As Nigeria’s housing deficit increases, compounding the poor state of affordable housing in the country, it also opens opportunities for a real estate boom. As with every developing nation, the common goal among Nigerians is to own a house and totally escape the hassles that stem from rising cost of accommodation.
While the situation is peculiar in many states of the nation, the individual push to own a house is higher in Lagos than any other state in Nigeria. The reason can be traced to its bloated population and limited land size – Lagos is the smallest state in Nigeria by land size. Nigeria has more than 17 million housing deficit, of which Lagos has the lion share.
Against this backdrop, the individual push for house ownership in Lagos has leaped significantly since the last ten years. But as people strive to build or buy their own houses, they’re increasingly being confronted with fraudulent property vendors.
Last year, a group of buyers accused a real estate company, Brickwall Global Investment Ltd, of defrauding them in the guise of selling plots of land. It was a notorious scandal that splashed a dent on the young Nigeria’s real estate sector that has provided property buyers, a safer way of property acquisition devoid of scam.
Though Brickwall Global Investment Ltd denied any wrongdoing, evidence presented by the buyers proved that the company has fallen short in its obligation, prompting the buyers to take the matter to court.
Earlier this month, a Federal High court sitting in Lagos ordered the wound up of Brickwall Global Investments Ltd.
Justice Olayinka Faji of the Federal High in Lagos on June 17 granted the winding-up petition filed against Brickwall by the five aggrieved customers (who have now been joined by three others) to be advertised.
The judge also ordered that the company be restrained from dissipating its accounts until the determination of the Petition which has now been adjourned to October,12.
The court further restrained the directors, staffer, management, employees, officers, agents, privies, servants, or any persons from alienating, disposing of, dealing tampering, or interfering with the assets and properties of the Brickwall Global Investment Limited including tangible and intangible assets, movable and immovable assets.
The court also directed that any creditor of the company desirous of supporting or opposing the winding up of the company to appear at the time of hearing of the matter either in person or by their counsel.
The aggrieved customers had last year, petitioned the Federal High Court in Lagos to wind up the business so as to liquidate the company’s assets and retrieve over N5.7million spent on purchasing pieces of land in the company’s Mayflower Estate, at Ikorodu.
The petitioners had said that five years after they paid for the company’s advertised new development, Brickwall had without cause or justification refused to give the petitioners possession of the respective parcel of land purchased or returned their money.
The petitioners include Lawrence and Saffron Imolode, Ebuka Ezeocha, Zephaniah Nwokeji, and Chuka Nwadialo. But apart from them, investigations show that over a dozen other people have also been sold excuses rather than real estate they paid for in what appeared to them like an elaborate scam.
The Court agreed with the petitioners that the company is insolvent and is unable to meet up its obligations with its creditors and found that the Respondent failed to demonstrate that it is able to meet up its obligations as provided in the Company and Allied Matters Act.
Emmanuel Ijakpa, chief operating officer of Brickwall Global Investments had told BusinessDay that the delay in allocating the land to the buyers was due to a massive gully, almost the size of an acre, on the property which resulted in losses and needed resolution with the family that sold the land. The customers say this is not true,
The land in dispute is over 3,200 square meters lying in Mowo Nla village, Ikorodu, in Ikorodu local government area of Lagos state which belonged to the Ifegbuwa Chieftaincy Family.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Estate Regulatory Authority has directed the State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, Yaba, Lagos State to investigate the complicity or otherwise of the company, its directors, and senior officials on the allegation of using the company to defraud residents after several complaints to the Lagos State Government through their office.
However, findings show that the police is yet to fully implement this directive, a development that has caused grief to no end to the victims.
Brickwall Investments Ltd, owned by one Uche Ahubelem, a real estate practitioner and motivational speaker, continues to sell and advertise new developments in other parts of Lagos even as the court case progressed.
The intervention of the Lagos State Estate Regulatory Authority is to protect the sector from embarrassment and repercussions of fraud. The Nigeria’ real estate sector grew 1.8% in the first quarter, 2021, stymied by covid-19 pandemic strains. As forecasts predict a bright outlook for the sector, experts are concerned that the news of fraud by players in the real estate sector may mar its growth.