Omo Onile – the uncontrolled menace in Lagos

Omo onile is a popular term in Lagos, especially for new home owners. The love-hate relationship between the Land grabbers popularly referred to as omo onile has been ongoing for decades.

The term isn’t just synonymous to Lagos state alone; some cities in south western Nigerian are currently experiencing the menace of these miscreants who call themselves omo onile. The sense of entitlement of these so called “land owners” is out of this world. You are expected to pay them when you want to start building your house (foundation fees), when you’re about to start roofing the building you are expected to make a payment for that too, there’s also payment for plastering, flooring, Plumbing , window installation and offloading  of building materials.

Omo onile in Lagos

In Yoruba language, Omo onile simply translates to land owner. In truth, these omo oniles are the real owners who inherited the lands from their forefathers. These lands have been passed down from generations before any significant development came to these areas. Once these areas start to develop, with industries and residential areas cropping up a few miles away from these areas , the family then decides to sell off the lands.

Due to the nature of most olden days family being polygamous, problem arises when a side of the family gets left out in the sale of the land. The part of the family left out of the sale of the land might even be the ones with the original documents of the land. This when we hear stories about owners of the land being told to buy back their land (the price can even be more than the previous purchase price) or even in some cases the owner is told to completely vacate the land.

Apart from the omo oniles who claim to be original owners of the land, there are also jobless miscreants who parade who parade themselves as omo onile. They hide under the guise of being approved by the Lagos state government to collect fees. These thugs do nothing but demand exorbitant fees anytime you’re about to get anything done on your land. These guys have taken it as a duty to frustrate hard working Nigerians when engaging their building project.

The menace of the omo onile is not limited to a particular area of Lagos, although you may find them more in some particular areas, they are generally everywhere in Lagos. The areas with the worst hit in Lagos are Ikorodu, Ogudu, Idimu,Ejigbo,Oko Afo in Badagry, Ibafo (this area isn’t entirely Lagos, but a lot of Lagosians live and own property here)

What you should know about Land grabbers in Lagos

They are mostly the children of the first settlers or early settlers in an area, their family own and sell inherited land

These omo oniles have informants everywhere around the area, these guys go in search of on-going projects or new buildings within the area

Land grabbers have police back up and lawyers as well. There’s been a case of a man refusing to pay these land grabbers after the foundation of his project. The following day a corpse was dumped on the site and it was reported to the police.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate and shout them down.

Omo Onile experiences

As narrated by a nairalander

Some few years ago when my pastor started his building project,  the omo onile wahala started. He made sure he identified the most of them all, his name was elewure. After several pleas falling on elewure’s deaf ears,the  pastor finally gave in and gave elewure 50,000naira but it wasn’t enough for him, he wanted more at every phase of the project. So the pastor decided to grab the bull by the horns, he mobilized the youths in the church all the way from Lagos to Sango (the project site). The plan was to act as police officers and show them little craze, so pastor drove in front while the youths were in the danfo  behinds the pastor’s car.

On getting to the project site, the workers had already stopped working on elewure’s orders. Seeing this, the youths jumped out of the danfo to elewure’s surprise. With the boys shouting and asking for elewure to be thrown into the danfo, he got so scared and confessed he wasn’t the actual boss, he was just an errand boy sent to work. To everyone’s shock, the pastor ran into his car , brought out four eggs and started to break it on elewure while saying “elewure o ma ku loni” (elewure you will die today). Elewure was finally driven off to see the main leader who warned him serious never to disturb the pastor anymore.

Another experience by Spiritedtete on nairaland

My experience is an interesting one.

So I had gotten this land, dug well, bought granites and few blocks on site.
I had the land barricaded with planks and then travelled.

I returned a year later, called on my pastor to come pray on the land as I was about to fence the land and start building.
On getting to the location, I found out that the land had been fenced, gated and locked with a big padlock. Infact, there was an uncompleted story building inside

I was shocked, my pastor was shocked, sadly the person who sold the land to me died few days to my coming.  I was angry; I got in touch with the Oloriebi (family head) who promised to give me another.
He did as promised, however it was another man’s land. I didn’t know until I wanted to start clearing the trees which I had paid some boys to do. I didn’t even fret, I just drove to the barracks got four military policemen to pick the Oloriebi.
I was given another plot of land. But during the fencing they came in their numbers with cane and cutlass, everyone working on site was went away.

Their reason; I didn’t pay the grandchildren.  I was ready to turn it into another war but I was told to settle and let sleeping dogs lie, that was how I eventually completed the project, I contracted one of them to supply me blocks and cement, others sand and iron.

How to deal with omo onile


To be honest, it’s very difficult to completely avoid omo onile in Lagos. These guys have completely taken over the real estate scene. It has gotten so bad new home builders are advised to keep their fees when they are about to start their project. The advice you’ll usually get is to settle the “main man” so that things don’t get out of hand.

Don’t buy from them

This is one of them safest ways to avoid omo onile “wahala” in Lagos. To avoid your land being resold to your or totally taken from you, only buy from estate developers with verified title. Although this will come at a relatively higher cost compared to buying from omo onille, you’ll have rest of mind knowing that no one can take your property from you.

Get to the King/Baale

Once you encounter any kind of problem with them , go to the King or Baale of that area, explain your plight and give him some money , he’ll settle them and ask them never to disturb you again

Engage the military

If you’re well connected, engage the soldiers or military police, make sure they are on site anytime you want to work on the site.

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