When Similoluwa Sadiq, a Lagos State-based company secretary, began house hunting in February, she was armed with caution, knowing she was a transaction away from falling victim to a scammer in Lagos.
Unfortunately, the cautiousness she had armed herself with was not enough to save her from being swindled when she met Alhaji Atanda Lukman Adewole, a self-proclaimed house developer in the Egbeda area of the state.
Sadiq, in an interview with FIJ, said she had been saving money since 2022 to get a new apartment.
The secretary further explained that she met Adewole through one Ola, a house agent that her friend introduced her to, earlier in the year.
After meeting with the agent, she was shown an apartment in Egbeda and she fell in love with the ambience.
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“Alhaji (Adewole) and the agent (Ola) took me and my friends to this house on Bishop Street in Egbeda in March this year,” Sadiq said.
“It was a room self-contained apartment. I checked the house and it looked good to me. But the house was under renovation when Alhaji took us there.
“I liked the apartment. I had been looking for a new apartment for a while, so I immediately settled for it. Alhaji told me that I’d have to wait for the renovation to be completed. During that period, I didn’t sense foul play.”
When Adewole told her to pay ₦350,000 for the apartment, she did not give it much thought. She made the payment twice.
“After all, I have been saving since 2022 for my own apartment. I did not haggle too much. I just wanted my own apartment,” Sadiq said
Convinced that she had succeeded in securing a place, Sadiq made the payment to Adewole’s Access Bank account on March 21.
“I made the payment in two tranches; ₦150,000 first, and ₦200,000 after. I made both payments on the same day, and Alhaji Adewole issued me a receipt immediately,” Sadiq said.
After making the payment, the secretary subsequently paid another visit to the apartment. This time, however, the condition of the apartment left her with more concern than comfort.
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“When we went back, the ladders that were to be used for the renovation were still inside the apartment. The window and burglary that I thought would have been fixed had also not been fixed,” Sadiq explained to FIJ.
Sadiq said at this point she had started to suspect that something was wrong. She was not, however, certain about her suspicion until June when it became clear that no renovation had been carried out on the premises.
“When I realised that Adewole had not carried out any renovation at the apartment as promised, I quickly demanded for a refund from him. At this point, my rent at my former apartment was already due, and I wanted to move out before I suffered any humiliation in the hands of the landlord,” Sadiq explained.
She said Adewole did not repay her immediately.
“Alhaji Adewole sure took his time. I was persistently on his neck. For a long time, he kept postponing the refund. Eventually, I got paid ₦100,000 at first. When I became persistent about the payment of the remaining money, he paid me another ₦150,000,” Sadiq said.
“I have at least got ₦250,000, and I am struggling to recover the remaining ₦100,000.”
“My other friends, who also paid for apartments when we visited, have not received a kobo from the so called agent.”
OTHERS HAVE NOT BEEN SO LUCKY
Sources connected to the matter told FIJ that Sadiq was not Adewole’s only victim.
Bode Olaide (not real name), a friend to one of the victims, explained to FIJ that he knew two people who were extorted of ₦700,000 by the fake agent.
Olaide told FIJ that these victims had not recovered their monies from Adewole till date.
“I know two other people other than Simi (Sadiq), who paid ₦700,000 to Alhaji (Adewole) and his agent for a room self-contained apartment. For about six months now, they have neither had their monies returned nor an apartment given to them,” said Olaide.
“To let you know how many people he has scammed, they even have a group chat on WhatsApp. Some of his victims have even once gone to the state secretariat in Alausa to protest,” Olaide said.
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Bisola, another source who had introduced her friends to Adewole and Ola, seemed overwhelmed with guilt. Apart from being a victim herself, she told FIJ, she could have done more by verifying who the developer was before encouraging her friends to pay for the “apartments” of their choice.
“I blindly led my friends to a scammer. I am pained about my money, but it’s even more painful that my friends cannot recover their own money,” she said.
On March 8, Adeeko Oluwafemi, one of Bisola’s friends, paid ₦170,000 to Adewole’s Access Bank account and was issued a receipt.
Later, on March 24, Akeem White, another of Bisola’s friends, paid ₦300,000 and was also issued a receipt. However, and according to Bisola, these people do not have any apartment. They also have not been able to recover their monies from Adewole.
“As for me, I currently stay with my brother, who is married, in a one-room apartment because I have no alternative. I have to stay there in the meantime. We were even still hopeful that we could get our money until we started hearing Alhaji’s story all over Egbeda. That was when we knew we had been scammed,” Bisola told FIJ.
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ADEWOLE ARRESTED IN EGBEDA
When Adewole was arrested in 2015 at Iyanapaja for fraud, one would think the Nigeria Police Force had put a nail in the coffin of his criminal activities.
However, he would strike again eight years later. This time in Egbeda — about nine kilometres away from where he was first caught.
FIJ gathered that Adewole had been arrested in 2015 for a similar crime. Some of his victims had taken to the Lagos State House of Assembly to protest his alleged dubiousness and seek assistance from the lawmaker in their constituency.
Adewole was later arrested and taken to Area G Police Station in Ogba, Lagos State. Then, he had allegedly defrauded house seekers of approximately ₦1.2 million.
Olaide claimed that Adewole was once an inmate at the Kirikiri prison. He added that he had met Ola while in prison, and they had connived to dupe people when they regained freedom.
However, all of FIJ’s attempts to establish the circumstances surrounding his 2015 release from the police proved abortive.
On August 14, FIJ called the number of Omole Ola, the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) for Area G, as publicly listed by the Lagos State police PRO.
The police officer, however, told FIJ that he had been promoted and would not give out the contacts of the new ACP.
FIJ also made several phone calls to Benjamin Hundeyin, Police spokesperson in Lagos, on the same day, but they were not answered. Text message sent to him had also not been answered at press time.
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‘HE KNOWS THE POLICE; THEY WON’T DO ANYTHING TO HIM’
Lolade Omoyeni (not real name), another victim of Adewole’s scam, informed FIJ on August 14 that he had been arrested.
“The IPO at the Olugbede Police Station called me that they had arrested him. I am going there now,” Omoyeni said.
Bisola also told FIJ that her friends confirmed to her that Adewole was being detained at the police station.
Sadiq, however, had a slightly different account of events. She claimed that Adewole had walked into the police station on his own.
“I don’t think they arrested him. He walked inside by himself, and I think the original owners of the properties he’s been deceiving people with want to charge him to court,” Sadiq said.
“I don’t think they will do anything about it, honestly. We have reported him over and over again. He knows the police and they won’t do anything about it. In fact, they even told the victims to contribute ₦5,000 each to enable them prosecute him.”
Olaide shared Similoluwa’s sentiments.
“You need to be aware that this is like a cartel and the police officers are involved as well. They were able to arrest his personal assistant earlier, and they took him to the police station, only for him to be released later.”
FIJ would later call Faniyi Gladys, the Chief Superintendent of Police for Idimu, to get more information on Adewole’s case. The officer, however, claimed she knew nothing about the case.
“I have not heard that name before. I may check and find out about it. But as of now, I don’t know about such a case,” she told FIJ.
FIJ made phone calls to Ola and Adewole several times from August 10 to 14 but got no answer. Text messages sent to them had also not been responded to at press time.