On November 18, the news broke that a property agent in Lagos had sold the Lagos lagoon to a US-based Nigerian who was told he was buying several plots of land for over 787.5 million naira.

Many Nigerians thought this would go down as one of the biggest real estate scams ever and the stupidest too, in the history of the country.

But there is another side to the story and it is not a pleasant one.

By now you must really hate the agent, Emeka Okoronkwo who sold the land already because you have been told he sold the lagoon to Kennedy Nwabuoku, calling it land.

According to his worried family members, in a statement signed by Stanley Okonrokwo, he is currently suffering in police cell in Alagbon on the orders of the buyer, allegedly backed by some powerful Nigerians but they insist he is innocent.

They are shocked at the allegation of attempt to sell Lagos Lagoon levelled against their brother when available evidence and documents proved otherwise.

They deserve to be heard, don’t they? So, here is his side of the story, as told by them.

According to the family, the man we all knew as the victim is one Mr. Kennedy Nwabuoku of KenBuok Global Investments Limited who asked to buy 150 lots of land in Sangotedo area of Lekki peninsula for the sum of 750 million.

But when it was time to pay the family from which the land is being purchased, Kennedy opened up that he did not have the entire 750 million at the time.

He asked to pay 500 million Naira to secure the land pending when he is able to raise the remaining 250 million naira.

But being unsure of the family keeping to such agreement, he asked his agent, Emeka Okoronkwo to help him raise the N250m and that he would refund the money upon receipt of original documents of the land.

Emeka Okoronkwo who is a chartered surveyor and valuer at Kings Court Realtors with over 20 years of professional practice, agreed to this deal.

They bought the land and got the documents. Both men were happy and all that was left was for Kennedy Nwabuoku to refund Emeka Okoronkwo’s 250 million naira.

However, in a stark contrast from what they agreed in January 2017, the US-based Nwabuoku started stalling on the refund.

Even after visiting and confirming the authenticity of the land, Nwabuoku refused to pay Emeka his money, five months after the purchase and then he knew there was trouble.

As part of efforts to get his money, Emeka petitioned the EFCC and the anti-graft agency swung into action by inviting Nwabuoku as a supposed investigation began.

Counter-Accusation

In the statement to back up their cry for help, the family said: “Rather than respond to the invitation from EFCC, Mr. Nwabuoku, using his connection to the Presidency, wrote to the Inspector General of Police, alleging that he was defrauded by Mr. Okonrokwo.

“That the Title Document he was given was fake. This is false as the document is the original copy of a Lagos State Government C of O. A certified true copy is available at the Lands Registry at Alausa.

“That the Deeds of Assignment contained fictitious names.

“This is again false, as the Deed of Assignment was of land covered by a C of O. The persons whose names appear on the C of O are also the same persons whose names appear on the Deed of Assignment which was duly executed by them.

“That the documents received by him are incapable of conveying title to him, again false as Mr. Nwabuoku received the Original C of O, a Deed of Assignment and a Power of Attorney.

“What more would be required to vest title on Mr. Nwabuoku?”

“It is pertinent to note that when Mr. Okoronkwo first became aware of Mr. Nwabuoku's petition to the Police, he on his own visited the authorities at Abuja and at his cost invited the investigating officers to Lagos to visit the Land's Registry at Alausa as well as the land site.

“This they did. Sadly though, the understanding of the Police was that the land Mr. Nwabuoku believed he was buying was not what was bought and therefore his complaint of fraud was well founded.

“When it became obvious that Mr Nwabuoku was acting a script and did not intend to refund any money and to avoid any unpleasantness, Mr. Okoronkwo proposed to find another buyer for the land and to refund the money advanced by Mr. Nwabuoku.

“This would also enable him to obtain the refund of the 50 plots owed him by Mr. Nwabuoku. This was in the light of the several threats made to Mr.Okoronkwo by Mr. Nwabuoku to deal with him.

“It is worthy of note that Mr. Okoronkwo who had honoured every invitation by the Police, was arrested in his lawyer's office at a meeting convened by the Police to sign the Agreement for Accord and Satisfaction in the resolution of the issues indifference.”

You Are Under Arrest

Mr. Okoronkwo having reviewed the Agreement clause by clause with the Police team of two, confirmed that he agreed to all the terms and that he voluntarily signed it and had his signature witnessed. The Police collected all three copies for delivery to the complainant to sign.

“The annotation on the cover of the Agreement bears this out. It was after the Police have collected all the originals and acknowledged receipt that they announced that they have instructions to take a surety for his bail. 

“Mr. Okoronkwo's lawyer, thinking it was an honest desire to adhere to protocol, volunteered to stand as his surety, upon which the Policemen said it could only be done at a police station and that the Bar Beach Police Station was the closest. 

"Mr. Okoronkwo in the company of his lawyer obliged. At the station, his phones were forcefully taken from him and he was told he was under arrest and put behind the counter.

"Mr. Okoronkwo did not at any time resist or quarrel with the Police. When the station refused to take him into custody, for reasons best known to them, the Police asked that they go to Alagbon Close, to which Mr. Okoronkwo obliged, believing this was all a mistake and that once the superior officers knew the truth, they would call the IPOs to order. 

Emergency Remand Order

"That indeed was the beginning of Mr. Okoronkwo's nightmare. He was, 30 minutes of arrival at Alagbon, clammed into a cell with instructions not to be allowed visitors.

"His lawyers protested and have reached out to high ranking men of the Police and Government to complain about the serious affront on Mr. Okoronkwo's liberties.

"He was allowed mild access and on the 8th of November 2017, with only 30 minutes notice to his lawyers, was hurriedly brought before a Magistrate at Igbosere Magistrate Court for a Remand Order. 

"Mr. Okoronkwo's lawyer applied for bail under S. 264 of the same Law under which the remand order was sought. The Magistrate in a considered Ruling stated that she had no powers to grant bail as there were no charges filed against Mr. Okoronkwo and that he had only been brought for an order of remand but however she would grant a remand order for 30 days.

"This was so even though the fact that he was arrested without a warrant and that the transaction in question was wholly civil were brought to the attention of the court.

Alleged Police Brutality

"Mr. Okoronkwo was returned to Police custody at Alagbon at about 2pm. At about 4 pm, while still in the cell, an officer came in, placed him on leg chains/stocks and took a photograph of him in the stocks.

"The stocks were perhaps too tight and caused his legs to swell terribly.

"Words somehow got to his lawyers about this situation and they made frantic phone calls and sent out SMSs to persons who they felt were in the know in the matter and should call the Police officers behind the torture and humiliation of Mr. Okoronkwo to order.

"It was promised that something would be done about it. The next day which was a Saturday, when the lawyers visited Mr. Okoronkwo at the station, they were first denied access to him but when they called Femi Falana (SAN) Mr. Nwabuoku's lawyer, he promised to call the police to remedy that.

"The IPO joined his lawyers 10 minutes later and went to bring him from the cell. Mr. Okoronkwo could barely walk and was very weak. He had lower abdominal pains and difficulties passing urine.

"His lawyers interviewed him in the presence of the IPO and he informed them that his legs were chained at about 4pm and that the chains were only taken off at about 12 midnight when the other inmates raised an alarm that his feet had swollen terribly and that he was in excruciating pains.

'Mr. Okoronkwo was rushed to the Police hospital on the 15th of November when he was found to be very weak and ill in the cell.

"His blood pressure had risen to 200/120. He was administered first aid and rushed to the hospital by the Police Prosecutor in the company of the police doctor who administered life-saving first aid.

"Though in a critical state, he was not moved to the hospital until after three hours, though his situation was dire as we were told that only his IPO could take him and the IPO was nowhere to be found.

"Indeed, the IPO sent text messages around including to his lawyers, that he had been recalled to Abuja the previous day on an urgent assignment. This was subsequently found to be false.

"He was in Lagos all the while, a fact that would never have been known by the authorities at Alagbon close had his lawyer not had a chance encounter with him at the Alagbon/Bell Avenue junction, as he was sighted sitting atop a motorbike (Okada).

The Land Is Authentic

“It is instructive to note, that the land in question is a Lagos State Government scheme and is covered by a Certificate of Occupancy. A land search was conducted by the law firms of both parties prior to its purchase to authenticate the documents and who the owners are. The C of O was found to be valid and the land unencumbered.

“The land itself is described in the survey plan attached to the C of O which same survey plan was used as the description in the Deed of Assignment conveying all 150 plots to the purchaser by the owners of the land. 

“Mr. Kennedy Nwabuoku was handed the Original Certificate of Occupancy, along with the Deed of Assignment and a Power of Attorney, duly vesting the land in his company, his designated beneficiary.

“The receipt for all of these documents was duly acknowledged by the Mr. Kennedy Nwabuoku by email on receipt. The Emails are available for verification. 

“Mr. Nwabuoku, on subsequently visiting the land, asked Mr.Okoronkwo to sell the 50 plots the sum advanced on his behalf covers, as he was having difficulties raising more money from investors on that account.

“To execute this request, Mr. Okoronkwo explained that he would require Mr. Nwabuoku to convey the 50 plots to him as he was now the owner of the entire 150 plots with an attendant Power of Attorney.”

Order From Above

Now, Emeka Okoronkwo is battling for his life in police custody. His wife, family and friends are worried about how he is being treated and what is being said about him.

Even the plan to sell the land, they allege is being constantly sabotaged by Nwabuoku and law enforcement agents.

This is Nigeria. No potential buyer would go ahead with a transaction on knowing the controversy surrounding the land.

Now, it gets even more interesting.

According to the statement, the said buyer of the land, Nwabuoku has been mentioning Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Inspector-General of Police and human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN as people interested in the case.

He has also been dropping names of other prominent Nigerians to intimidate Okonrokwo and as expected, the music has changed with the police.

Now, with every action taken, the officers in-charge of the case at various times had claimed that they were acting on “order from above”.

The authorities do not appear interested in the truth as they have, for whatever reason, bought Mr. Nwabuoku's version of events as incredulous as it is, while refusing to even look at the verifiable facts and the account of Mr. Okoronkwo.

“The campaign of calumny against the person of Mr. Okoronkwo, the seeming complicity in his plight by a leading human rights activist in calling in the aid of the Police Force in a civil transaction and the erosion of the Fundamental Rights and Liberties of Mr. Okoronkwo are not only a sad commentary but most disheartening given the personalities that have been unscrupulously compromised in the case.

“Citizen Okoronkwo should be allowed his bail to enable him to tend to his health and his business.

“The bedrock of every Democracy is the Rule of Law and Justice its handmaiden,” the family insists.

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So, here are important questions that need answers.

If the family’s story is completely true, is it legally correct for someone to be chained while still inside a cell?

Since this looks like a civil case of business disagreement between two adults, should one party be treated in the manner described by the Okoronkwo family allegedly on the orders of the other?

Is human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) aware of the allegations of torture, police brutality, and denial of liberties that the family of Emeke Okoronkwo has made against the police and his client?

Are the so-called “order from above” truly coming from the Inspector-General of Police or someone is just dropping those big names to win a battle?

Could Vice President Yemi Osinbajo truly be part of this considering the heavy workload of fixing Nigeria’s economy which has been placed on his shoulder?