If you've lived in Lagos then you've probably heard of Omo-onile. The children of the land or whatever...
As you can see from the comments I found online (Nairaland), dragging issues with these people would be a waste of time, potentially dangerous and an exercise in futility.
I just rounded up a meeting with a number of them, where I had to part with about 100k cash, the second time I would be putting my hard earned cash in their hands just this year alone.
Someone might say, but Thelma, aren't you a lawyer, doesn't the property belong to you people? Don't you have the title documents?
Yes, yes and yes.
Which makes it even more painful.
It's disconcerting; the thought that before you can make improvements on your own property, they descend on you like vultures if you haven't settled them beforehand. For instance, sometime last year when I all needed done was some wood work outside the building, they came and scattered the job, broke the work that had already been done, seized equipments and the workers all ran for their lives and never returned.
Now, I need to do some more work out there (as I'm trying to rebrand, renovate and restructure Chidoz) and they'd already warned. This work was to start in January, I'd already learnt my lessons so I went to "settle" the family with a mediator we've known for years (it's imperative to have an inside person when you have dealings with these people). However two weeks later I was approached and informed that the family I settled is no longer the ruling family, that leadership had shifted so I had very well dashed those people the money and need to find money to settle the new ruling family, if I wanted to proceed with the work.
Dear baby Jesus.
After several meetings with several children of the land, it was decided I pay xxx to Mr xxx. Someone in his camp actually informed me to my face that they do not even care whether we bought this property or that we have the documents, if they want to sell the property to someone else 'today today' they will do so and there's nothing I can do about it. He said I can go to court if I want but we will be in court for the next 30 years.
I don't know which was more infuriating, that he made this unnessecary subtle threat or that he did so smiling congenially at me...
In any case, work should start soon and I'm grateful to God for everything, I really truly am.
I'm just not happy that my hand is being twisted this way. Especially when I know that I owe nobody shishi to work on property that's legally ours, paid for in full, and that in a sane country such a thing could never happen.
But unfortunately the reality is that if these sons of the land are not appeased, nothing gets done. Nobody would even agree to come and work on your property because they know they could get hurt in the process.
Oh, yes, court. I should go to court, right? In fact, just in 2016 this a bill was passed in Lagos state to criminalize this Omonile ish. But court is their second home. These Omoniles are usually on first name bases with judges and lawyers. As in, they're prepared for the matter. They have their team of lawyers on standby and are ever ready to go to court to slug things out with you in the courtroom. And they know that because of our poor judicial system cases could pend for decades...
Oh well, I've been assured by a "Prince" of the family that I have the go ahead. They have informed their boys that we are "cool" and should not "come near our dwelling". Work starts now but I'm pissed AF! This is arm-twisting on a whole other level.
I asked the prince to assure me that I wouldn't have this problem the next time I need to paint the building or dig a borehole or fix a fence. He smiled and said "of course not".
But I know better...