There is a growing concern in the Ilorin Emirate community and its environs in Kwara State over indiscriminate sales of ancestral lands.
From Taiwo to Opo Malu, Ita Amodu, Emir’s Road, Agbo Oba, and Oja-Tuntun among others, newly acquired lands are being cleared on a daily basis. Similarly, old family houses are being demolished while new owners are erecting structures.
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This is the current situation in Ilorin, the ancient city of Kwara State known for its rich cultural heritage rooted in Islamic jurisprudence.
But for many indigenes of the Emirate, the sale of ancestral lands portends danger for the community with the tendency of robbing the city of its vast cultural heritage and the acclaimed Islamic civilisation.
It was the very influential Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressives Union (IEDPU) that first raised the alarm on the issue calling on its indigenes not to sell away heritage and tradition in exchange for money.
According to the IEDPU, which is the umbrella body for all the sons and daughters of Ilorin emirate, the practice is particularly worrisome despite the protracted campaign against it.
Speaking during the 56th Conference of the Union, the National President of IDEPU, Alhaji Uthman Otta Aliyu, said the trend has reached an alarming proportion with the potential to endanger the unity of the state.
“The Union has had cause to organise a summit on sale and use of land in Ilorin. We produced Jingles to discourage our people from the indiscriminate sale of land and ancestral homes. But sadly, it has continued unabated. People are selling away their family property with reckless abandon, as they turn deaf ears to wise counsel.
“The situation now is that they will be better today but be irredeemably bitter tomorrow as there shall be no land to sell in the future. We want to caution our people to go for lease rather than an outright sale of lands. In the same vein, the preservation and sustenance of our collective heritage should be sacrosanct”, he added.
On his part, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Yahaya Ibrahim Oloriegbe, who was the chairman of the conference, described the development as a “scandalous acquisition of our heritage.”
Oloriegbe, the Kwara Central senator representing four out of the five local governments in the Emirate further noted: “Any traditional Ilorin man is known for his dual heritage. An Ilorin man will have his house in the metropolitan city of Ilorin and his village in places like Afon, Alapa, Bala, Lanwa, Malete, or Megida among others.
“But we have slept over our rights and heritage for a very long time so much so that those we refer to as ‘Eero’ (settlers) have invaded our villages like locusts acquiring our lands and inherited our properties while we are still slumbering. This must stop by all means possible”, he warned.
In his submission, a district head and the Magaji Are of Ilorin, Alhaji Shuaib Aremu Zubair told Daily Trust that the issue was of great concern to everybody.
“That is why the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Zulu Gambari is leading the drive for a change and for the families involved to lease such properties rather than an outright sale.
“Once a property has been sold, it is no longer yours and the acquirer has the right to do anything on it. Ilorin is a predominantly Muslim town and if the trend continues, eventually, the buyers who are mostly non-indigenes will come and occupy our area and it may affect the religious harmony that we enjoy here as we have seen in other places. That is why we don’t welcome it and I appeal just like the Emir, for those involved to go for lease instead.
“We know the issue is mostly about poverty, but we pray to God to enrich all of us”, the Magaji Are added.
Speaking on the issue, a resident of Taiwo area, Ilorin, where the sale of the ancestral homes is most prevalent in the metropolis, Taiye Abdulkadir said the situation is alarming.
“It’s a case of using what you have to get what you want. But Taiwo area has become ‘notorious’ for such practices because of its high market value.
“Except for schools and worship centres around the Taiwo area, most of the houses and lands you see have all been sold mostly to non-indigenes. While developments have started in some, others are yet to be demolished. It has gotten to a stage where people have turned it into business.
“The other day, a land that was bought for N95m was later sold for N175m after the dilapidated structure on it was pulled down. There is also a property that is located after Mamtess building, which was bought for N10milliom but disposed for N30million within a spate of two months,” he added.
While speaking with Daily Trust, a senior citizen of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Abdullahi said the IEDPU should be more practical on the issue to save the situation.
“We will continue to appeal and tell the district and village heads (Baloguns and Magjis) to be holding regular meetings on the implication of selling family lands and ancestral homes to non-indigenes for financial benefits.
“Although most of those involved in this practice attribute their actions to poverty, it is worrisome that they would choose to sell a highly valuable property for peanuts now compared to its future value.
“Apart from the appeal, the IEDPU should set up a land-use committee whereby top professionals in the areas of land matters, architecture and urban development, which we have in abundance’ will be co-opted as members to trace and meet all the families with inherited lands and ancestral homes throughout the emirate.
“The committee will continue to maintain a good relationship with them with admonition on why the practice must be stopped to save the future and heritage of Ilorin emirate. The implication is that sooner or later, our heritage and inheritance will be in the hands of strangers, which will turn landlords into tenants in their own land in the nearest future.
Another resident who preferred not to be named while appraising the matter said the issue was not only because of poverty but the inability of those involved to weigh the implication of such action and lack of exposure.
“Sometimes, a property of 300 plots of land sold for N300million for instance after sharing the money might see each family member getting just N50, 000 at the end of the day because of the large number of people involved. So what is the worth of that in today’s Nigeria that will now warrant the wanton sale of our heritage, inheritance, and even our unity as a people”, he said.
But a leading estate agent in the Kwara popularly known as G-Plot, Adegoke Adeola said the lease option will hamper development in the state.
He said: “What I will advise is for the government to identify such huge plots of land and then provide road and other infrastructural facilities on virgin sites or farmland to encourage investors which will bring development to the state.
“But to say families should lease lands such property will discourage investment. A leased land that has been developed, which the parties failed to reach an agreement on renewal, will you now tell the investors to uproot their multimillion naira structure or what?
“That will discourage investment. Taiwo area, which is a top choice destination for investors in Kwara for instance, how many Ilorin indigenes have real investments there except foreigners? To get a plot of land in Taiwo now, you need N30million at least if it is even available.
He, however, painted a troubling scenario of the activities of some of those selling lands on behalf of families who have mastered the art of selling the same piece of land to multiple parties just because they have some local support. The action, he said, had driven potential foreign investors away from the state.
“I have brought expatriates from South Africa once to Kwara State but they later went to Lagos to invest because of the attitude of some persons here due to the scenario painted above.
“So, if we are not careful the way we handle the situation, it might boomerang, which will adversely affect the development of the state. If we frustrate expatriates or deny investors the opportunity to pump in their money and erect structures that will develop the state, they will relocate elsewhere, it’s as simple as that”, he maintained.