15 June 2017

Nigeria: Lagos - Who Owns the Land?

Concluding part from June 1

Guest Speaker, Professor Hakeem Danmole, Dean, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, argued that the first settlers in the state were the Aworis, the Eguns and others. Giving an insight into the history of Lagos, Danmole said Lagos Island to the indigenous population was called Eko, a name whose origin was told in two well known traditional but controversial accounts.

"Nevertheless, it is important to note that one version of the name relates to the advent of Aworis, while the other is connected to Benin adventures in Lagos." Despite this controversy, Danmole maintained that what was fairly certain was that the Awori settlement in Lagos was earlier than that of the Benin, which eventually subjugated the emergent settlement.

"Written records insist that Olofin, the leader of the Awori at Iddo divided Lagos among his children. Although many versions exist with regards to the number of children of Olofin. These children established various settlements within the Island and beyond," he said.

Chief host of the event, Governor Ambode, attributed the greatness of the state to its ability to be a melting pot for all cultures, just as he said that the people of the state over the years have distinguished themselves in making others feel at home away from home. He recalled that since inception, Lagos had effectively transited from an administrative entity to become the melting point of cultures and the socio-political and economic jurisdiction of global significance, rated today, as the fifth largest economy in Africa.

Going down memory lane, Ambode said: "It is important for us at this epochal gathering to refresh our memory about the beginning; the journey of how the Awori played an important role in the evolution of what we call Lagos today. The same applies to the evolution of the Eko Royalty with the coming of the Bini from present day Edo State and even the momentous role played by the Tapa in the making of our dear state. Our greatness is in our ability to be a melting pot for all cultures and as at today, there is no tribe in Nigeria that is not represented in Lagos. From the Hausa/Fulani to the Igbo to the Kanuri to the Ibibio, the Nupe, the Berom, the Igala and so on and so forth all have spaces to live and live well in our dear State.

"Lagos is not just national in outlook. It is international. The Americans are here; the British are here; South Africans are in their thousands; the Chinese are not in short supply; and the Indians even have a community in Lagos. With all sense of modesty, there is no other State like Lagos in Nigeria."

In his contribution, a retired justice of the Supreme Court, Justice George Oguntade, called attention to the plight of judges and magistrates in the state. He noted that judges and magistrates are almost overworked, saying he knows this because he is not a stranger to happenings in the state's judicial sector. While commending the present administration in the state for providing quarters for judges and magistrates, as Oliver Twist, he nevertheless demanded for better and improved welfare package for judges and magistrates in the state. This, according to the jurist is the only way to ensure that the course of justice is not perverted in the state.

Justice Oguntade particularly pleaded with the state government to take good care of magistrates, considering especially the fact that not all of them would have the opportunity of rising to become high court judges.

Welfare package for magistrates

Citing the example of Australia and other developed countries, Oguntade revealed that magistrates are revered and accorded much respect in other climes and ours should not be an exemption. Since Lagos has proved to be a pace setter in many sectors in the country, Oguntade opined that the state should equally show the way for others to follow in the area of good welfare package for magistrates. He also focused on the subject of land acquisition in the state. He frowns at the trend of government acquiring land from owners without paying compensation. This, he said, isn't good enough as land represents a key economic indicator in the state. The worst aspect of it all, he said, was the fact that government often acquires such land not for immediate purpose but for future/anticipated needs.

He said that in as much as government has the right to acquire land for developmental purposes, it is important that when such land is acquired, it must be made use of swiftly without delay while immediate effort must be made to compensate such land owner. He equally calls for more innovations in the state's land bureau to ensure proper land administration in the state. Oguntade praised the current administration for its numerous innovations in the justice sector which he said is good for effective justice administration.

Also speaking at the Lecture, Hon Justice Kuponu Wusu, a retired judge of the Lagos High Court affirmed that though Lagos has become a model for other states in the federation, much still need to be done by both the public and private sectors for the future to be really secured.

Justice Wusu specifically called for improvement in power supply in the state in order to fully optimize the industrial and economic potential of the city. He particularly called on government as well as members of the Organized Private Sector to establish more Independent Power Plants across major industrial and economic hubs in the state.

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