Over 66 prospective tenants have been thrown into confusion as the landlord, Olatunji Joseph, in connivance with a developer, Aderonke Olaleye, and other allegedly yet-to-be identified agents swindled them of over N16m. The money was meant as rents for five flats in a newly-constructed one-storey building at No. 11 Abeni Close, Asa Estate, in the Gbagada area of Lagos State.
PUNCH reported that Joseph had contracted Olaleye to redevelop his bungalow into a one-storey building, but while construction was ongoing, some agents were told that flats in the building were available for rent and an advertisement was placed on two websites to attract prospective accommodation seekers.
While some intending tenants, through some of the agents, allegedly paid into Olaleye’s accounts, others were said to have initiated their payment after contacting Olaleye and her accomplice through the numbers listed in the advertisement.
After the payments were confirmed, it was learnt that the prospective tenants were issued receipts and informed that some finishing touches had to be applied on the building before they could move into the flats.
However, the matter took a new twist when the number of people claiming to have paid to secure accommodation in the building exceeded the number of flats available for rent.
One of the victims, Peace Goodluck, who lamented that over 66 accommodation seekers were defrauded to the tune of over N16m, said that Olaleye, who had gone into hiding ever since the fraud was uncovered, had remained unreachable.
The banker said, “I and my fiancé needed a bigger apartment so, we met the owner of the house, Mr Joseph, and he introduced Olaleye to us as his younger sister and agent. The landlord assured us that we were free to deal with her and we agreed to pay N400,000 for one of the mini flats in the building.
“On May 30, we paid N190,000 into Olaleye’s account and made an additional payment of N120,000 later. We became concerned when the house was not completed on the date that Olaleye gave us, but when we complained, she told us to come back on Monday, July 15.
“We were surprised when we met lots of people claiming that they had also paid for accommodation in the same house when we got there. Olaleye used different account numbers to commit the crime; more than 66 persons have paid over N16m for the five flats.
“Olaleye is nowhere to be found and she has been unreachable since the fraud was uncovered. The landlord has been denying involvement in the crime, but some of the money was deposited in his account.”
A youth corps member serving in the state, Blessing Eniola, said she paid N500,000 into Olaleye’s account for a two-bedroom flat, but was denied access to the flat.
Another victim, Bisola Quadri, who saw the advertisement online, alleged that an agent, one Yusuf, connived with Olayeye and Joseph to defraud her.
The Lagos State indigene said, “About three weeks ago, I saw the advert on a website and contacted Yusuf, who told me to meet him in Akoka and from there, we went to the house, where I met with Olaleye and Joseph. I paid N250,000 for a mini flat into Olaleye’s account and travelled to Abuja.
“When the fraud was discovered, I wasn’t around, but Yusuf knew about the whole issue and kept disturbing me to pay the balance of N180,000. I paid N80, 000 to Olaleye and N100,000 to Yusuf.
“So when I came back to Lagos, I visited the house and met other victims, who told me about the fraud. Yusuf stopped picking my calls, but through the help of other victims, we were able to set him up and compelled him to refund my N100,000.”
Another victim, Ifeanyi Onwuama, said Joseph was arrested, charged to court and remanded in prison.
He stated that the house should be sold and the proceeds used to refund the victims of the fraud.
The businessman stated, “We have too many people involved in this case; families have been crying; couples, who are about to get married and want to move into the house, have been traumatised. In fact, innocent people are still falling victim because the advert is still running on www.jiji.ngand www.propertypro.ng.
“We have tried to inform the management of these websites through their social media handles to pull the advert down but they have yet to respond. What we want the government to do is to put the house up for sale so that we can recover our money.”
Joseph’s younger brother, Wale, said his brother was just a victim, who got outsmarted by Olaleye, who was contracted to develop the property.
When asked about the prospective tenants’ money found in Joseph’s account, Wale said, “Few people paid into his account and he immediately transferred the money to Olaleye’s account; the records are in the bank for confirmation. He has never defrauded anybody, the property belongs to us and Olaleye, being a developer introduced to us by a friend, contracted to develop parts of the property.”
Efforts to get a reaction from Olaleye proved abortive as several calls made to her telephone line rang out. She had yet to respond to a text message sent to her regarding the allegation as of the time of filing this report.
When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Bala Elkana, stated that Joseph connived with Olaleye to defraud the prospective tenants, adding that he had been arrested and charged to court, while the command had launched a manhunt for Olaleye with a view to arresting her.
Elkana said, “About 46 victims were defrauded and when the matter was charged to court, more victims stepped forward. The victims were swindled of over N15m and it is a connivance between the landlord and the developer. Both the landlord (Joseph) and developer (Olaleye) were charged to the court, but the developer is still on the run. We are on her trail.”