A prosecution witness, Rotimi Olubeko, has revealed how a landed property belonging to a dead woman, late Mrs. Francisca Awolaja, was sold to him without the consent of the deceased’s family,.
Olubeko, a Procurement General Manager with Oil and Gas firm, ExxonMobil, made this known while testifying before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of the Lagos State High Court , Ikeja in the charge preferred against a legal practitioner, Kole Bello, and three others who allegedly forged a Certificate of Occupancy (CofO) of a land.
Bello was arraigned before the court alongside Chukwu Victor, Friday Palmer and Osumah Terry, on October 30, 2017, by the state government on a three-count charge bordering on conspiracy, fraud and forgery.
The defendants were alleged to have committed the offences sometime in December 2001, at Lekki Peninsula Scheme 1, Lagos.
According to the charge, the defendants allegedly conspired among themselves and forged a C of O with reference no. 63/63/1989, dated September 28, 1989, “with the intent that it may be acted upon as genuine.”
They allegedly forged the C of O in order to take over a plot of land which is Estate of late Mrs. Awolaja, and also arranged for someone to impersonate the deceased in order to fraudulently convey her land to one Mr Olubeko for the sum of N5 million.
The offences contravene Sections 422, 423 and 467 of the Criminal Law, Cap. C17 Vol.2, Law of Lagos State, 2003 but they pleaded not guilty to the charge
The witness, Olubeko, who was earlier charged alongside others defendants for the offences , was later exonerated by Director of Public Prosecution ( DPP ) in the amended against the defendants.
Olubeko, in his testimony before the court, said he was still finding it difficult to believe that the document of a land he brought from the defendants was forged.
The witness, who was led in Evidence in Chief by Mr. R. O. Aroyewun, told the court how an Ibadan-based agent, that he briefed on his intention to acquire land in Lekki linked him with Bello.
“Base on my intention to acquire land in Lekki, my Ibadan-based agent linked me with Bello. Before then, I properly briefed my agent on prerequisite of the kind of land I wanted to buy and when I met Bello in his office, he provided all the necessary documents I asked for and even introduced me to the owner of the land in question, the so called Francisca Awolaja.
“Alhough there is a little difference in photograph on the C of O presented to me by the defendants and the said Francisca Awolaja I met, but when I asked questions on that, the acclaimed Awolaja responded that she brought the land at a tender age, and the difference in photography and her was as a result of old age”, he said.
Speaking further, Olubeko told the court that at the peak of controversy over the C of O in his possession, he went to the state’s Ministry of Lands, to confirm its genuineness and that at the ministry, the copy of C of O in the file had no difference with one in his possession.
He said till date, nobody had told how the C of O in his possession became fake and that what made him to file civil suit against the complainant at the High Court.
Olubeko said he believed so much in the C of O in his possession despite losing the civil case he filed at the High Court, Court of Appeal and still waiting for verdict of the Supreme Court.
Under cross-examination by Bello’s counsel, A. O. Dawudu, Olubeko admitted that he was once a Defendant in the charge. He also affirmed that he brought the land from Francisca Awolaja through Bello.
Further hearing in matter has been fixed for September 21 and October 5.