Two developers, Oluwasegun Adewara, and one Okeowo, have gone into hiding after allegedly defrauding no fewer than 70 prospective tenants at Lawanson, in the Surulere area of Lagos State.
PUNCH Metro gathered that the prospective tenants visited the building, which was under construction, to inspect its premises and afterwards made payments to the developers.
After confirming the payments, it was learnt that the suspects issued receipts to the victims and set aside separate dates for them to take ownership of the apartments.
Things, however, took another turn when the people got to the house on 16, Zamba Street, Lawason, on the specified dates given by the developers but discovered that the number of prospective tenants outnumbered the apartments in the one-storey building.
One of the victims, Jacob Dunya, said the house had just 14 flats, adding that 120 prospective tenants paid to the developers, who disappeared after their fraudulent acts were uncovered.
The Plateau State indigene said, “I paid N600,000 for a mini-flat for a year directly to the account of the developer, Oluwasegun Olanrewaju Adewara, on April 26, 2022. When I visited the house, I noticed that the work at the site was less as it was left for them to fix only the doors and the windows.
“So, they gave last Monday to collect keys to my apartment. But when I got there, the developer told me the place was not ready and said I should return on Monday, June 20, 2022. When I got there, I saw them fixing the keys to the doors and I was told to come back again this week Tuesday.
“I never knew that last Thursday and Friday, people had come around to fight them to access their apartments. I quickly rushed down on Friday and noticed that there were hoodlums around asking people to pay N100,000 so they could break down the padlocks used in locking some of the doors so they could have access to the apartments.
“The developers are nowhere to be found and we have yet to hear from the owners of the land and their lawyers. Over 120 people paid for the 14 flats in this building and more people are still coming. The money people paid will be about N60m because some people made advance payments for five years. They also gave us receipts. The matter was reported at the Itire Police Station.”
Another victim, Jenifer Ihemeje, while lamenting the incident, said some prospective tenants cried and fainted out of shock.
The entrepreneur said, “I paid N650,000 in April to Mr Okeowo and others, but they kept postponing till June 14, 2022, when I sent a text message to threaten them. It was another person who also paid for a flat that informed me that about 10 people paid for a single flat.
“The person said a lot of people gathered at the house on Friday over the incident. So, I rushed down there on Saturday and met people crying, shouting and some people even fainted.”
A widow, Love Chidi, said she paid N250,000 for a single room in January and left for her husband’s burial in Abia State.
“But when I returned, the developers said they had not completed work on the building. My husband died in December and we were sent out of the house we were staying because the building had cracked and was likely to collapse. So, I came here, paid the developer and left for the burial only to return to face this war. There are over 117 people stranded here,” she added.
The receipts of some of the aggrieved house seekers seen by our correspondent indicated that the developers operated with a business name, Sheedison Construction Co.
A screenshot confirming payment into Oluwasegun Adewara’s Access Bank account was also seen by our correspondent.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, SP Benjamin Hundeyin, who confirmed the incident, said the command had launched a manhunt for the fleeing suspects.
“But they are not 120; they are 70 people. The developer collected money for 15 flats and absconded,” he added.
In 2021, a developer, Ahmed Ayinde, was arrested by men of the Lagos State Police Command for allegedly defrauding no fewer than 100 prospective tenants of about N500m in the Olowo Ira area of the state.
Similarly, in 2019, over 66 prospective tenants got stranded as a landlord, Olatunji Joseph, in connivance with a developer, Aderonke Olaleye, allegedly swindled them out of over N16m paid for rents for five flats in a newly-constructed one-storey building on Abeni Close, Asa Estate, in the Gbagada area of the state.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, said, “We have the Lagos State Real Estate Regulatory Authority Law 2022. The matter is described under that law and it is a very serious offence for anybody to collect money from people and deny them accommodation.
“But the problem is that our people don’t make enquiries; anybody who puts a board outside to say ‘To let’ or to say that he is a developer, people will just gather money and give him and the person will disappear. There are some of them who have no addresses but only telephone numbers, so this law makes it compulsory for anybody who wants to practise in that space to register as a practitioner. And once you register with the agency, should you collect money from anybody, it will be very easy to grab you.
“Now, we have a team that is going round on enforcement. Many people have faced the law for duping people of their hard-earned money and the agency has recovered money for people and resolved many disputes.”