Re: Payment of “Omonile” Money Is Not Illegal By Sesi Hundeyin

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My post on Tuesday on the legality of paying “omoonile” fees to landowners in Lagos State has generated so much controversy.

It is necessary to put the provision of the law in proper context in order to provide more clarity on the issue.

I use the term “Omoonile” to describe landowning families.

The term “Omoonile” is a Yoruba word that literally means “the child of the landowner.”

“Omooniles” are the people that have legal right over a land most times by virtue of inheritance.

Many “Omooniles” acquired ownership of their land by being the first to settle in an area and exercising acts of ownership and possession over the land for many years which then gives them right to sell such lands to others.

The law recognizes settlement in an area as one of the ways of land ownership in Nigeria.

Thus, an individual indigene of any specific Yoruba settlement may sell the portion of the family land appropriated to him or her.

Over the years in Lagos State and other States in South-West Nigeria, the concept of “Omoonile” became abused.

“Omooniles” became known for land grabbing and other violent crimes and atrocities associated with land sale transactions.

It became difficult to identify who truly is an “Omoonile” as several persons would approach a buyer of a landed property demanding various fees before construction can be done on a property.

This background is what led to the enactment of the Lagos State Properties Protection Law 2016.

The objective of this law is to prohibit forceful entry and illegal occupation of landed properties, violent and fraudulent conducts in relation to landed properties in Lagos State.

Now to the gist of the issue.

By virtue of Section 11 (1) of the Lagos State Properties Protection Law 2016, “it is illegal for a person to demand for any fee or levy in respect of construction activities on any property, disrupt or obstruct construction works…”

The provision of this law however does not prohibit landowning families (“Omooniles”) from demanding for foundation money or ratification fee (I explained what Ratification means in my previous post).

Section 11 (1) Lagos State Properties Protection Law 2016 provides thus:

“A person shall not, whether by himself or acting as an agent demand for any fee or levy in respect of construction activities on any property, disrupt or obstruct construction works provided that the provisions of this section shall not be interpreted to PRECLUDE land owning families under the authorization of the family head to demand for the customary fee for possession (in the name of foundation levy) from buyers, or ratification fee pursuant to judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction.”

It is clear from the above provision that “Omooniles” can demand for “foundation levy” or “ratification fee” as the case may be from a buyer of a landed property.

Payment of “Omoonile” money is applicable to landed property without registered title documents (e.g. Certificate of Occupancy a.k.a C of O).

It is your duty as a buyer of a landed property is to find out if the people demanding foundation or ratification levy from you are actually landowning families or merely unauthorized people seeking to take undue advantage of you.

Where you have paid to the right “Omoonile” and another person is trying to disrupt or obstruct construction activities on your property, you can petition the Lagos State Taskforce on Land Grabbers.

The Taskforce is empowered by law to investigate and prosecute cases of land grabbing in Lagos State.

It is advisable to engage an experienced real estate Solicitor before you start the process of buying a landed property, so you have proper guidance on how to successfully navigate this issue and avoid costly mistakes.

I hope you found this post insightful.

Please share it with others who may need to learn about this.

Sesi Hundeyin is a Lawyer, writes from Lagos.

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