Chieftain of the National Democratic Coalition, (NADECO), Chief Ralph Obioha, needs help. Reason: Obioha has lamented how a man he employed as a former managing director of his defunct First African Trust Bank, Mr. Yomi Tokosi, connived with his erstwhile lawyer, Chima Okafor, seeking to deprive him of his property at No.24A Ikoyi Crescent, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Obioha laments that he employed Tokosi as the Managing Director of the bank, and also engaged Okafor, as his personal lawyer without knowing that the duo could plot to defraud him of his property.
Okafor later emerged the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry during the Governor Peter Obi administration in Anambra State.
The NADECO chieftain who was at the frontline of the struggle to end military rule in Nigeria, said he had in 1991 bought the land at the cost of N2 million from the late renowned sculptor, Prof. Ben Enwonwu. He disclosed that Enwonwu gave him the power of Attorney, Deed of Agreement, Deed of Sale and Deed of Indemnity. He also paid Okafor N500, 000 to prepare documents over the purchase of the land from Enwonwu and also agreed to demolish a bungalow before he (Obioha) took over.
He explained that Tokosi had approached him to complete his then unfinished building at 24A Ikoyi Crescent and share the units between them. They entered into a joint venture agreement which stated that Tokosi was to perfect the land title, build a first class finished building of the highest standard well as ensure that all building approvals are gotten and his consent(Obioha’s) obtained before any changes will be allowed in the building. He disclosed that the joint venture agreement he made with Tokosi on the property was handed over to his lawyer for safe keeping.
Now, he alleges that Tokosi has deviated from the terms of agreement and plotted with his lawyer, Okafor, trying to take over the property. Okafor claims that the joint venture agreement was consumed in a fire which gutted his office in a building owned by Tokosi.
Narrating his ordeal, Obioha said he had demolished a bungalow at the side and started erecting a building through a firm, Multi-Project Limited, owned by Mr. Ademola Odutola who was introduced to him by Tokosi in 1993. He paid Odutola N70, 000 Pounds and he commenced work in 1993. Following the offensive against him and other NADECO chieftains by the Abacha junta over its refusal to swear in the winner of the 1993 presidential poll, Chief M.K.O Abiola, Obioha had to flee into exile to USA which lasted till 1998.
According to him; “Political unrest rocked Nigeria following the refusal of the military to swear in Chief 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 USA, partly for my safety and most importantly, to continue with the struggle for the restoration of democracy. Multi-Projects continued with the construction of my property at 24A Ikoyi Crescent, reached foundation level and had to stop as my flight to USA which we believed will be brief turned from months to years. I didn’t return to Nigeria until 1998.”
Four years after his return from exile and the property lying uncompleted, the ex NADECO chieftain said Tokosi approached him to allow him complete the building on the basis of sharing the four units ; two each to himself and Tokosi. He explained that Tokosi also agreed to perfect the Certificate of Occupancy of the land and other fees.
Obioha lamented that the agreement to allow Tokosi complete the unfinished building and share the units between them was his major undoing as the latter 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 said; “Tokosi rented one of my two units, paid rent for three years and stopped. He started claiming that the property belongs to the Lagos State government and not me. Out of curiosity, I sensed that Tokosi must have engaged in some fraudulent practices because many documents started disappearing from the file.
“My erstwhile lawyer, Chima Okafor, called me in the USA 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, I discovered that Tokosi and Okafor had concluded a plot to take over my property .Okafor 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 telephone and he said there was a fire incident in his office which consumed my property file.”
He accused Tokosi of having a hidden agenda and collaborating with his lawyer, Okafor, seeking to take over the property. Obioha further lamented that he regretted handing over some documents including the agreement he had with Tokosi, to the lawyer for safe keeping.
“Tokosi wants to use Okafor to deprive me of my property. The missing joint venture agreement which my former lawyer claimed was burnt in a fire incident that took place in Mr. Tokosi’s property was contrived to destroy evidence particularly the part that established things that Tokosi 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 Tokosi and Okafor. 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 then lawyer, why didn’t Okafor swear to an affidavit of facts over the incident and obtain CTC of the burnt documents and make them available to me? It was a planned scheme to take over my property. The two of them were of the mistaken conviction that if they succeeded in claiming that the documents were burnt by fire, then Tokosi will simply inherit the property. It took my producing printout from my bank, UBA, that Okafor was paid N500, 000 for his services to prepare necessary documents for the purchase of the land from Enwonwu.
“Tokosi and Okafor were aware that the enforcers of the Abacha junta invaded my country home in Arondizuogu in 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 secured that my lawyer, Okafor was in safe custody of the original documents of 24A Ikoyi Crescent. In 2006, Tokosi informed me that Okafor had told him that the deal I gave him (Tokosi) was a sweet one that he should give him one of the four units and I dismissed the information. But now, I know better.
Tokosi, also claimed Abacha closed the bank because of my NADECO activities. But it is regrettable that I was betrayed. Tokosi 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 false claims that the land doesn’t belong to Prof. Enwonwu, but to the Lagos state government. This is a sinister plot to make a tenant, Tokosi, a landlord through the back door. He was paying rent on the unit he rented and suddenly stopped. I bought the property at 24A Ikoyi Crescent three years before a friend introduced Tokosi to me and I made him the Managing Director of my bank.
“He has made several petitions against me to the Ikoyi Police Station. Tokosi has brought several gangs of thugs, one of who assaulted my boy, Kingsley Mbonu. Due to the extent of the assault, the Ikoyi Police took my boy to the Police clinic at Falomo. 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. Tokosi 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 as Managing Director of my bank. How did Tokosi jump into the property and start developing it? Ask him to produce bill of quantities, submit all the technical drawings and get his collaborator to produce the agreement between him and myself. If the agreement is produced, it will expose the many lies of Tokosi who now claims to be the landlord. It took my producing a printouts from my bankers ,UBA that Mr. Chima Okafor was paid N500,000 for his services to prepare necessary documents for the purchase of the land from Prof.Enwonwu. He was disputing that any payment was made to Okafor.
In his reaction to the allegations, Tokosi said the issue was that he and Obioha had a joint venture agreement on a land he (Obioha) claims to be his and Lagos state later objected to the claim with proofs.
In his words; “I erected the structure and completed it with money. I gave him two after the completion and after awhile, Lagos State Government came and said they own the land. Instead of him to go there to ratify things, he did otherwise.
“He’s my friend. He’s a very good man. I like him. I was the Managing Director of his bank for six years, I still respect him. Instead of fighting me, he should go to Lagos State Government and clear things.
“Once he clears things fine. When Lagos came, he ran to the US, my investment was at stake, so I had to regularize things. So, if he clears with Lagos State and pays me my money which I spent, he can have his part of the property.”
He alleged that Obioha employed the service of some thugs to come and vandalize his property which he claimed led to the arrest of the thugs who confessed to him been paid by Obioha to do what they did.
As at the time of filing this report, Obioha’s former lawyer, Mr. Chima Okafor, said he was in a meeting and promised to call back. Repeated calls and text messages were placed to his mobile number, but he declined response.