Lagos Officials and Senior Advocate Warn Lawyers Against Tenant-Landlord Conflicts
During an advocacy program themed "Building Collapse and Application of Punitive Laws in Lagos State," organized by the Building Collapse Prevention Guild, Ikeja Cell, and the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja branch, Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Lawal Pedro, along with Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, issued a stern warning to lawyers, urging them to refrain from assisting clients in seeking retribution against landlords.
The Attorney-General of Lagos State emphasized that disputes between landlords and tenants should not prolong their resolution for more than 60 days in court. Pedro expressed concern that when such issues linger for several years in court due to non-payment of rent or refusal to vacate the premises, it hampers investments and discourages property ownership
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He also announced plans for collaboration between the Nigerian Bar Association and the Ministry of Justice to create clear, accessible legal guidelines for all concerned parties. Additionally, the Ministry of Justice will address the issue of building collapse reports and expedite the justice system, aiming for cases to conclude within 24 months in conjunction with the judiciary.
Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, cautioned lawyers against acting as instruments of retribution against landlords on behalf of their clients. He shared an instance where a tenant, who had not paid rent for two years, sought his assistance to appeal a case, fully aware of the prolonged legal process. Falana emphasized the need for legal practitioners to act prudently and avoid contributing to acts of impunity.
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Furthermore, he pointed out that tenants, driven by frustration, sometimes resort to the Ministry of Environment, falsely claiming potential building collapses. Negligent officials then mark buildings for demolition without thorough investigations, which forces tenants to vacate. Some landlords even resort to removing the roofs of their properties to compel tenants to leave. Falana underscored the significance of obtaining approval from the Ministry of Physical Planning before making alterations to a property, as unregulated adjustments may pose risks to the community.