enforcement agencies are also powerless to aid
or act in certain situations. The property divisions of the law courts are
filled with claims bothering on forceful and unlawful possession of land or
property and have been in court for quite some time. 
Lagosians can however smile
and be relieved, as Governor Ambode on the 15th of August, 2016,
LANDED PROPERTIES IN THE LAGOS STATE. This new Law protects the proprietary
rights of Land and Property owners in Lagos State and also criminalizes actions
of forceful and unlawful entry or occupation of premises. 
The law states in Section
2(1), that – 
“ As from the commencement
of the law, no one shall use force or self-help to take over any landed
property or engage in any act inconsistent with the proprietary right of the
owner in the State. 
Furthermore, subsection
2(two) states that persons who have used force to take over the properties of others
and still do so after 3 months from the date of commencement of the law commit
an offence. Anyone who commits such offence is liable to ten (10) years
Also, anyone without
lawful authority who applies threats or violence to secure entry into any
landed property for personal use commits an offence. Regardless of if the entry
is lawful, it does not give a right to use threats or violence and anyone who
commits the offence shall be liable to 10 (ten) years imprisonment.
Furthermore, by virtue of
section 3(4), anyone who uses fire arms or offensive weapons or is in any way
armed or wounds anyone while committing the act of forced entry is liable to 4(four)
years imprisonment. 
Persons in illegal
occupation of premises who also fail to leave the property commit an offence
and are liable to a fine of N5,000,000
(Five Million Naira) and/or up to five (5) years imprisonment. By virtue of
Section 7, any encroacher who keeps fire arms or dangerous/offensive weapons on
the premises shall be liable to 10 (ten) years imprisonment. 
Any encroacher who tries
to sell the property knowing he has no lawful authority to do so commits a
crime and is liable to a fine of N500,000
(Five Hundred Thousand Naira) and/or Six (6) months imprisonment. If the person
is successful in selling the property, he shall be liable to a fine not
exceeding 100% the value of the property and/or 5(five)years imprisonment as
provided in section 8. 
It was always common for
purported family agents to unlawfully sell family property without the consent
of the head of the family. However, by virtue of the law, anyone who sells
family property without the authority of the family head or sells government
land without the authority of the relevant government authority shall be liable
to 21 (Twenty – One) years imprisonment. 
Due to the fact that many
property/estate agents and sometimes, lawyers, have been known to aid the sale
and unlawful encroachment of private property. Section 9, prohibits
professionals from aiding in conduct that constitute an offence under the law
and such professionals shall be reported to the relevant bodies for misconduct
and appropriate actions. 
A popular provision of the
Law is the section that prohibits that harassment of property owners by the omo
onile groups and other hoodlums. Section 10, states that persons who act as
agents and demand a fee in regard to construction on properties shall be
committing an offence and liable to a fine of 1(One) million naira and/or 2 (two)
years imprisonment. 
The Law also establishes a
task force to enforce the law and grants jurisdiction to the Special Offences
Court and other courts. 
In other to prevent
private persons from taking laws into their hands, no law enforcement agent,
vigilante group, ethnic, cultural or traditional militia shall have the right
to enforce the law except in terms with the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act.   
The enactment of this law
brings succor to all lawful property owners in Lagos State and is highly
Dunmade Onibokun

Principal Partner
Adedunmade Onibokun &
Dunmade’s legal practice
focuses on corporate and commercial law, regulatory compliance, due diligence,
corporate advice and commercial transactions. 
He is the Principal partner of Adedunmade Onibokun & Co. a law firm
based in Lagos, Nigeria. Dunmade is also a blogger and publishes the Legalnaija
Blawg via

Photo credit –
When fuel queues and LASTMA Jams You

When fuel queues and LASTMA Jams You

If you ever have to travel
on Awolowo Road, in Ikoyi, Lagos during a period of fuel scarcity, you will
understand how much of a mad house it can be. The traffic literally stands
still, carrying a trident and waving its two horns flipping from side to side.
Traffic on those days can be the devil.
It’s not only Ikoyi,
virtually every fuel station in the city will be invaded by mammoth crowds and
mile long queues. It’s always a commuter’s night mare, take my word for
This is why the Lagos
State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) has decided to take strong measures
in curtailing the effect of fuel queues in Lagos State and what better way to
do it than introducing a stiff fine.

It’s no one’s problem that
you are already frustrated and vexed from the physical exercise it takes to buy
fuel, after having to shove everyone else back and forth just so you can have
your meeting with the fuel pump. Or that your car and home generator tanks
are empty while PHCN seems to still be on strike. No, all those instances of
frustrating moments don’t matter because it’s after all this that LASTMA will
come and tow your car.
Yes, you heard right. According
to Chris Olakpe, Chief Executive Officer, Lagos State Traffic Management
Authority (LASTMA), in a comment in the Guardian Newspaper, dated Monday, 11th
April, 2016;
fine for wilful obstruction of traffic while trying to buy fuel at any filling
station ranges from N10,000 to N100,000. The owners of such vehicles will
also pay towing fines, which also ranges from N10,000
to N100,000 as the case may apply.”
 Phew, I don’t want to be
in the position of the motorists when LASTMA comes to jam him or her after
being on a fuel queue for hours. Neither do I envy the LASTMA official who will
be walking on dangerous grounds and may likely bear the brunt of such a
motorist’s fury. I am sure @AmbodeObsarver will have a lot to report to his
unofficial official boss.
Photo Credits –


Nigeria, children’s rights are protected by law and held sacred, not only does
the law protect the child; it also stipulates punishment for adults who take
advantage of children or seek to negatively influence them.
  If you missed the blog on the rights of the
Nigerian child,
. The Lagos State Government has however taken the protection of
children’s rights a bit further by providing laws in the Criminal Code Law of
Lagos State (2011) that seek to prevent the abandonment of children and also instil
fines members of the public who do so.

As an
illustration, consider the following scenario;
“John, a charming and dashing young man meets Jane
at a public gathering in Lagos, Jane is swept off her feet by John’s chivalrous
nature and they both spend the weekend in John’s beach house where they have
repeated and unprotected sexual intercourse though John informed Jane that he
was in another relationship, to which she replied she did not mind. Eventually,
4 weeks later, Jane misses her period and after running hospital tests confirms
she is pregnant which she dutifully informs John.
John is however having none of it and tells Jane he
would not be accepting responsibility for the child, Jane cries and cries but
her emotions do not sway John who is set on his course of action with regard to
the child”.
What can
Jane do in this situation, have an illegal abortion or take care of the
child by herself?
“Mark gets Linda pregnant and refuses responsibility
for the child, eventually Linda reports Mark to the police.”
Can she
do that?
There was
a time when the woman will probably decide to leave John or Mark to the laws of
Karma or like many Nigerians will say “in the hands of God” but now these women
can do more than that and here is why; Section
277 of the Criminal Code Law of Lagos State (2011)
states that:
(1) Any person who impregnates a
woman or girl and fails, refuses or neglects to contribute to maternity related
costs from ante-natal to post-natal stages is guilty of an offence and is
liable to a fine of Forty Five Thousand Naira (N45,000.00) without
prejudice to the recovery of any cost that any other person may have reasonably
incurred in relation to the upkeep of the woman or girl.
(2) For the purpose of this
Section, maternity related costs includes all medical expenses, food expenses,
reasonable shelter and other necessaries.
(3) In determining the financial
liability of a person under subsection (1) of this Section, the Court shall
have regard to the means and resources available to him

 Furthermore, Section 276 of the Law also provides that;
Any person
who being the parent, guardian or other person having the lawful care or charge
of a child under the age of twelve years, and being able to maintain such
child, wilfully and without lawful or reasonable cause deserts the child and
leaves him without means of support, is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable
to a fine of One Hundred Thousand Naira (N100,000.00) without prejudice to the
recovery of any cost any other person may have reasonably incurred with respect
to the upkeep of the child
The law
is clear, you cannot abandon a woman who is pregnant with your child, neither
can you abandon a child who is your responsibility or you just may find
yourself having to pay a court fine in addition to being compelled to take up
the responsibility which you tried avoiding in the first place.
So my
advice to couples is to play safe (not that it works all the time) or don’t play
at all, at least till you are married. LOL. It should however be noted that the
law will not compel either John to marry Jane nor Mark to marry Linda, it will
only compel them to take responsibility for the children they deem to have abandoned.
Onibokun, Esq