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Mortgage banker loses bid to stop arrest over Safe Tower estate project

Legal moves by the Chief Executive Officer of Safetrust Mortgage Bank, Mr. Akintayo Oloko at the Federal High Court, Lagos to frustrate his arrest and possible prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged scam on the multi-billion naira Safetowers Estate project, Lagos has hit the rock following the court’s judgment on Friday.

The judgment stemmed out of a fundamental human rights suit filed by Oloko against the Attorney General of the Federation, the EFCC, Mr. Ogunmefun and Currant Limited.

In the suit filed at Federal High Court, Lagos, the developers represented by the Chief Executive Officer of Safetrust, Mr. Akintayo Oloko, Safetrust Mortgage Bank, and Macbosh Properties Limited and Mortgage sought among other reliefs, a mandatory order compelling the respondents to return forthwith the title deed of the Safetowers Estate registered as N0 37/37/2444 at the Lagos Lands, covered by Survey Plan N0 BAS258/2013/130-116(3)/LA owned by 3rd applicant, Macbosh Properties Limited but allegedly seized by the respondents.

They also wanted an order compelling the respondents to jointly and severally tender written and public apology to the applicant as well as payment of N500 million as general and exemplary damages for illegal arrest, detention, harassment and deprivation of personal freedom and liberty.

The motion was supported by 14-paragraph affidavit deposed to the first applicant, Akintayo Oloko, written addresses, 11 paged memorandum of Understanding between Macbosh properties Limited and Kunle Ogunmefun in 2014, non disclosure agreement between parties and other correspondences between parties, including terms of settlement.

The applicants submitted that parties have due to various misunderstanding and events that transpired in the course of the transaction, already agreed to terminate the agreement as contained in the memorandum of understanding on the condition that the developer repay the amount invested by the investor together with the interest that has accrued on the said sum at the rate of 16 percent.

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In urging the court to dismiss the applicants’ originating motion with substantial cost, it was the submission of the 3rd and 4th respondents that the officers of the EFCC did not act outside the provisions of the EFCC Act, when they investigated the applicants based on the 3rd respondent’s petition dated June 20, 2017, arrested and seized the title deed of the Safetower estate located at Ikate, Lekki Peninsula Scheme.

In its judgment, Justice Muslim Sule Hassan dismissed the originating motion filed by Oloko for being unmeritious.

The judge held that by combined sections 6, 7, 8, 13, 41 and 46, the EFCC is empowered to investigate and person for fraud and did not need a court order to do so.

In dismissing the suit, the court further held that the EFCC was empowered to temporary take over property for investigation, examination and enquiry.

The judge, who had earlier struck out the first applicant (Attorney- General of the Federation), from the suit for not conforming with the rules of court and not disclosing course of action held that there was a petition against the applicants for obtaining money by false pretence.
According to the court, the EFCC acted within its powers and awarded the cost of N20, 000 in favour of each of the respondents.

He also said that the applicants cannot expect a judicial fiat to prevent the EFCC form doing its work neither should they rushed to court to be shielded from criminal investigation

The EFCC is statutorily empowered to conduct criminal investigation against fraud or criminal activities.

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Safetower Estate located at Ikate, Lekki, Lagos promoted by Safetrust Mortgage Bank Limited and Macbosh Properties Limited ran into controversy following contractual disagreements between the developers and an investor.

Conceived in 2013 as a 3 blocks high rise building comprising 16 units of 3 bedroom apartments and 2 units of 5-bedroom Pent duplexes, the project was to be delivered within a construction time of 24 months.

The investor, Mr. Kunle Ogunmefun offered to purchase one block of the high-rise buildings for the sum of N710 million, prompting the execution of a Memorandum of Understanding in 2014 with the developer with respect to construction and delivery of the property within the stipulated delivering period.

In line with the agreement, he made payments by installments, amounting to a total sum of N550 million.

But the situation changed for the worse leading to the involvement of the EFCC over allegations of criminal intent to defraud leveled against the developers by the investor.

Bertram Nwannekanma

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