•Siblings at daggers drawn over father’s estate, church donation
By Rebecca Opaluwa
In the beginning, it was the perfect example of one perfect family, children of same parents living in love and harmony, in wealth and opulence.
Their late father, Chief Jimoh Alabi Mumuni, was a very successful businessman and devout Muslim who had invested wisely and left a massive estate for his wife, Kariboba, and their children.
He was credited with pioneering a number of successful companies, including the Nigerian Investigation and Safety Company Limited (NISCO); M & D Phonotas Nigeria Limited, Gateshead Engineering Company Limited and Suthercraft Limited. A renowned entrepreneur, the late Mumuni also had interests in Nigerian Breweries Plc, CFAO, Nigerian Textiles Limited, PZ Limited, Lever Brothers, now Unilever, John Holt, Dunlop Nigeria Limited, Nigerian Bottling Company, Nigerian Cement Limited, First Bank Plc and many others.
Well, that was then. Right now, things have fallen apart in the family. Love has vanished from the family, and the spirit of brotherliness has been replaced with anger and bitterness.
The children are up in arms against one of their older siblings, a female. The woman (names withheld) has been accused of sitting on the wealth of the family and misappropriating it. They allege that their older sister has been depriving them and their now deceased mother of their entitlements from their father’s estate, accusing her of expending the family wealth on self-aggrandisement and wasteful pursuits. The siblings also noted that their older sister unleashed a huge dose of humiliation and trauma on their late mother in her old age, forcing the deceased to spend her last days in abject penury.
The issue has been on for long. But a particular aspect that has remained vexatious to the children is the allegation that, while their mother was living in squalor, needing funds for urgent surgery abroad, their elder sister remitted the princely sum of N28 million as tithe to a Lagos-based church.
On March 25, 2003, one of the children, Tolu Mumuni, wrote a letter through Kunle Sofola, the executor of their late father’s estate, informing him that their mother, who was ill and bedridden, was urgently in need of a total knee replacement surgery in both legs. The surgery, the letter stated, would cost £9,445. The letter explained that, if the surgery wasn’t performed, the aged woman would lose all mobility and her life would be diminished.
But the lawyer, in his response, said the older sister, as well as another sibling, a man, was not interested in the treatment of their mother.
The lawyer’s response read: “The meeting also resolved that for you to commit the estate or the company to over N2 million medical bills, you ought to have informed them before hand so that both estate and company can advise you as to their financial capabilities to fund such medical treatment. As for the company, the management made me to understand that the company’s current bank balance is N1.2 debit. In view of the foregoing, both the estate and company find it extremely difficult at the moment to accede and I suggest that you get in touch with your siblings so that some funds could be raised individually.”
The siblings noted that their elder sister was also never favourably disposed to other letters written by them or their mother appealing for financial help. They regretted that the particular sister always referred to their mum as ‘madam’ and never as ‘mother.’
In 2006, Mrs. Mumuni had, in a letter to her daughter, requested some money to enable her travel to Port Harcourt for the funeral of her niece, Akidiba, on April 18, 2006. She said: “I wish to attend the burial. I need support. The burial is for last weekend in April 2006.”
But in her response, she had told her mother that the company, NISCO, was experiencing some financial issues owing to the company’s repositioning and her request could not be granted.
“Dear Mrs. Mumuni,” the response noted, “we presently have little or no savings deposit funds from which we can draw, as we have to meet our financial commitments to those firms and persons providing us with professional services.”
But the family members said they were shocked when they discovered that their sister had donated N28 million to the Lagos-based Fountain of Life Church at a time their mother was broke and lying critically ill in the hospital. Her siblings then wrote the church for the refund of the money, claiming it was illegitimately taken from the family business. The church, it was gathered, later refunded N1.9 million while pledging to refund the balance at a later date.
On October 3, 2008, one of the siblings, Sope Mumuni, wrote a letter to the head of the church, Pastor Taiwo Odukoya and complained about the donation. The letter partly reads: “My mother is still alive, and your member (names withheld) stopped paying her medical bills back in April. We have the money to make our mother’s last few years comfortable. She chooses instead to make these years of her life sorrowful. Over the years, she has demonstrated her lack of compassion for anyone other than herself. My father’s will made provisions for his entire family and I believe that it is unfair that tithe payments were made without our consent or agreement.
“I understand the payment of tithe to be a personal sacrifice based on individual faith. My father was a proud Muslim and payment to a Christian church ought not to have been made. While her siblings and mother were facing difficulty, she ignored their human and legal rights and illegally paid tithe to your church. In the 13 years since my father’s death, his grave, even till today does not have a headstone.”
On August 9, this year, Sope again wrote Pastor Odukoya, demanding a refund of the balance of what was referred to as the illegal tithe payment from his sister to the church. He accused the church of conniving with his sister to deny the family of their share of their father’s estate.
A senior member of the church, Pastor Bayo Kujore, however, denied claims that the church was culpable in the matter. He averred that when the issues initially came up, Pastor Odukoya directed that all monies from the NISCO companies traceable to the church be returned, adding that the sum of N1.9 million was subsequently returned to the Mumunis. He expressed surprise that some persons in the family were claiming another sum of N23 million. But he said the church was waiting for the aggrieved parties to bring records of the payment of the amount to the church.
“It is really unfortunate, and we only pray that God will sort all these out. We will keep working on it. We have done everything to save our church from disrepute. We are not fraudsters. We have actually waited for them to come for conflict resolution, but we did not see them. This is money that was freely donated. We did not force them to donate to our church,” he said.
Some members of the family expressed regret that their late mother’s wish that the feud in the family would be resolved before her death wasn’t realised.
When the elder sibling was contacted on phone, she affirmed that the money she gave to the church was not taken from the family purse, noting that her accusers were desperate people.