By Ifeanyi Okolie
The quiet atmosphere hitherto witnessed at Church Street in Ajao Estate area of Lagos was recently truncated, following an uproar by some persons who gathered in front of a building located at number 3.
The disgruntled individuals numbering over 100, were later discovered to be prospective tenants who paid for apartments in the building which was near completion, only to discover that they had been swindled by the developer, one Abdulahi Osani.
The prospective tenants as gathered, paid as much as N200,000 and above for a room, self-contained and two-bedroom flats with the hope to collect the keys from Osani one week after payment, which unfortunately, was never to be.
One of the victims, Udechi Ikechukwu, a staff of Power Holding Company of Nigeria PHCN, told Crime Alert that he read an advert on the lease of vacant apartments on a pasted bill on the wall and immediately contacted Osani on the telephone number on the flier.
“ He informed me that the apartments available were four self-contained apartments and two mini-flats. He said I should hurry down to number 3 Church Street, Ajao Estate, where the building was located, to have a view of it. And because I have been searching for an apartment for long, I rushed to the said address where I met Osani at the front of a storey building which was under going some renovation. He took me round and said he would give each of the apartments out for N250, 000, with agent and agreement fee for N50, 000 each,totaling N100,000. He also said he would accept one year rent if I was interested.
I bargained for N230, 000, which he accepted and gave me an account number to deposit the money and bring the teller for him. I paid on November 13, 2012 and brought the bank teller to him, after which he issued me a receipt and asked me to give him some time to put finishing touches on the apartments, assuring I would move in by December 5 , 2012”
But two days later , he got the shock of his life after he received a call from one of his friends , informing him of the uproar at the building.
“I quickly rushed to the building, only to find people struggling to move their property into the apartments. Next day, I went to the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) to lodge a complaint, only to be told I was the 129th person that paid for the apartment.
I felt like dying because I never envisaged I would be defrauded just like that. The most painful aspect of it is that I paid for the apartment with the hope to start planning to get married the moment I moved in. Now,I have no place of my own, I have been moving from one place to the other.” He lamented.
When Crime Alert approached Abudulahi Osani, the man at the centre of the controversy, he showed no sign of remorse for his action . Rather, he bluntly asked to be given some time to refund the prospective tenants their money.
The genesis of my story
“I was formerly into importation. I was importing kitchen equipments with a cooperative society. But after some trips, the Federal Government placed a ban on the importation of the items following which the consignment we imported then were classified as contraband and were consequently seized by the Customs. I lost all my money in that business and I became hopeless and started feeding from hand to mouth.
Since I read Civil Engineering at the university, people advised me to go into real estate development. Along the line I found a family who wanted me to develop a three -room apartment for them at Ilaje area of Bariga Lagos. I invested the sum of N1.5m into that project but something happened along the line which made me lose my money. That was in 2009.
Since then, I never got another project until this one at Ajao Estate that brought me here. The building belongs to the family of Alabi-Ore and it was leased to me for 10 years. The building was a deck -down building and it has no edifice on it. I came with half a million naira and started construction by March this year..
What was supposed to be on it was six apartments but the entrance to the decking was formed into the apartment and I had to reject it by shifting the staircase to the side. The apartments were four mini flats and two one- room self contained. The apartments were meant for only six occupants”Osani stated.
The agent sold the idea to me
As the construction was on-going,I exhausted my money and the project was down for about two months. Along the line, an agent came and asked why I stopped construction and when I told him the reason, he said he had some people who would be interested to rent the apartments.
That was how they started bringing prospective tenants who paid N200,000, for two years, with agreement and agent fee N50,000-N50,000, totaling N500,000. I gave the agent N30,000 for each person he brought. At the end of the day, I collected money from a total of 129 people which amounted to over N25million and gave N250, 000 to Alhaji Atanda while I spent the rest on the project.
While I was collecting money from this people I knew their number had exceeded the available apartment. But I had the intention of refunding the money back to those who are not able to get accommodation at the end of the day .
I have apologized to them and I have also begged the police to give me three months to pay them . Currently I don’t have such money in my account but I have a job in Bayelsa state that will fetch me N15million”, he stated.
Meanwhile the Lagos State Real Estate Transaction Department, an outfit formed by the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, to investigate real estate and landed property scam within the state has waded into the case with a view to assisting victims get quick justice.
Spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command, Ngozi Braide on her part, said the police would not leave any stone unturned in their investigation.