Still on The Matter: The trial of Lekki Gardens boss, Richard Nyong

Early last year, and about 3 years before it, there was no way to avoid it.

Even if you didn’t have any plans to buy a house, you’d have been subjected to some media promotion of the Lekki Gardens housing scheme or another. You could have been blissfully driving down Ahmadu Bello Way or merely listening to just about any radio station, the GTRich people would have reached you; billboards, jingles and even with fliers after you were parked.

What did they want?

For you to invest in any one or more of their housing schemes. The company advertises itself as an independent real estate company in  Lekki with focus on property development, management, marketing and sale of real estate products and services with special skills in facility maintenance and who specialise in developing innovative and unparalleled luxury apartments, duplexes, detached homes and commercial outlets to serve our ever growing clientele.

With the growing fame of Lekki Gardens, the spotlight was bound to descend on the man who dreamt it all up. Richard Nyong, the young under-40 with no formal business training who had a dream and a passion to change the face of real estate. He was every bit the hero and the star and he playe his part well.

That is until it all collapsed. Literally. In March, Nyong’s five-storey building on Kushenla Road, Ikate Elegushi, Lekki collapsed and killed 35 people. Swiftly, a criminal action followed and Richard was detained before being charged to court.

The story is that the company had unlawfully unsealed the building that had been cordoned off by the authorities for not having the necessary building permits to continue with number of floors being built. After unsealing, Richard’s company continued with construction beyond the approved number of floors before the collapse occurred on the 3rd of March.

Officials of the National Emergency Management Authority at the site of the collapsed building

In the wake of Richard’s arrest, many celebrities rallied round him to give account of how the incident was no fault of his. According to one such accounts given by Elsie Okpocha, comedian, Basketmouth’s wife:

Richard’s best friend was put in charge of this said project but he did a very bad job so it was taken away from him and given to another contractor to handle….This particular building was already marked as defective because of the sub-standard materials that were used. Richard had even signed a contract with another company to repair it. But it was so unfortunate that the labourers had made the place their home since they had nowhere to live and this was definitely against the company’s policy. Labourers were supposed to leave the site at 6pm and resume at 8am, this building collapsed at 3am.

This however didn’t stop Justice Folasade Botoku of the Ebutte Metta Chief Magistrate Court from remanding him in prison custody (at Panti) although he was later granted bail along with the co-accused, building contractor Taiwo Henry.

The two were however granted bail bail on self-recognition with the necessary conditions by the same Magistrate on the 24th of March. They were to report at the State Criminal Investigations and lntelligence Department, SCIID, Panti-Yaba, everyday until police investigations were concluded.

As the story goes in Nigeria, that is how far the public interest on the matter went. The media buzz died down once they were granted bail and we all lived happily ever after.

It’s hard not to attribute the radio silence to the snail speed with which matters move to conclusion in the Nigerian legal system. Some cases can take up to years before they get their day in court. The lawyers representing the accused are Olabode Olanipekun and A. Uwangboje.

richard-nyongWhile we’ve been waiting however, the survivors of the collapse: Tunde Busari, Wahab Olalude, Chukwudi James, Elechi Chika, Kayode Ezekiel, Waliu Rasak, Emeka Okorie, James Chikodi, Idowu Salawu, Hassan Isiaku and Tajudeen Ajani were given N50,000 and a brand new Tricycle each by Richard Nyong in July.

He said while the events that led to it were certainly painful, this was the first step taken by the company in a bid to relief the pains caused the victims and help them move on with their lives by getting back on their feet.

Perhaps more interesting than the attempt at repatriation is the newest reports that surfaced last month about another allegation against Richard Nyong. On the 7th of November, Nyong, and two women – Amida Christiana and Blessing Essien – were charged with stealing a laptop, women’s shoes, a cheque and N550,300 cash. All three were charged in absentia before Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos.

The defendants allegedly committed the offence at a Lekki Gardens’ office in Lekki where the police said they stole one HP Mini laptop 320GBand valued at N49,500, seven pairs of ladies’ shoes valued at N135, 500, physical cash of N550,300 and a cheque slip for N502,000, property of Eneh Excellence Nora, a former Lekki Gardens staff.

Since the defendants were absent here, Justice Idris reportedly ordered the issuance and service of hearing notices on them and adjourned the case till a date in December.

So double whammy for Richard Nyong while we faced the other way.

Anyway, since we are still on the matter, we’ll surely see the end of these.



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