From Friends To Foes: UK-based Bizwoman Battles Oyo Prince Over Contract Loan

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TESSY IGOMU writes on the imbroglio between two erstwhile friends that has lingered for over a year with attendant buck-passing and mudslinging allegations that might cause irreparable image dent, especially on the one with blue blood

There is little love lost between Lukman Gbadegesin and Mrs Omoshalewa Akinleye, both indigenes of Oyo State, whose friendship kicked off innocently by happenstance on Facebook in 2017.

While one has royal ancestry, the other is a businesswoman gradually climbing the societal ladder.

However, years later, when the friendship got soured by financial transactions, the woman, who cut a helpless, frustrated figure, said she regrets not listening to her instincts to sever ties with the Oyo prince, whom she fondly referred to as Uncle Lukman.

 

She claimed the man took advantage of her kind-hearted nature to borrow the sum of N48m from her and refused to pay back.

Meanwhile, the man, who is well respected in society and among princes from the Oyo ruling houses contending for the revered Alaafin of Oyo stool, strongly believes all that transpired was orchestrated to truncate his emergence as a monarch.

Gbadegesin told PUNCH Investigations that he had paid Omoshalewa N30.2m, a sum he claimed was the actual amount in contention and maintained that he owed her nothing again.

The proof of payments and a letter detailing how the financial transactions took place were made available to our correspondent.

“Going by the documents I sent to you, my lawyer actually printed out everything she gave me. Everything was calculated and it came to about N30,140,000 but I have sent her N30.2m, of which I have all the receipts,” Gbadegesin claimed.

Meanwhile, Omoshalewa, on her part, also provided detailed conversations and other evidence to support her claims.

How it all started

Omoshalewa, while speaking with PUNCH Investigations, recalled meeting Gbadegesin online in 2017, adding that not long after, she attended a party in Ibadan, where unknown to her, Gbadegesin was in attendance

She recounted, “He sent me a message on Facebook Messenger that he saw me at the party. I was surprised because we had never met physically and so, I didn’t expect him to recognise me at the crowded party.”

The businesswoman said days later, he contacted her again with what she considered an ‘odd’ request that prompted her to block him immediately.

“Uncle Lukman said he wanted to buy about 40 cows to give out as gifts to people and asked if I knew anyone that he could buy from. I felt uncomfortable about his request and blocked him,” she said.

The UK-based Nigerian woman would later reveal that communication ceased between them until in 2019, when she had a compelling reason to reach out to him.

 

She recounted, “In 2019, during the COVID-19 pandemic, flights were grounded and there was an urgent need for me to return to Nigeria because my mother was very sick. All flights coming into Nigeria were routed to Abuja airport, and I knew nobody in that state. It was while thinking of what to do that I remembered Uncle Lukman.”

She recalled reaching out to him through their once-severed channel of communication – Facebook Messenger.

“After contacting him on Facebook, I sent him my number and we started communicating through WhatsApp. I told him about my predicament and he promised to send a man to pick me up at the airport when my flight landed. He was in Kano at the time.

“When I got to Abuja, the said man was waiting and he helped me to settle down in a good hotel and left. By morning, he was there to pick me to the airport. I later called Uncle Lukman to thank him for the assistance,” she said.

Omoshalewa said a week later, she got a frantic call from Gbadegesin that he needed money to solve a major problem.

She said, “He sent me documents and pictures of ongoing construction work and explained that it was a contract awarded to him by the Federal Ministry of Works. Uncle Lukman said he was mobilised for the job but needed more money to get it to a particular stage before the ministry can mobilise him further.

 

“He lamented being indebted due to the project and that he was at a crossroads, which was why he reached out to me. I told him that I could not help him because the amount he wanted was too much. He then asked if I knew anyone that could help.

“He kept pleading with me and at a point, I reached out to an uncle, Prince Adetunji, who is a bank manager at First Bank, and he promised to help.”

Omoshalewa claimed that when Gbadegesin met with the bank manager, he requested a loan but was unable to provide property that met the requirements of collateral,

“The ones he provided didn’t meet the requirements. It was at that point that my uncle pleaded with me to stand in and take the loan for him using my property and shop as collateral,” she revealed.

The woman claimed that the sum of N20m was paid into the account of Gbedegesin and he promised to pay it back within three months.

“This was in August 2020. But before the money was paid, I travelled with him to Kano to see the project. I was convinced about his claims after speaking with the workers on the ground. I sent pictures from the site to Prince Adetunji,” she added.

 

The woman said surprisingly, after Gbadegesin got the money, he demanded more, saying that he actually needed N1bn to complete the project.

“He asked me for more money and said he didn’t have any other person that would help him. I gave him N5m and later N3m from my business account,” she claimed.

Omoshalewa, however, said when the three months given to Gbadegesin elapsed, he could not repay the N28m or the interest on it.

The businesswoman said bank officials started mounting pressure on her to repay the loan and that at some point, she sold her jewellery for N6m to offset accrued interest on the loan.

“I called Gbedegesin and pleaded with him not to let my good deed turn into a curse but he reassured me that he would pay soon,” she added.

Omoshalewa said she was happy when an excited Gbadegesin called weeks later to inform her that the remaining part of the mobilisation fee had been released by the FG but that he had to settle some government officials with N2.5m to facilitate the payment.

 

“He asked me to lend him the money because he wanted the whole issue to end and I gave him, only for him to call two weeks later to say that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had seized the mobilisation fee. He told me he had to liaise with them to have the money released and would need 50,000 dollars.

“I almost ran mad because the only thing on my mind was how to repay the bank loan. Despite owing me over N30m, he still wanted more,” she said dejectedly.

I became destitute

Omoshalewa said for months, she literally became destitute and could not stay at home due to frequent harassment and embarrassment from bank officials.

“When there were no jewellery and expensive clothes to sell again, I had to approach the bank to appeal for clemency because I had been reduced to nothing. I couldn’t stay in Ibadan due to shame.

“I am a well-known businesswoman in Ibadan. I sell local fabrics (Ankara). My shop was a one-stop place for retailers. You won’t believe that I now display my wares on the sidewalk,” she said.

She continued, “Every day, I would call Gbadegesin to plead with him to pay me. In August 2021, he told me to calculate the money and interest and it came to about N48m. He promised to pay in three instalments.

“He sent three cheques through a driver from Abuja and one of my workers went to pick them up at a park in Ibadan. When I received them, for fear of being robbed, I checked into a hotel to sleep and by morning, I was among the first customers allowed into the banking hall.”

Omoshalewa claimed that the cheques were not issued through the lending bank and after two weeks, the bank reached out to say the amount involved was huge and that a bank-to-bank transaction would have made the payment easier.

 

“The sums of N15m, N15m and N18m were issued respectively in three WEMA Bank cheques, meanwhile the bank involved was First Bank. I called Gbadegesin to let him know about the development and he promised to have it sorted out. He said the cheque should be stopped to enable him to transfer all the money at once from his bank account, which he never did” she added.

Oyo governor’s intervention

The woman said it got to a point that Gbadegesin stopped communicating with her and Prince Adetunji and she had to look for people to intervene in the matter.

Omoshalewa said what seemed to be a glimmer of hope appeared when the issue of who would ascend the Alaafin of Oyo stool arose and she learnt that Gbadegesin was among the contenders.

“Due to Prince Adetunji’s closeness to Governor Seyi Makinde, Gbadegesin reached out for him to help but the bank manager told him he had to pay the money first. I really don’t know what transpired again,” she said.

 

EFCC, police involvement

Omoshalewa said when all efforts to get her money failed, she wrote a petition to the EFCC on September 20, 2022, detailing her monetary transactions with Gbadegesin.

She also wrote to the police in Abuja.

The petition, which was tagged, ‘Obtaining money by false pretences’, according to a letter of acknowledgement from the EFCC, was received on Wednesday, September 21, 2022.

“He was summoned by the police and the EFCC. It was when the police invited him that I learnt that he was not the actual person awarded the contract by the FG, and that it had been revoked and he was told to refund about N1bn mobilisation fee.

“Uncle Lukman told the police and EFCC that he would pay me but that the N200m he had in his account was meant for his coronation as the incoming Alaafin of Oyo. He later paid N20m out of the N48m he owed. After a while, he transferred N3m and another N9,200,000 after much pressure. He is yet to pay the balance,” she alleged.

 

My side of the story – Gbadegesin

When PUNCH Investigations contacted Gbadegesin via a text message, he initially declined to comment and wanted his lawyer to speak on his behalf. But he later had a change of mind and reached out, saying it was time to defend himself and put the records straight.

He lamented that there had been a barrage of media wars against him and that no one bothered to reflect his side of the story.

Even though he claimed most of the allegations levelled against him were false, he confirmed having a financial transaction with Omoshalewa and claimed they were all documented.

Gbadegesin said he felt saddened that the matter was blown out of context and believed it was part of a smear campaign to make him appear unfit to ascend the throne.

He said, “I have been dragged on several blogs and nobody bothered to reflect my side of the story. At a point, some highly respected persons intervened and she promised not to go to the media again.

“After initially paying her N20m, which she claimed to have collected from the bank, she told me to pay the rest anytime because it was her personal money. Suddenly, she started making trouble that I should pay up before I got crowned because she might not get the money once I entered the palace. I was surprised when she claimed the total money was N48m, which was different from various amounts mentioned in her petition to the police and the EFCC.

“Whatever I did with her was open, no secrets. We were friends. She threatened to ensure that I did not become the Alaafin of Oyo; that I won’t get the stool. I told her that no human could make anyone a king, only God. I told her that she could not use the royal stool to blackmail me.”

 

The royal connection

The prince hails from the Gbadegesin family of the Agunloye Ruling House and is a grandchild of Alaafin Gbadegesin Ladigbolu II, the predecessor of Alaafin Lamidi Adeyemi III.

At the demise of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, on April 22, 2022, Gbadegesin joined other nine contenders vying for the revered historical Yoruba traditional stool.

The former personal assistant to Alhaji Aruna Elewi, a minister of state for communication during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, was number eight on the list of the princes.

Not long after, there were reports that he had been chosen by the Oyomesi (Oba-in-Council or kingmakers). Though this was later debunked, no name has since been mentioned as the favoured.

 

She lied about the transactions

Gbadegesin alleged that the businesswoman had been economical with the truth and was unwilling to give a breakdown of how she arrived at the sum of N48m.

He said, “The truth is that whatever she told me about the monetary transactions, I believed. But when I went to the records, I discovered that her account of disbursement was at variance with mine. All her transactions with me were done in piecemeal, there was no bulk payment. I told her to calculate the money from January 2021 to June 11, 2021, and my lawyer wrote her to give a detailed breakdown of the transactions but she refused.”

Not aware of bank loan

On why he stopped communicating with the bank manager, Prince Adetunji, Gbadegesin alleged it was due to a series of threats and name-calling from Omoshalewa.

He narrated, “I got to know the bank manager when she started disturbing me for the money. When I told her about my predicament, she volunteered to give me N20m and never said it was a loan from the bank. From what I learnt, it was not official. The bank manager was trying to protect his job by getting the N20m back. Every action taken by her must have put the man in jeopardy. When I met Prince Adetunji, he said the lady never told him the loan was meant to finance a contract.

“When I wanted to pay the last batch of the money, she instructed me not to pay into her First Bank account because it would be taken by the bank. She gave me a UBA account instead and I have since paid.”

 

Contract, not a hoax

Gbadegesin claimed what transpired between him and Omoshalewa was just unfortunate and he never believed the friendship would break down irretrievably.

He, however, said, contrary to the picture painted about him, he had royal blood running in him that forbade him from embracing any form of criminality.

Gbadegesin explained that he was awarded a contract in 2017 to the tune of N8.3bn under a company, Zillion Engineering Nigeria Limited, which he co-owned with a Chinese partner, by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works & Housing, Department of Public Procurement and was mobilised to the tune of N1.2bn.

He provided PUNCH Investigations with a document dated June 5, 2017, that detailed the contract type and where it was situated, and it was signed by the Deputy Director (Public Procurement), Uba Obuja, on behalf of the minister.

The award is based on the document with Ref. No: FMPWAH/DPP/338/VoL. 1/2017/45, was for the ‘Procurement of Reconstruction of the Kano-Shuwarin Gaya Interchange in Kano State’.

Gbadegesin also presented a certificate of incorporation and a letter from the Corporate Affairs Commission, which showed that Zillion Engineering Limited was registered on May 5, 2014, with the number -1188709.

Two Nigerians and two Chinese nationals were listed as directors – Guo Cunru, Prince Lukman Gbadegesin, Ming Zhu and Temitope Israel Omolara

According to Gbadegesin, “I am a partner in Zillion Engineering Nigeria Limited and own 28 per cent shares, while my Chinese partner has 70 per cent.

 

“The contract was secured with my influence. Unfortunately, the job did not go well because my Chinese partner mismanaged the fund. I was not always on the ground.

“In January 2020, the Chinese man and others working with him travelled to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Unfortunately, they were trapped in China due to the COVID-19 lockdown. In the middle of 2020, the ministry wrote, instructing me to mobilise back to the site but I couldn’t.

“In September, they wrote again and I had to let them know that my technical partners were not back. In November, I got another letter informing me of a decision to terminate the contract within 14 days if I failed to comply.

“That was the period Omoshalewa called to say she would be returning to Nigeria from London. Meanwhile, I saw her last four years ago in Ibadan. I was surprised when she sent me a message on Facebook Messenger because we don’t converse.

“Unfortunately, I was not around when she got to Abuja but there was someone on the ground to assist her. She was grateful for the assistance and left some gifts for me.

 

“She kept in touch and knew about the project. At the time all this was happening, I was already looking for a partnership or outright sale of the project to another contractor because I didn’t have the financial strength to go on with the job.

“One day, while speaking with me on the phone, she asked why I was unable to finish the project and after explaining to her, she voluntarily offered to help. She told me about having the sum of N20m and won’t mind giving it to me. She never said it was a loan from the bank. Omoshalewa travelled to Kano to verify the project and spent 10 days there.”

Gbedegesin said contrary to Omoshalewa’s claim that the money accrued interest, there was no agreement reached on interest or its repayment.

He said, “We never agreed on any percentage interest. Usually, as a contractor, if you borrow money from someone, you will work out or agree on a certain percentage with the person, but it was not so in this case. The job is in Gaya, about 70 kilometres outside Kano. We travelled together for the 10 days she came around.

“What happened was that she paid between N3m and N4m into my account for things needed for the project and the gesture was her way of assisting me as a friend. She told me to add anything to the money anytime I intended to pay her back. I saw her as helping me until she started acting up.”

 

Contract termination

Gbadegesin said unfortunately, the contract was terminated in June 2021 and it was within that time that the businesswoman revealed that the money she gave to him was a bank loan and that it was accruing interest.

“She began to mount pressure on me. So, in January 2022, I decided to calculate the money she gave to me and correlate it with dates of disbursement, only to discover that it was N30.5m. My lawyer wrote to her requesting a reconciliation of the transactions, but she never responded, not even to the reminder later sent,” he added.

A copy of the letter written to Omoshalewa by his lawyer, dated January 12, 2022, was obtained by PUNCH Investigations.

It showed that the sum of N30,140,000 was advanced to Gbadegesin in 24 different instalments between January 8, 2021, and June 11, 2021.

In the letter, Omoshalewa was instructed by the lawyer to ensure that interest accumulation on the said sum was stopped so that the amount already calculated could be paid.

 

EFCC, police not interested in case

When asked about the petition and EFCC invite that he got, Gbadegesin claimed he got to know that a petition was written against him from a publication on an online blog.

He said, “I honoured the invitation but was told that they could not entertain the case. The EFCC said debt recovery was not part of their official mandate. Even when I was invited by the police, the case was not also entertained and I was asked to go when the officers saw efforts made to ensure she gets her money.”

EFCC, Prince Adetunji

Upon obtaining the petition sent to the EFCC, PUNCH Investigations sent an official email to the agency and its spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, to know if investigation had commenced and steps taken so far to have the matter resolved, but the mail was not acknowledged.

Uwujaren’s mobile line was not reachable, however, a message was sent to his WhatsApp.

As of the time of filing this report, he had yet to respond.

Several efforts to contact Prince Adetunji, the bank manager who allegedly gave out the N20m loan, to verify claims made by both parties, were futile.

While Omoshalewa refused to volunteer his contact details, Gbadegesin on his part said the few times they met were through the businesswoman and that they had not seen in a long while.

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