Victims storm courts over new wave of property scams
With high demand for accommodation and its subsequent short supply, there are increasing rates in property scams in the nation’ s real estate market spaces, thereby sending shivers up the spine of investors and would be investors.
Many of such victims have also resorted to fate while others with gut are seeking respite in the courts.
According to reports, perpetrators of these scams are often land speculators and some estate agents collaborators in the real estate sector.
The commonest of these scams come in the sale of land inherited from parents or grand parents to more than one person.
Since the only source of Omooniles or land grabbers’ income is the sale of these inherited lands, their usual style is to prey on land that have been sold but not yet developed to another buyer.
There are other forms, involving dubious professionals, who often go to the registry to forge documents or claimed to have lost their land titles, only to get them registered afresh in connivance with some officials in the land administration department.
In some cases, the scam often started out innocently with the whispers and later assumed the level of open talk at the market place.
This illicit activity of property scam came to the fore, recently when detectives attached to Police Special Fraud Unit (SFU), Ikoyi arrested an estate agent identified as Najeendeen Tunde Maleek for fraud.
Maleek allegedly swindled over 100 prospective tenants of over N40 million being payment for some locks of flats located at No 1 Bankole Street, off Adigun Street, Itire, Ijesha, Lagos.
The suspect, who described himself as chief executive officer of Deen Property Consultant, placed an advert as regards a vacant two-storey building at No 1, Bankole Street, off Adigun Street, Itire, Ijesha, Lagos.
Maleek was alleged to have told most of them that the apartments would be ready before the end of September.
His victims got the shock of their lives when they gathered in front of the house to pick up their keys as agreed by Maleek and met a crowd.
Almost everyone at the scene claimed that they paid a certain amount of money for a two-bedroom flat or a one-room self-contained apartment.
On realizing that they might have been defrauded, his victims tried to secure any available space in the building. It took the timely intervention of policemen from Itire Police Station to calm the angry crowd and lock up the building pending when the issue will be resolved.
Similarly, the Police in Lagos arrested a man for duping people desperately in search of accommodation.
Operatives attached to the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Alagbon, Lagos, effected the arrest of the property developer for allegedly defrauding over 300 house seekers.
The suspect according to the victims, allegedly used various names and conniving with over 20 house agents to dupe them of over N50 million.
According to them, the property developer and his wife renovated three houses in the Iponri, Aguda and Coker- Orile areas of Lagos state which they allegedly used in defrauding victims.
Also, a businessman, Olukorede Roberts, told the Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja how he was also defrauded of N80 million by a self- acclaimed real estate agent, Alhaji Jimoh Olawale.
Olawale was arraigned before Justice Adenike Coker on a two-count charge of obtaining money by false pretense and stealing.
Roberts said he instructed his lawyer to write a petition to the Police Special Fraud Unit on May 18 when he realized he has been defrauded.
The businessman said he paid N80million to Olawale for the purchase of a land located at Block 2, Plot 1, Onikoyi Layout, Parkview Estate, Lagos.
The situation has led to dozen of cases within the Lagos legal system.
For instance, there was a case of the sale of Honda Place, Ijesha, Lagos to Connoisseur Investment Limited by late Chief J. A Ojomo.
In the suit filed by Horst Pukke and Company Limited, Mr. Olu Awe and Mrs. Olufunke Awe, suing for and on behalf of Estate of Mr. Ayoola Awe at the Lagos High Court, they claimed that they are the rightful owner of the disputed property.
Awe wants the sum of N150 million from the defendants being the rental value of their property at the rate of N10 million per annum, for 15 years.
He alleged that in 1995, one company Connoisseur Nigeria Limited , a sister company of Stallion Nigeria Ltd, through their solicitor, Bonajo Badejo and one official of the company approached his late father for the lease of the company warehouse.
The lease, he said, was for 10 years for the first instance and having collected copies of deed of sale by which his father bought over Ojomo Industries and other transfer document to confirm ownership.
According to him, a lease agreement dated December 16, 1993 was drawn and signed by parties and also counter signed by the parties, with Bonajo signing on behalf of the tenant, while his junior brother , Mr Kola Awe, a lawyer signing for their company because their lawyer, Chief Adigun Ogunseitan was away to Europe for medical appointment.
He however alleged that after his father’s death, the tenant’s solicitor, Badejo, who did the investigation and confirmed the ownership of the warehouse before he approved the lease for his client, took his client to another person to pay for the property , claiming that the 3rd party, Oba John Ojomo had a better document.
According to the petitioner, Olalere signed as a director of Connoisseur Investment limited in the course of the lease agreement between Connoisseur and Horst Pukke& Co in 1999.
Awe further stated that despite knowing that the sale was fraudulent, Badejo went ahead to draft a deed of assignment for Connoisseur Nigeria Limited to sign for Oba John Ojomo, while he also went to witness for the seller instead of his client in Owo town, where Oba resides with his children.
The petitioner further alleged that property, which include a warehouse and 2 ½ acres of land was fraudulently sold as low as N15 million, when the value of a plot of land then was well above N15 million.
Similarly, was the case involving the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), a former staff of MTN, Primavera Engineering and Construction Limited and Mabo Dredging Limited on the N1.4 billion Yellow Estate project at a Lagos High Court, Igbosere.
The defendants, namely; Victor Akintunde, Gani Mustapha, Mutairu Babatunde, Primavera Engineering and Construction Limited and Mabo Dredging Limited are being prosecuted on a 18 count charge by the anti-graft agency for defrauding MTN Employees Co-Operative Society (MEMCOM) members of the sum of N1.4Billion in the process of buying 39 hectares of land located at Okun Ajah, Lagos.
Cyril Ilok, the General Manager with the Business Risk Management Unit in MTN Nigeria stated that the defendants stole the money meant to buy landed property and build the proposed “Yellow Estate” for members of the co-operative.
He affirmed that Victor Akintunde, who was the president of MEMCOS and the 2nd defendant, Gani Mustapha; a treasurer conspired to steal the money contributed by members of the co-operative.
According to him, “the 1st and 2nd defendants signed a memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the land owner and the total of 26.5 hectares was signed as N1, 501,902,666.00 but the cost was discovered to be N963.3, 000,000.00, leaving a difference of N373, 500,000.
“MEMCOS through the 1st and 2nd defendants acquired 39 hectares of land for real estate development, but they did not pay for the said numbers of hectares.
“The defendants only paid for 13 hectares. Later part paid for the 26 hectares of the land located in Okun Ajah, Lagos. We discovered that the 1st and 2nd defendants mismanaged the sum of N1, 357,764,414.”
There was also a case of the property on 4-6 Odegbami Street, Off Adeniyi Jones, Ogba Residential Scheme, Ikeja, Lagos belonging to Management Science Centre Limited.
According to the matter, Management Science Centre has in 2006 applied for, and was offered the following separate credit facilities by the Bank, N160million Term Loan, N40million Standby Overdraft and N200million Bank Guarantee. Three separate securities were provided for the multiple facilities, which however did not include the school property in Odegbami Street, off Adeniyi Jones area of Ikeja which the Bank illegally sold and which is the subject of the dispute. The bank in its letter of September 23,, 2010, stated clearly that the “property is not one of the securities offered ”.
While N40million standing overdraft was due for utilization in 2009, but the bank, in bad faith, declined the draw-down on the fully-collateralized facility.
Similarly, the N200million bank guarantee (a contingency liability renewable for five years) was issued on March 18, 2009 but unilaterally cancelled by the bank in July 22, 2009 (four months later), even though it was never called in.
The bank allegedly collected N2 million as commission for the guarantee that lasted less than 120 days, while account was allegedly not credited in spite of the cancellation of the guarantee.
On the N160million term loan, it was gathered that the loan was renewed twice; On July 11, 2007 with “extension of moratorium period by additional 14 months, expiring 31/05/2008” and (b) on November 6, 2008 another one year moratorium.
However , dispute over the credit facilities had been adjudicated upon and resolved by the High Court of Lagos State in Suit No. LD/2065/2010, prior to the institution of the suit in which Management Science Centre was allegedly not found liable for any particular indebtedness.
Nevertheless, while the suit was pending, First bank, allegedly sold Management Science Centre’s prime property to and confiscated the entire sale proceeds.
The defendant alleged that property which occupies over two and half acres in Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja, Lagos is a non-mortgaged property and that the bank in its letter of September 23, 2010 admitted that the property is not one of the securities for the loan.
The owners in the case reported of outright fraud, impersonation, fraudulent conversion, alteration and forgery in connection with the property.
In the case the plaintiff noted that certain individuals were constructing huge buildings with many floors on the their property without their knowledge, consent and approved building plan and construction permit from the Lagos State Government.
They also stated that these fraudulent individuals and their accomplices applied to the Lagos State Government for building approval with forged documents and fictitious ownership.
“It is astonishing that the illegal builders had the impudence to develop such massive buildings to the roofing level without government approval and without an ounce of title to the property.
“We have no relationship whatsoever with these fraudulent individuals and have not transferred the said property to them or anyone else”, they noted.