By Ikenna Asomba

Thirty-three years after the establishment of Nigeria’s Best State University, the Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo, the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode-led Lagos State Government and the university management have now began moves to reclaim the university’s lands encroached upon by trespassers over the years.

Recall that the Lagos State University, also known as LASU, was established in 1983 by the enabling Law of Lagos State of Nigeria, but commenced full operations in 1984, for the advancement of learning and establishment of academic excellence.

The university which offers courses at Diploma, Undergraduate and Postgraduate levels, including an MBA programme, is the only state university in the former British colony, Lagos.

The university operates nine Faculties- Arts, Sciences, Social Sciences, Management Sciences, Education, Law, Engineering, School of Communication and College of Medicine.

Dating back 1984, LASU kicked-off as a multi-campus, collegiate and non-residential University, even as it currently operates a multi-campus system with three fully owned campuses- Main Campus at Ojo (along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway); Faculty of Engineering at Epe, College of Medicine at Ikeja. The university’s School of Communication was initially sited at Surulere, but has now fully been moved to the main campus, Ojo.

Perhaps, it was against the backdrop of its multi-campus, collegiate and non-residential system, as well as issues of negligence on the path of the Lagos State Government and the university’s successive managements that the encroachers took advantage of.

Professor Ayo Omotayo, Director Centre for Planning, LASU, told Diplomatic Watch, that the trespassers encroached on about 682 hectares of the university’s land, stating that “our drone flown over the encroached areas captured over 14,400 homes already built on the university’s lands. We have taken all the necessary researches to confirm that the encroached lands we are asking for belong to LASU. So, when LASU approaches the trespassers, there is no need for argument, but for them to comply with the Regularisation exercises.”

Vowing that it’s no longer business as usual, the State Government in consonance with the university’s management, Thursday, December 13, 2017, held a Stakeholders Forum in the university, to sensitize the community heads and landlords in the surrounding communities of the University whose buildings are on lands owned by the school.

The Forum explicitly enlightened the encroaching house owners on how to go about regularizing their properties and formally becoming tenants of the University without losing their properties.

The Regularization Period is between January 15 to April 30, 2018. The First Penalty Phase which attracts a 25 per cent increase runs from May 1 to June 30, 2018, while the Second Penalty Phase which attracts a 50 per cent increase runs from July 1 to September 30, 2018. Any property not registered by September 30, 2018 will be repossessed.

On steps to become a Bonafide LASU tenant, the affected landlords are advised to visit

Speaking at the Forum, Special Adviser on Education to the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Obafela Bank-Olemoh, said over 75 per cent of LASU lands have been enchroached upon and illegally occupied, adding that “the State Government was therefore taking the steps to reverse this situation by giving the occupiers the opportunity to regularize their stay on the lands.”

“The government wants LASU to be the top 5 best university by 2020. One challenge is land encroachment and Governor Ambode has started the process of regularization for LASU lands. We urge the Community Development Associations (CDAs) and Community to cooperate with the Lagos State Government as this process has a time frame and is not going to be an everlasting one,” added Bank-Olemoh.

Also speaking at the Forum, Special Adviser on Urban Development, Mrs. Yetunde Onabule said “a certificate of regularization will be issued to the landlords upon payment of specified amounts to the State Government. This certificate is what formally qualifies the individual as a tenant of the University. With this development, rather than their properties taken away from them, the landlords will continue to own their properties on the condition that they pay a certain amount as tenancy rate to the University, yearly.”

Earlier in his address, the Vice Chancellor, LASU, Professor Olarenwaju Fagbohun, lauded the leaders of the affected communities for their support and encouraged them to take the required steps without delay as the amounts given them to pay have been highly subsidized by the State Governor.

According to the Vice Chancellor, “Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is determined to turn LASU into a citadel of learning recognised globally through infrastructural development. We have been grappling with issues as regards our expansion. To achieve this, we have called for a stakeholders engagement to solve the issues of encroachment on LASU Lands.

“Trespassers encroached even 50-100 meters of our lecture halls. The trespassers break our university fences and build structures on LASU lands. When others see that they succeeded they will break the new fence to build theirs and this has continued over the years.”

The Don went on to state that “the National Universities Commission, NUC gave us an admission quota of 8000, but because of the issues of land encroachment, we now admit just 3500. We must do something about this.”

On his part, Commissioner for Information, Lagos State, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, while addressing the representatives of the affected communities, said the regularization move will be strictly adhered to as cameras will be used to monitor the environment of LASU, thus preventing anyone from circumventing the process the State has put in place.

His words: “We accept the fact that there were infractions and negligence on the part of LASU, the state government and the trespassers. But the governor says let’s not ask questions, but let us start on a new page to embark on this Regularisation. Government is not coming with bulldozers or hammers, but with Regularisation processes that won’t bring pains on the Lagosians.

“Please, when our officials come to you, don’t harass them, doing that you will be challenging the capacity of government in dealing with infractions. Our objective is to explain this as explicit as possible. We urge the encroachers to utilize this opportunity and cooperate with government.”

Similarly, the Commissioner for Physical Planning & Urban Development, Tpl. Wasiu Anifowoshe affirmed that Governor Ambode should be lauded for his idea of Regularisation, rather than trailing the path of confiscating and bulldozing the structures on the encroached lands.

Explaining what the Regularisation means, Anifowoshe said there is only one Certificate of Occupancy (CofO), for the whole lands, which is given to LASU, stating that after Regularization, the landlords would be given Titles or Deeds of Sublease which can be used as collaterals to get bank loans.

“This is the first time Governor Ambode is giving an opportunity for getting of papers and the cost is not neck-breaking. This is the opportunity, so grab it now,” he advised the landlords.