Many people have suffered greatly at the hands of thugs or tough boys, who identify as “Omo-Oniles” – the sons of landowners, despite the purported intervention of the state governments and relevant security agencies in addressing related matters across the South West region. From Lagos to Oyo to Ogun to Ekiti to Ondo to Osun, there have been reports of assault, intimidation and harassment from these hoodlums to land owners.
Due to the rising number of cases, many seem to have agreed that it is safer to pay these thugs than to get a certificate of ownership – C of O from the government to avoid distraction on construction sites. The vulnerable who lack the resources to hire security guards to protect their property are major victims. They have been tricked, beaten, and intimidated.
This story not only shows how individuals purchase a plot of land twice, but it also shows how a group of irate individuals can impede or stop construction even when a certificate of ownership (C of O) is present—that is, until a certain sum of money is paid.
It also reveals that there is no security provision for landowners who have C of O against hoodlums and that the land can not be developed if the owner does not pay thugs.
WITHIN NIGERIA journalist, SODIQ LAWAL CHOCOMILO interacted with some victims who reside in Osun, a Southwestern state in Nigeria as a case study for the research.
These individuals recounted their struggles. They narrated how they were harassed and beaten up including their workers on site.
Perpetrators will face full wrath of law – Senator Ademola Adeleke
On August 29, Senator Ademola Adeleke, the governor of Osun State, issued a warning to land grabers, also referred to as “Omo Onile,” telling them to stop extorting money and harassing contractors, craftsmen, and builders on construction sites around the state, or else they risk legal repercussions.
Adeleke directed security agencies to conduct special operations to go after perpetrators saying, his administration will not tolerate brazen lawlessness and unwarranted disruption of the livelihoods of innocent citizens..
The statement, attributed to Osun State Governor Senator Ademola Adeleke, was made public during a demonstration by craftsmen in Osogbo against Omo-Oniles who use force to make life difficult for them while working.
They went back to their separate jobs because they trusted the police and the governor. They were mistaken to believe that both authorities would work the talk. Two months later, artisans including land owners spoke with WITHIN NIGERIA and recounted their ordeals at the hands of Omo-Oniles.
I paid N115,000 in cash to Omo-Oniles in batches, Gbenga discloses
Ademiluyi Gbenga, 57, bought two plots of land approximately ten years ago. However, before he could develop the land in the Kasmo area of Oke-Baale, Osogbo, the capital of Osun State, he had to pay N65,000 to “Omo Onile” even though he had receipts and the required paperwork in his possession.
The youths, armed with iron rods and cutlasses, had arrived at the site and ordered laborers and bricklayers to cease work, Gbenga told WITHIN NIGERIA. He had previously paid them N50,000 for their services.
The civil servant claimed that he was overcome with fear when they approached him. He had not considered it a serious concern when his bricklayer had previously informed him about the scenario over the phone.
My bricklayer had previously told me about how the goons had come to the job site and told them to halt working. He explained, “When they left the site, they took our shovels, headpans, and other building tools, and they asked the bricklayer to tell me as the site owner that I have not paid my security fee.”
When Gbenga visited the site with the Carpenter and Iron Bender after the house had reached the “lintel level,” another group of thugs returned. Gbenga had previously revealed that he had sent money to the bricklayer to purchase new shovels, headpans, and other items that the thugs had taken.
They arrived at the location and immediately began to pour away water that had already been fetched by labourers. Bricklayers were driven away from the cement and sand mixture, and they insisted that I be present in front of the house. I begged the iron bender and the carpenter to follow me and they did. I informed them that I had already given some young people N50,000. They threatened to beat up my employees and destroy my properties unless I paid them N100,000 in cash. He said, “I later gave them the sum of N65,000, and they left.”
I had to give up the land and flee for my life, Yusuf narrates
The 42-year-old Tunde Yusuf’s account seems to be different. He purchased a piece of land near the Sekoni mosque on Tanishi Road in Osogbo, but he was unable to make any progress on it. Tunde, a businessman who deals in the sale of vegetable oil, was forced to sell his plot of land in order to escape the repeated problems of Omo Oniles, the children of landowners who are out to ruin his life.
According to Tunde, he had no trouble purchasing a piece of land from a family; nevertheless, the moment he brought bricklayers to the property to start construction, he encountered difficulties.
I gave money to almost two dozen young people brandishing cutlasses, iron rods, and short axes among other weapons. I became disinterested in the land when I stated that I would not pay the fourth group. Tunde recalled that in addition to harassing him, they also beat up the bricklayers.
The 42-year-old businessman told this reporter that he had to purchase an ancient house that he tastefully renovated after having to sell the land with foundation to a potential buyer.
My wife is still young, and I have three children. I cannot risk my life in vain and endanger the lives of my coworkers, who are most likely the breadwinners. The father of three said, “It was a tough and difficult decision, but it was necessary.”
They beat me, supervisor and workers black and blue – Rafiu reveals
Waheed Rafiu, a 37-year-old carpenter, was attacked by thugs in Ayekale, Osogbo, when he revealed that the property’s owner is away from home. Rafiu had taken two people with him to roof the building. When the thugs showed up on June 17, Waheed, who was roofing a four-bedroom flat, informed this reporter that the supervisor had been severely assaulted.
After we departed the location, I stayed in the hospital for over five days receiving treatment for the wounds they had caused me. They also thrashed my apprentice. We didn’t go back to the building site again, Rafiu, 37, revealed.
Omo-Oniles charge based on building structure – Ajayi reveals
When recounting his prior experiences with the thugs at various locations throughout the town, Mr. Ajayi revealed that landowners have to pay anywhere from N70,000 to N1,000,000, depending on the type of construction.
These thugs have varying prices. While some groups would like to recieve their payment in batches, others would like payment in full at once. They will either beat you up or take your tools if you don’t pay. Mr. Ajayi continued, “Those who cannot afford the money end up leaving the site.”
When the reporter questioned how these people knew the sites of buildings that were still under construction, Mr. Ajayi responded that the thugs had informants all over the place. They will undoubtedly pay you a visit before you finish the house and demand payment if you begin construction now. They have various prices. Their spies are very powerful.
In a telephone conversation with WITHIN NIGERIA, the Police Public Relations Officer of the Osun State Police Command, SP Yemisi Opalola, said that the police have detained and prosecuted numerous Omo-Oniles, or thugs, who cause annoyance to landowners and artisans in the state.
SP Opalola claims that the command promptly responded to multiple requests from landowners and craftsmen, which resulted in Omo-Oniles’ arrest and prosecution.
The PPRO refuted claims made by some individuals that the police release these thugs at their stations while pleading with victims, primarily artisans, to call the police as soon as these thugs arrive at their building sites.
We don’t let them go. We are unable to retain them for very long, so we prosecute them as soon as they are arrested. Some are remanded or sentenced. She said, “So when you see them wandering the streets again, it’s not because we released them.”