Billionaire, Okeowo, Siblings in Court over Late Father’s Estate


Wale Igbintade

In recent times, the offspring of wealthy Nigerians have been involved in controversies over who controls what in a multimillionaire estate of their parents, who sometimes died intestate (without a will), while the ones with a will have always been a subject of litigation. From captains of industry to politicians and legal titans, it has been a tale of power play and supremacy of who should be in charge or who is right to take the lion’s share.

The family of the late foremost industrialist the late Sir Taiwo Okeowo, have dragged themselves before the Lagos High Court presided over by Justice Aishat Opesanwo over a libel case instituted by a Lagos billionaire and property developer, Sir Oluwatumininu Okeowo, against some of his siblings.

The case has been adjourned for a hearing until May 20, 2024.

When the case came up for hearing on Monday, Justice Opesanwo informed parties that the court would not sit due to the absence of the court registrar.

Okeowo had, in suit number LD/ADR/4661/2022, dragged his siblings before the court, claiming N100m as damages over alleged libellous publication against him.

The defendants in the suit are Joe Faraday (a company belonging to his brother), Joshua Okeowo, and Tolulope Okeowo.

The claimant is asking the court for a perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from publishing libellous statements about him. 

He prayed the court to compel the defendants to disclose evidence that he (claimant) forged the Lagos State Certificate of Occupancy over property known as 15A and 15B, Bayo kuku Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.

However, in their statement of defence filed by their lawyer, Kunle Adegoke SAN, the defendants denied making any unprovoked assault or orchestrated smear campaign on the claimant’s character. They neither have any malice against him. 

The defendants further stated that they did not, at any time, malign or defame the claimant’s character in any manner whatsoever and that they would hold the claimant to strict proof regarding this allegation.

The defendants averred that they did not, at any time whatsoever, authored the purported internet publication titled ‘Sir Taiwo Okeowo Estate Brief’ or engaged in a campaign of calumny against the claimant concerning the alleged destruction of Santo Domingo Luxury Residences or any other matter whatsoever.

They stated that the letter dated October 5, 2022, referenced in paragraph 10 of the Statement of Claim, was written on the authorization of the second and third defendants as well as their six siblings in their capacities as shareholders and directors of Manna Real Estate Company Limited and Metal Construction (West Africa) Ltd and beneficiaries of the Estate of Late Sir Taiwo Okeowo, wherein they instructed the law firm of Fortbanc to petition the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the inspector general of police (IGP) to investigate criminal activities committed by the claimant.

They averred that the second and third defendants and their other siblings petitioned the law enforcement authorities due to the alleged fraudulent and reckless dissipation of properties from the estate of their late father, Sir Taiwo Okeowo, among other criminal actions.

Also, in their counterclaim, the defendants averred that since the death of their father, no letters of administration were granted to anyone to administer the estate of their late father, Sir Taiwo Okeowo.

They further averred that the defendant to counterclaim (Sir Olu Okeowo) was neither the administrator of their late father’s estate nor a shareholder or a director in the two companies owned by the late Sir Taiwo Okeowo.

They alleged that after the death of their late father in 2003, the defendant to counterclaim forcefully took over the control of the two companies (being Metal Construction (West Africa) Ltd and Manna Real Estate Company Ltd), including the assets of the estate of the deceased without the consent or authority of the surviving children of the deceased.

They further alleged that since the death of their father, (Sir Taiwo Okeowo), the defendant to counterclaim has been illegally managing the assets of the estate of their late father to the extent that the defendant to counterclaim dissipated most of the funds, assets and properties of their late father by converting some of the funds, assets and properties of the estate to himself and one company known as Gibralter Construction Nigeria Limited, wherein the defendant to counterclaim is a shareholder and director.

The counter-claimants stated that the defendant to counterclaim had constituted himself as a sole self-appointed administrator of their late father’s estate by allegedly denying them and their siblings’ equal shares in their deceased father’s estate. 

They alleged that he refused to disclose information regarding the management of assets of the Estate estate of their late father or render an account of his administration of same.

Consequently, they prayed the court for a declaration that the counterclaimants, together with the defendant to a counterclaim, being the beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate, are jointly entitled to the distribution of the deceased’s estate assets.

They also prayed the court to declare that the counterclaimants are entitled to access information regarding the management of their late father’s estate and an order directing the defendant to counterclaim to render a proper account of his management of the estate of the late Sir Taiwo Okeowo, who died intestate, including an order appointing the Administrator-General of Lagos State to take over the management of the assets of the Estate of the Late Sir Taiwo Okeowo and distribute same in accordance with the Administration of Estates Law of Lagos State.

EFCC Re-Arraigned Businessman, Osagie Ididia, for Alleged N84m Fraud

Funke Olaode

A businessman, Adrian Osagie Ididia, has been re-arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before a Lagos Special Offences Court in Ikeja for alleged fraud of N84 million.

India was re-arraigned before Justice Ismail Ijelu on two counts of alleged obtaining by false pretence and stealing N84 million.

The defendant had, sometime in 2022, arraigned before Justice Serifat Solebo, now retired, and was granted bail.

However, at the resumed hearing yesterday, the EFCC counsel, Mr Ebuka  Okongwu, prayed the court to allow the two amended counts charge dated November 25, 2021, to be read to the defendant to take his plea. 

The defendant’s counsel did not oppose his prayer for re-arraignment, Mr. Dada Awosika (SAN).

Ididia was, therefore, re-arraigned on a two-count charge of fraud and stealing the N84 million. 

EFCC alleged that Ididia obtained money by false pretence contrary to Sections 1(1) and 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act No. 14 of 2006.

He was alleged to have obtained N84 million ‘with intent to defraud’ one Mark David Umeh on the false representation that he had three Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for sale in September 2019, knowing fully well that his claim was false.

His offence of stealing was contrary to sections 278 and 285 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State of Nigeria, No 11, 2011.

He pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Part of the charge read that Ididia, between September 13, 2019, and October 29, 2019, at Lagos within the court jurisdiction, dishonestly stole and converted to his use the sum of N84,000,000.00 property of Mr Mark David Umeh.

Following his plea of not guilty, EFCC counsel prayed the court to remand the defendant in prison custody and fix a trial date.

In his submission, defendant counsel Awosika told the court that he had filed a bail application dated May 2. He prayed the court to allow his client to continue on bail earlier granted by the retired Justice Solebo.

He submitted that the defendant did not violate the conditions of the bail granted, and he has always been in court.

He told the court to admit the defendant to bail and added that a Federal High Court had granted him bail in a similar matter. He maintained that the defendant was ready to stand trial and would not jump bail if granted by the court. 

However, the EFCC counsel filed a counter affidavit to oppose the bail application. Okongwu submitted that the defendant worked for a construction company in Canada and that he has a Canadian passport.

“He does not even live in the address he wrote in the statement. The address was traced on Google and it was discovered that is was a shot let apartment,” he stated. 

He added that the defendant has no residential address for the commission to trace him.

Awosika responded that he resides in Benin, and his passport was deposited at the Federal High Court in another matter. The counsel, therefore, undertakes to bring him at the next adjournment date and prays the court to release the defendant so that he can get his family to prepare for his bail bond.

After listening to both counsels, Justice Ijelu fixed May 22 for ruling on the bail application and released Ididia to Awosika to bring him on the next adjourned date.

Whitney Adeniran: Chrisland Trains Staff on Safeguard Policy, Witness Tells Court

Funke Olaode

Mr Jubril Yakubu, a prosecution witness in the ongoing case between the Lagos government and Chrisland School, told the Ikeja Division of the Lagos High Court that he was not aware that three Child Protection Officers from the school were at Agege Stadium on the day of the inter-house sport. 

He informed the court, presided over by Justice Oyindamola Ogala that he was also not aware that the trio of Mrs. Taylor, Mrs. Fajemirokun and Mrs. Oladimeji, who were at the stadium on the inter-house sports day, were present on February 14 because he did not check the attendees’ list.

Chrisland School and four staffers, including the principal, vice principal and two others, were alleged by the Lagos government of negligence over the death of a 12-year-old student, Whitney Adeniran, during an Inter-house sports competition that was held at the Agege Stadium, Lagos. 

The defendants were charged before the court on March 30, 2023, and all pleaded not guilty.

At the resumed hearing and while being cross-examined by counsel to the fourth defendant, Mr. Ademola Animashaun, the witness confirmed that he is aware that Chrisland School has trained their staff on safeguarding policy and was once a facilitator during such training.

When asked if he agrees that the primary responsibility of school safety rests on his ministry, he answered in the affirmative.

Yakubu, the third prosecution witness who reaffirmed before the court that he is a deputy director with the Ministry of Youth and Social Development in Lagos State, noted that he did not know that the school had an emergency bus on the ground on the day of the incident, but he is aware that they have a school bus at the venue.

He said, “I am aware that the school had a nurse on the ground, but I don’t know if there were any first aiders on the ground on the day of the incident. “

When asked if he is aware that the deceased mother attended the inter-house sport, he said yes, but he does not know if she was taken to the hospital by the school.

“I am aware that the deceased was taken to the primary health centre in Agege and that the stadium is far from the primary health centre where she was taken. I don’t know the time it took the school emergency bus to get to the hospital,” he said.

The counsel, Barr. Animasaun brought out his phone to show the Lagos witness the GPS timing, which showed the driving distance between the stadium and the hospital to be three minutes. 

The witness also reaffirmed that the meeting of February 14, 2023, was fact-finding and that he wrote his report based on the findings at the meeting held on the cause of death. 

He added, “I don’t know whether the autopsy report was out as at the time I did my report, whereby I also recommended that the cause of death should be looked into.”

When asked if he knew that his report contained the wrong account because he did not capture the school’s account of what transpired on February 9, 2023, he replied in the negative.

He added, “I was not aware that the school got to know about the death of the deceased until after the event but, I can confirm that the commissioner ordered the closure of the school after the incident. I can also confirm that the doctor at Agege Central Hospital, where the deceased was taken to is a qualified medical personnel, and that the hospital is licensed.”

After listening to the witness evidence, Justice Ogala adjourned further proceedings until June 3, 6, 2024.

TotalEnergies Loses Appeal over Tax Assessment

Wale Igbintade

The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, has dismissed the appeal filed by Total E&P Nig. Ltd against the decision of Justice O.O Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court over none compliance with the Petroleum Tax Act (PPTA).

In her lead Judgement, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem held that the lower court was right and that the appeal was unmeritorious.

Other panel members, Justice J.G Abundaga and Justice AM Talba aligned themselves with the lead judgment.

The appellant (Total E&P Nig. Ltd), an upstream petroleum company, had, in 2006, 2007 and 2008, flared associated gas (gas extracted alongside oil) without written permission of the Minister of Petroleum Resources. 

However, it paid the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) fees for the gas flaring for those years.

In its Petroleum Profits Tax (PPT) Returns, the appellant deducted the fees as allowable expenses for those years. 

However, in 2011, the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative CNETTI) conducted an audit on the Appellant (Exhibit TO6 at Page 41 of the records), and complained that the appellant should not have deducted the payment for its gas flaring of 2006, 2007 or 2008 in its tax returns. 

NEITI contended that since the appellant did not obtain the minister’s written permission to flare gas in those years as required by law, the payment for the gas flaring was not incurred in accordance with the law and, hence, is not an allowable expense under the Petroleum Profit Tax Act (PPTA). 

Following the 2011 NEITI Audit, the appellant approached DPR and signed a joint resolution with DPR on March 28, 2012, which reviewed the payments made to DPR on the appellant’s gas flaring between 1990 – 2009 and 2010 – 2011 in line with the prevailing Naira-US Dollar exchange rate.

But, the respondent (Federal Inland Revenue Service) disallowed the appellant’s deduction of the gas flare payments for 2006, 2007 and 2008, and on that basis, raised Petroleum Profit Tax assessments on the Appellant on October 12, 2012, in respect of those three years. 

The appellant objected to and ultimately challenged the assessments at the Tax Appeal Tribunal. 

The appellant contended that it rightly flared gas in 2006, 2007 and 2008, citing the joint resolution signed with the DPR in 2012 as the minister’s written permission for its gas flaring in 2006 – 2008. 

The Tax Appeal Tribunal endorsed this argument and delivered judgment in favour of the appellant.

The respondent appealed to the Federal High Court, which held that the appellant flared gas from 2006 to 2008 without the requisite written consent of the minister and that the respondent was, therefore, right in disallowing the expenses incurred on the gas flaring of those years. 

On that premise, the lower court reversed the judgment of the Tax Appeal Tribunal and upheld the PPT assessments raised against the appellant. 

Dissatisfied with the lower court’s decision, the appellant filed a Notice of appeal on seven grounds and urged the court to set aside the decision.

In her judgment, Justice Dongban-Mensem held that the appellant’s purported gas flare fee could not qualify as deductible expenses under section 10 of the Petroleum Profit Act, as it had contravened the law.

Electricity Hike: NBA Gives FG Seven-Day Ultimatum

Funke Olaode

The Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA Ikeja) has concluded a plan to institute a lawsuit against the Federal Government over the hike in the electricity bill, giving a seven-day ultimatum if the tariff is not reversed. 

The branch Chairman, Mr. Seyi Olawunmi made this known yesterday while addressing the newsmen at the Ikeja Bar Centre, beside the Lagos High Court in Ikeja.

He noted that the National Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC) order made in respect of the electricity tariff hike is anti-people, noted that the tariff smacks of the policy of a government   has lost touch with the daily realities of its average citizen.

Olawunmi recalled that in December, 2023, NERC issued a new Multi-Year Tariff Order (MYTO 2024) which indicated a purported cost-reflective tariff chargeable by the various Electricity Distribution Companies (Discos). 

The NBA, therefore, demand the “immediate stop to the illegal implementation” of the N225 per kWh imposed on their so-called band A customers at the discretion of the Discos and NERC without any empirical basis. Also, the classification into bands A, B, C, D, or E should be scrapped.

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