Lagos: Who Owns The Land? By Dayo Benson

UNTIL Abuja became the Federal Capital of Nigeria, Lagos combined an enviable status of political and economic capital of the country. This uniqueness transformed it to the melting pot of the nation’s ethnic nationalities, a macro Nigeria of sort. Over the years, this prominence engendered unresolved legal issue of who actually own Lagos? Or is it a no man’s land as some claim? These questions were answered at the lecture marking the Golden Jubilee celebration of the State with theme: “Lagos: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” .

At the event which had in attendance Lagos Governor Akinwunmi Ambode , Deputy Governor, Dr. Idiat Adebule, Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Akiolu, former governors of the state, former deputy governors, statesmen, traditional rulers, university dons among others, featured eminent legal luminaries who spoke on wide range of issues bordering on the misconception that Lagos is a no man’s land, welfare of state judges and magistrates as well as land matters.

Alhaji Femi Okunnu SAN, a former federal minister, opened the discussions by insisting that those behind the claim that Lagos was no man’s land were ignorant, as they did not know the real history of the state. He said that indigenous owners of Lagos are the Idejo Chiefs who are land owners, Aworis who are original inhabitants of Eko (Lagos Island), Eguns who reside in Badagry, Ibinis who invaded Lagos and settled in Idungaran, Idun Itafa, Idumota, Idumagbo etc, Nupes/Tapas who settled in Lagos Island, returnees who settled at the Brazilian Quarters, Ijebus who settled in Epe and Ikorodu axis, Egbas who settled in Abule Egba, Agodo Egba etc and Ekitis and Ijeshas who settled in a part of the Mainland.

Okunnu nevertheless agreed that non-indigenes of Lagos had contributed immensely to the greatness of the state.

Citing the instance of the creation of Lagos State, Okunnu noted that though some indigenes of the state were clamouring for the creation, some non-indigenes, who were prominent members of the then Gen. Yakubu Gowon’s led military government, really helped in no small measure to pressurize Gen Gowon in creating the state. He particularly singled out Chief Philip Asiodu and Alison Ayida as notable members of Gowon’s cabinet who helped in ensuring the dream of Lagos indigenes for the creation of the state.

Speaking further at the event, Okunnu pleaded with Nigerian, especially the youths to shun ethnic and religious divide, especially in politics, saying that his generation had damaged the image and cohesion of the country because it brought ethnicity and religiosity into politics. He added that ethnic groups like Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Arewa should be playing cultural roles and not be political.

In his discourse at the event, elder statesman and first The Clerk of the Lagos City Council, 98 year old Senator Habib Fasinro, also a lawyer, Commended the developmental trend in the state from inception till date but equally insisted that much still needed to be done. He affirmed that rather than being contented with its local attainments, Lagos should benchmark itself with respected global City-States across the world.

He said his dream is for Lagos to become a smart city where vital services are provided without stress. He called on government to focus more on provision of qualitative education as every renowned global city develops through education. Thus, efforts should be made to improve education infrastructure.

He called the attention to the current trend where there is a huge shortfall in the number of students who vie for admission into tertiary institution and those who are actually admitted. He advised that government should encourage more private investment into tertiary education in the state. He canvassed for on line education as a way of bridging the shortfall in admission.

He dwelt on the controversial issue of Lagos being a no man’s land. He said Lagos has an indigenous population and their hospitable spirit must not be taken for granted. He posited that indigenous Lagosians must not be endangered species in their own state. He said that ethical values should be restored in all facets of life.

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.