Two developers identified simply as Ola, aka Pastor, and one Yusuf, have gone into hiding after allegedly defrauding some accommodation seekers in the Ikotun area of Lagos State.
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PUNCH Metro gathered that the two developers took the prospective tenants to the 10 flats bungalow on Asungbolu Street, Ikotun, for inspection at different times after which payments were made to them.
After receiving payments, the suspects issued receipts to the victims and thereafter informed them that the building which was under renovation would be ready by the end of March.
Things, however, took another turn when two accommodation seekers visited the house and discovered that one of the apartments was allotted to both of them.
Following the discovery, they raised the alarm thereby drawing the attention of other victims and residents of the area to their plights.
One of the victims, who gave his name only as Moses, said he visited the building to measure the size of the window of the room he had paid for when he saw that the premises of the building had been crowded.
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The artisan said, “I came with my fiancée and we chose this room and parlour. He told us the amount is N370, 000 and I transferred the money immediately. I came here today with her to measure the size of the window and the entrance for the cotton we wanted to buy but met a crowd shouting here.
“The developer collected money from over 15 people for one apartment in the building. I was also told that close to 12 people paid for my apartment. When I went straight to my entrance, I discovered that it was locked and someone had moved in. I just want them to refund my money.”
Another victim, who identified herself simply as Mama Tunde, said after her former landlord issued a quit notice to her family, she intensified efforts in searching for a new house.
She said, “So when an agent brought us here on Thursday, we quickly paid and the developer gave us a receipt on Friday. But when I heard what happened, I came and discovered that someone had moved into the room I paid for.
“But when I saw that another room was available, my husband and I quickly rushed back home to pack some of our property and bring them into the available room.”
Also, one of the victims, who refused to disclose his name, said, “The amount the developers have collected so far is above N60m. A man came here yesterday to pay N100, 000 balance after paying N160,000. He started crying when he was told what happened.”
PUNCH Metro gathered that people who paid money to the developers in a bid to secure an apartment in the building had been thronging the premises to lament over the development.
It was learnt that the victims while strategising on the approach to explore in tracking down the developers, visited the Idimu Police Station to lodge complaints and tendered receipts to validate their payments.
Contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, SP Benjamin Hundeyin, denied knowledge of the incident. He said, “No, I am not aware.”
Reacting to the development, the Treasurer of the Nigerian Institute of Builders, Lagos State, Philip Ayotunde, urged prospective tenants to do their due diligence before paying for house rent, adding that most of the agents operating in the state were not registered with the government.
He said, “The Lagos State Government has instructed them to register with the Lagos State Real Estate Regulatory Authority. If I am looking for a home, I will ask you if you are registered with the agency.
“I will ask for your identity card and I will call the agency to confirm if you are truly registered. Once that can be done, it will reduce the activities of these quacks. The government also needs to carry out more public awareness and enlightenment as people need to know there is an agency called LASRERA.”
The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, in his reaction to the case, described the action of developers and agents who collect money from people and refuse to provide accommodation to them as a criminal offence.
“The Lagos State Real Estate Regulatory Authority is in charge of this kind of case. We are asking developers to come and register so that people would not fall into fraudulent hands. We cannot compensate the victims, but we can bring up the case and the Ministry of Justice will look into it,” he said.
Cases of developers defrauding accommodation seekers have become rife in Lagos State.
In 2022, two developers, Oluwasegun Adewara, and one Okeowo, absconded after allegedly defrauding no fewer than 70 prospective tenants at Lawanson, in the Surulere area of the state.
In 2021, another developer, Ahmed Ayinde, was arrested by men of the Lagos State Police Command for allegedly defrauding no fewer than 100 prospective tenants of about N500m in the Olowo Ira area of the state.
Similarly, in 2019, over 66 prospective tenants got stranded as a landlord, Olatunji Joseph, in connivance with a developer, Aderonke Olaleye, allegedly swindled them off over N16m paid for rent for five flats in a newly-constructed one-storey building on Abeni Close, Asa Estate, in the Gbagada area of the state.