For Alhaji Usman Abubakar – popularly known as Young Alhaji – he may never have taken the initiative to approach Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, with the offer of sale of his choice possession had he the premonition that 10 years after the deal was effected ought to have been consummated, he would be unable to enjoy the fruit of his labour.
The odyssey of the Benue State-born All Progressives Congress (APC) top shot, he claims, began sometimes in February 2011 when he indicated to Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the second defendant in a suit with identification number, ADR/693/2017, his intention to sell a developed property situate at No. 8, Herbert Macaulay Crescent, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos State, measuring approximately 4,428.85 square yards, registered in Young Alhaji’s name as No. 12 at Page 12 in Volune 505 of the Register of Deeds, kept at the Lagos State Lands Registry, Ikeja, Lagos State. He said Mr. Tinubu indicated interest to buy.
Abubakar, alongside his company, further claimed that himself and Tinubu, the self-styled National Leader of the APC, discussed about the sale of the said property and agreed on the terms and conditions as captured in the agreement between Hashihal Trading Company Limited (the first claimant and Young Alhaji’s company) and Aranda Overseas Corporation and Wema Bank PLC (the first and fourth defendants in the suit. The agreement between the parties is dated 10th February, 2011.
Abubakar, in his statement of Oath, endorsed by his counsel, A. I. Wombo Esq. and Emmanuel Ogbeche Esq. of Wombo, Igba & Company and Trust Associates Legal Practitioners, averred that Tinubu introduced Aranda Overseas Corporation as his company and “insisted that the sale agreement should be in the name of the company as the purchaser of the property”.
He said it was agreed by the parties that the agreed purchase price of N700,000,000,00 (Seven Hundred Million Naira) only be paid in two installments as follows: N250,000,000,00 (Two Hundred and Fifty Million Naira) only; and N450,000,000.00 (Four Hundred and Fifty Million Naira) only.
He further claimed that Tinubu introduced Wema Bank PLC (the fourth defendant) to the transaction and it was agreed that the consideration for the property to be paid to him – Young Alhaji – be paid through the bank. He added that it was further agreed that on payment of the first installment of N250, 000,000.00 (Two Hundred and Fifty Million Naira) only to him, he should handover all the original title documents in respect of the property to Wema Bank pending when the outstanding balance of N450, 000,000.00 (Four Hundred and Fifty Million Naira) only was paid to him by Tinubu and Aranda Overseas Corporation on or before 14 working days from the date of the execution of the sale agreement.
Young Alhaji said that in compliance with the terms of the contract, he handed over to Wema Bank Certificate of Title, Deed of Assignment, Hashihal Trading Company Limited’s Certificate of Incorporation, Payment Receipts in respect of the property and other documents relating to the transaction following the payment of the first installment. He said he also vacated the said property and gave up possession to Aranda Overseas Corporation, Tinubu and Efuntayo Ibukun, the first, second and third defendants respectively.
Alhaji Abubakar further avvered that following the expiration of the 14 working days agreed upon by the parties for the completion of payment on the 2nd day of March 2011, and following several entreaties and demands, Aranda Overseas Corporation and Tinubu, in May 2011, paid another instalment of N250,000,000.00 (Two Hundred and Fifty Million Naira) only, leaving a balance of N200, 000,000.00 (Two Hundred Million Naira), only as outstanding.
The politician further stated that following continued failure and/or refusal to pay the outstanding balance, his solicitors wrote a letter dated 30th May, 2013 to Aranda Overseas Corporation, demanding the payment of the said sum. He said same day, his solicitors wrote another letter to Wema Bank requesting that it continue to keep in it’s custody the original title documents of the property until Tinubu and his company complete payment of the purchase price.
Though the claimants averred that following persistent demands for the settlement of the outstanding balance, Asiwaju Tinubu and his company, sometimes in 2014 made another payment of N50, 000, 000.00 (Fifty Million Naira) only, however, Rulers’World scooped that the payment was indeed made in bank drafts by the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, following his intervention to have the case settled out of court. This much was admitted by the first, second and third defendants in paragraphs 12 and 13 of their joint statement of defence.
Alhaji Abubakar therefore prayed the court for an order directing the defendants jointly and severally to pay him the outstanding balance; pay 22 per cent interest on the outstanding balance from March, 2014 to when judgement is delivered; another 10 per cent interest per annum of the judgement sum till same is fully liquidated and an order restraining Wema Bank from handing over the title documents of the property to the defendants until the judgement sum is fully liquidated.
However, Tinubu and other defendants in the suit, in their joint statement of defence dated 7th February, 2019, insists that they have fulfilled the terms of the contract, noting that the court action is an attempt at “gold digging, frivolous, baseless, vexatious, an abuse of court process and should be dismissed with substantial cost against the claimants”.
The defendants represented by their counsel, Adeleke Adeyemo Esq. and Adedayo Adeyemo Esq. of Adeleke Adeyemo & Co, Odojiku Chambers, said at no time was Tinubu “closely or remotely involved in anyway with the negotiations, payment and renegotiation of the property transaction and he’s unknown totally to the real estate transaction in dispute”.
The third defendant in the case, Mr. Efuntayo Ibukun, in his witness statement on oath, averred that the claimants misrepresented the size of the property to Aranda Overseas Corporation as 4, 428. 85SQ MTRS, which was the basis of the initial agreement with the company. Ibukun, who claimed to have the authority of the first, second and third defendants to depose to the affidavit, further stated that the company later realised upon taking pissession that the property was actually 4, 428sq yards, and not what was originally presented.
He insisted that pursuant to this, the first defendant renegotiated terms with the claimants and that parties agreed that the purchase price be fixed at N500 million, as full and final purchase price.
He also added that in furtherance of the agreement, the first defendant prepared a Deed of Assignment between itself and Hashihal Trading Company Limited with consideration/purchase price set at N500 million, and that the said Deed was duly executed by Alhaji Abubakar after parties had agreed to the renegotiated price due to the actual price of the property.
Mr. Ibukun stated further that the first defendant used a company which it had interest in, Tupt Integrated Services Limited, to purchase the property.
Ibukun further averred that the claimants, in 2013, filed suit No. ID/ADR/937/13 at the Ikeja division of the Lagos High Court against the same set of defendants and that it was due to the intervention of Oba of Lagos who went ahead and released the sum of N50 million to the claimants in the suit. He contended that at no time did the first defendant agreed to pay an extra N150 million. He said he was aware that the claimants voluntarily filed a Notice of Discontinuance in suit No. ID/ADR/937/13 after collecting the said sum from the monarch.
Mr. Ibukun also stated that he is aware that after the initial receipt agreement between the claimants and the first defendant dated 10th February, 2011, the first defendant renegotiated terms due to the reduced size of the property and the claimants went ahead to execute a receipt and a Deed of Assignment in favour of Tupt Integrated Services Limited for the sum of N500 million. He said the renegotiated receipt agreement was dated 21st April, 2011.
Mr. Ibukun said he personally travelled to Benue State in April 2011to deliver the Deed of Assignment and receipt agreement for the renegotiated sum between Hashihal Trading Company Limited and Tupt Integrated Services Limited, and that he was personally received by Alhaji Abubakar.
Wema Bank, the fourth defendant in the suit, neither filed nor appeared in any of the panel sittings at the alternative dispute resolution. It has also not responded to mails by counsel on the issue.
Meanwhile, unable to reach a rapprochement at the Alternative Dispute Resolution hearing, the matter has been assigned to Justice Latifat Abiola Folami (PhD) for adjudication. No date is yet fixed for hearing in the suit.
However, a number of questions appear poignant. One, the defendants contend in paragraph 8 of their statement of defence that it realised, after taking possession, that the property in question was actually 4,428sq yards rather than 4,428.85sq MTRS that it was made to believe. Could it be the defendants did not carry out due diligence before they decided to go ahead with the transaction?
Two, the defendants did not provide further information as to the possible reason the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, a close ally of Asiwaju Tinubu, decided to part with a whopping sum of N50 million to the claimants, after which the initial suit was withdrawn from court by the claimants. Is it the case of the defendants that this was a gratis from the monarch?
Three, could it be an oversight that a Deed of Assignment between Hashihal Trading Company Limited and Tupt Integrated Services Limited, prepared by Adeleke Adeyemo Esq. was not dated?
Four, how plausible does it sound to have another company do a renegotiation when the original company subsist?
These, and many more, may form the basis of the decision by His Lordship Justice Folami.