…’Police arrested me over 20 times’
…Matter will be in court soon-Ex-bank chief
A former chieftain of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, Chief Ralph Obioha, is not a happy man. He is accusing a former top official of the defunct First African Trust Bank of wanting to take over his property located at N24A Ikoyi Crescent, Ikoyi, Lagos State.
Obioha alleges that the takeover bid is being executed in collaboration with his former lawyer.
First African Trust Bank stopped functioning after Obioha fled abroad during Abacha regime.
Obioha stated that he had entered into an agreement to complete then-unfinished building and share the units between them.
The soft-spoken Obioha, who was a front liner in the struggle to end military rule in Nigeria, said he had in 1991 acquired the land from the late renowned sculptor, Prof. Ben Enwonwu.
Narrating his ordeal to Sunday Vanguard in Umuahia, Obioha said he started erecting the building through a firm introduced to him by the former bank chief (erstwhile employee) in 1993, before he had to flee into exile following the onslaught against him and other NADECO chieftains by the Abacha regime over the refusal of the military to swear in the winner of the 1993 presidential poll, Chief Moshood Abiola.
“Political unrest rocked Nigeria following the refusal of the military to swear in Chief M.K.O. Abiola as the winner of the 1993 presidential election. The truncation of Abiola’s mandate predicated a massive unrest with General Sani Abacha assuming full military powers and I, being a front liner in the struggle, fled into exile in the US, partly for my safety and, most importantly, to continue with the struggle for the restoration of democracy. The construction of my property at 24A Ikoyi Crescent, which had foundation level, had to stop as my flight to US, which we believed will be brief, turned from months to years. I didn’t return to Nigeria until 1998,” he said.
Four years after his return from exile and the property lying uncompleted, the ex NADECO chieftain said the former bank chief approached him to allow him complete the building on the basis of sharing the four units; two each to himself and the erstwhile employee.
According to him, the former bank chief also undertook to perfect the Certificate of Occupancy of the land and other fees.
Obioha lamented that the agreement to allow the former employee complete and share the building between them was his major undoing as the latter allegedly rented one of the two units belonging to him (Obioha), paid rent thrice and declined further payment since 2018 while still occupying the unit.
He explained: “My erstwhile lawyer called me in the US and announced that he will no longer act as my lawyer, that I should return immediately to Lagos and collect my property file with him. When I returned to Lagos after a week, the lawyer refused to honour any invitation for us to meet, except once and did not return the property file to me till date. We spoke on phone and he said there was a fire incident in his office, which consumed my property file.”
The former NADECO chief accused the former bank chief of having a hidden agenda and allegedly collaborating with his lawyer, to take over the property. Obioha further alleged that he had earlier handed over some documents including the agreement he had with the bank chief to the lawyer for safe keeping.
“The bank chief wants to use my former lawyer to deprive me of my property. The missing agreement which my former lawyer claimed was burnt in a fire incident that took place in the bank chief’s property was contrived to destroy evidence, particularly the part that established things that the bank chief was to perfect the land title, build a first class finished building of the highest standard, ensuring all building approvals are obtained and consent obtained from me before any changes will be allowed. It was convenient for all these agreements to be burnt by fire as alleged by the erstwhile bank chief and my former lawyer. If there was a fire outbreak, there are laid down procedures that must be followed. Why didn’t the duo obtain a police report of the incident? As my lawyer, why didn’t my former lawyer swear to an affidavit of facts over the incident and obtain CTC of the burnt documents and make them available to me?
“The former bank chief and my erstwhile lawyer were aware that the enforcers of the Abacha junta invaded my country home in Arondizuogu, Imo State and carted away title documents on my property holdings in Nigeria including the ones I received in respect of 24A Ikoyi Crescent. I felt assured that my lawyer, was in safe custody of the original documents of 24A Ikoyi Crescent. The former bank chief also told me Abacha closed the bank because of my NADECO activities. But it is regrettable that I was betrayed. My former employee believes that the documents to the property are out of sight, this is why he is shouting that the production of the documents is all he wants.
He has even made claims that the land doesn’t belong to Prof. Enwonwu, but to Lagos State government. He was paying rent on the unit he rented and suddenly stopped. He wants to become a landlord through the back-door. I bought the property at 24A Ikoyi Crescent three years before a friend introduced the former bank chief to me and I employed him. “He has written several petitions against me to the Ikoyi Police Station. I have lost count of the number of times he has brought purported officials to seal my property. I have been arrested over 20 times by the police on flimsy reasons.
“Each time, the police told him to maintain peace. The former bank chief has also dragged me before the Lagos land grabbers committee, who washed their hands off the matter because they discovered he has no case”.
He has been playing the ethnic card that he is a Lagosian while I’m Igbo, but that is nonsense. I knew he was a Lagosian before I employed him in my bank.”
Contacted, the erstwhile, bank chief told Sunday Vanguard that he was in a meeting, and has a wedding ceremony to attend but later said the matter would be in court soon. He also promised to talk to Sunday Vanguard later.
Obioha’s former lawyer (names withheld) also said he was in a meeting and promised to call back. Later when repeated calls were placed on his mobile number, he failed to respond.
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