Lagos  Set to Arraign Lawyers, Estate Agent for Alleged Forgery, Illegal Demolition

Wale Igbintade

Lagos State Government has concluded arrangements to arraign two legal practitioners, Ademola Owolabi and Adebayo Akeju, as well as a real estate developer, Alex Ochonogor, over alleged forgery and willful damage to property.

Already, Justice Sherifat Sonaike of the Lagos High Court at Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) has fixed April 29, 2024, for their arraignment.

The adjournment was sequel to the defendants’ absence and their counsel when the matter came up for the first time on Monday, before Justice Sonaike.

The two lawyers and the realtor are facing a five count charge of conspiracy to commit forgery, forgery, and willful damage to property pressed against them by the Lagos State Government in suit marked LD/23611C/2024.

When the suit was mentioned, the Director of Public Prosecution of Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Dr. Babajide Martins, told the court that Akeju has been served the charge, adding that the other two are evading service.

He said: “I know that they are aware of the matter today because they are sending emissaries to me. I will ask for adjournment. If they refuse to come at the next adjourned date, we will apply for substituted service,” Martins said, and pleaded with the court to adjourn the matter.

The Judge, who detests all manner of delay tactics, including submission of documents to the court on the day of sitting, acceded to the prosecutor’s request for adjournment, she, thereafter, adjourned the matter to April 29 for the defendants’ arraignment.

The statement of offence in count one says: “Conspiracy to commit a felony to wit: Forgery contrary to Section 411 of the Criminal Law,Ch.C17, Vol.3, Laws of Lagos State, 2015.”

Particulars of offence states that: “Ademola Owolabi (M), Adebayo Akeju (M), Alex Ochonogor (M) and others (now at large) sometimes in 2015 at B604, Safe Court Apartments, Ikate, Lekki, Lagos State in the Lagos Judicial Division conspired among yourselves to commit a felony to wit: Forgery.”

In count two, they were charged with forgery contrary to Section 365 (1) of the Criminal Law, Ch. C17, Vol.3, Laws of Lagos State, 2015.

“Ademola Owolabi (M), Adebayo Akeju (M), Alex Ochonogor (M) and others (now at large) sometimes in 2015 at B604, Safe Court Apartments, Ikate, Lekki, Lagos State in the Lagos Judicial Division with intent that it be acted upon as genuine did forge an affidavit of loss of certificate of occupancy purportedly sworn at the Registry of Ministry of Justice, Alausa, Lagos State on September 23, 2014, to falsely indicate that the original of Certificate of Occupancy Number 36/36/1994W issued to one Hamza Al- Mustapha got missing,” the charge reads.

Also, contrary to Section 365 (1) of the Criminal Law, Ch.C17, Vol.3, Laws of Lagos State, 2015, the suspects were accused of forging a Demolition Notice Number 0000025 titled: ‘Audit of Illegal structures within Government Schemes Acquisition and Revocation Areas’, purportedly issued by the Governor’s Office, Lands Bureau, Directorate of Land Regularisation, Secretariat, Alausa, with the intent for it to be acted upon.

They were also accused of procuring a forged Memorandum of Loss of Certificate of Occupancy purportedly dated September 25, 2014, to falsely indicate that original of Certificate of Occupancy Number 36/36/1994W issued to one Hamza Al-Mustapha Certificate got missing as well as willfully and unlawfully destroying a bungalow located on Plot 10, Block 133, Lekki Peninsular Residential Scheme 1, Lagos State, property of one Dr. Obidigwe Eze, who resides abroad.

The background to the charge is that Owolabi and Akeju both lawyers allegedly aided Ochonogor a businessman in dispossessing Dr. Eze of his property known as Plot 10 Block 133, Lekki Peninsula Residential Scheme 1, Lagos State. 

USP Communications Limited sold the land to Eze in May 12, 2005, where he built a bungalow and has been in peaceful possession.     

Upon invasion of the property by the accused persons for land grabbing purposes, the police waded in and investigated the root of their title.

The investigation revealed that Owolabi and Akeju had forged series of documents to establish that the property still belongs to Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, who was the original allottee, but has since sold the property in 2002 to Continental Properties, who in turn sold to USP Communications that finally sold to the current owner, Eze.

Relying on the premise of alleged missing title documents to the land, Akeju allegedly approached Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, while still in Prison, on the basis of assisting him in facilitating the sale of the property to Ochonogor, who had indicated interest in purchasing the land and allegedly provided funding for all the false documentation, forgeries and demolition of Eze’s home.

Al-Mustapha reportedly informed Akeju that he has sold a property in that location, instructing him to confirm from his lawyer, Abdulfatai Thomas, to ensure that the property is not the same he had sold, but the suspect did not contact Thomas as instructed.

He allegedly prepared documents, demolished Eze’s home, and sold the land to Ochonogor, who immediately began construction against court injunction to stop.

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