Two Lawyers, Businessman Shuns Arraignment as Court Adjourns for Restorative Justice

Owolabi

Again, the two lawyers and a businessman charged with conspiracy to commit forgery and willful damage to property in suit marked LD/23611C/2024 before Justice S.I Sonaike of the Lagos High Court, TBS, have failed to appear for arraignment.


The two lawyers, Ademola Owolabi, the managing partner of Ademola Adetokunbo & Co., and Adebayo Akeju, who is a partner in a law firm called Adon Partners, Lagos, as well as a real estate developer, Alex Ochonogor, are facing the charge pressed against them by the Department of Public Prosecution of the Lagos State ministry of Justice.
Ochonogor is the owner and managing director of Bluecrest Homes Limited, where Owolabi is also the company secretary.


As a result of their consistent absence and the intervention of the state attorney general, Lawal Pedro (SAN), the court has adjourned the matter to October 21, 2024 to enable the suspects explore restorative Justice.


The suspects were billed to be arraigned April 8, 2024, but they failed to appear. According to the DPP, Dr Babajide Martins, Akeju was served the charge, while the other two were evading service.
Consequently, the court adjourned to April 29 for the arraignment. On April 29, they did not also appear. But before that date, one of the suspects, Akeju petitioned the Lagos AG, claiming that the arraignment was meant to embarrass him and the others and urged him to suspend the trial, pending a thorough review of the circumstances that resulted in the charge.


This claim by Akeju was promptly refuted by the complainant, who wrote to the AG, explaining in details the cause of action, the circumstances resulting in the discreet investigation carried out by the Police, and the sound opinion of the DPP that the suspects have a prima facie case to answer in court.

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Notwithstanding, the matter was further adjourned to June 10. Again, the suspects did not show up yesterday. So, the matter was adjourned to explore the possibility of restorative justice as proposed by the office of the Attorney General.


The suspects are facing a five count charge bordering on the alleged fraudulent acts. 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 offfence states: “Ademola Owolabi (M), Adebayo Akeju (M), Alex Ochonogor (M) and others (now at large) sometimes in year 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 2, 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 year 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 23rd day of September, 2014 to falsely indicate that the original of Certificate of Occupancy Number 36/36/1994W issued to one Hamza Al- Mustapha got missing.


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.

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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 materially aided Ochonogor a businessman, in dispossessing Dr Eze of his property known as Plot 10 Block 133, Lekki Penninsula Residential Scheme 1, Lagos State.
USP Communications Limited sold the land to Dr Eze in May 12, 2005, where he erected 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 belonged 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, Dr 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 provided funding for all the false documentation, forgeries and demolition of Dr Eze’s home.

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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 went ahead to concoct documents, demolished Dr Eze’s home and sold the land to Ochonogor, who immediately began construction against court injunction to stop.

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