In 2008, when Yemi John (not real name), a Nigerian in the United Kingdom, invested N14million in a four-bedroom detached bungalow in Golden Leaf, a collaborative venture between the British American Tobacco Company Cooperative and Gran Imperio Group, he had two expectations: that his investment would multiply; and that one day, when he finallyn returns to Nigeria, he would have a house to live. But his hope was dashed and for 13 years, he struggled to reclaim his money without success.
John is one of a dozen new victims who were speaking out following FIJ’s report detailing how companies, including Gran Imperio Group and Metropole Interproject Limited owned by Ooni Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi defrauded, to the tune of over a billion naira, hundreds of subscribers to apartments in the Essential Homes Scheme promoted by the monarch. Many of them were allocated apartments in South Pointe Two and Golden Leaf estates that never existed.
Spurred by their links to Ooni Ogunwusi, the companies and their directors ignored court judgments and disregarded out-of-court agreements. For years, law enforcement agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), did not act on complaints by investors.
In calls to five subscribers living in the diaspora who have lost a total of N38,119,500 – who also know at least five other investors who lost a total of N59,785,000 – FIJ gathered that Nigerians living abroad were big targets in the scam. Some subscribers who were afraid of “spiritual attacks” or concerned about their kinship with Ooni Ogunwusi, declined to provide documentary evidence of payment, but agreed to speak under the condition of anonymity.
‘HOW DOES THE OONI SLEEP AT NIGHT?’
Aware that the Essential Homes project had crumbled and subscribers’ monies had been mismanaged, Metropole Interproject Limited and Gran Imperio Group stalled the refunding of investors for many months to allow Ogunwusi become the Ooni of Ife. Afterwards the “previously respectful Ogunwusi became daring”, some subscribers told FIJ.
“At some point, I told him that he refused to pay us and was not holding up to his responsibility. You know what he told me? He said: ‘Did I collect any money from you? You can go to any court you like,’” John said.
“As I talk to you now, I feel like crying because this is daylight robbery. I invested £60,000 and I know how much it cost me to get my one pound. Ooni Ogunwusi is using people’s sweat to his advantage; how does he sleep at night?”
John approached Ogunwusi personally to ask for a refund, but he was “ignored and frustrated”. From being in a meeting to claiming to be sick, Ogunwusi gave multiple excuses for not refunding John.
MY MOTHER’S DEATH WILL HAUNT OONI OGUNWUSI
Chiamaka Njoku (not real name) believes that Ooni Ogunwusi’s nonchalance contributed to the death of her mother. Although she declined to provide evidence of payment, citing fears of retribution, she told FIJ that she paid N9million in two instalments – in July and August 2014 – for Golden Leaf Estate.
“I have tried several times to retrieve my money so much that when my mum needed money for surgery, Ooni Ogunwusi said he didn’t have any for me. My mum died last year… my mother’s death will haunt him. I have been suffering from massive panic and anxiety attacks with my blood pressure,” Njoku said.
Shortly after Nnamdi Ukpabi, a marketing officer at Gran Imperio, introduced Bala Benson (not real name) to non-existent Golden Leaf Estate, he left Gran Imperio. She invested N3million.
‘YOU CAN’T OWE AND BE FORMING MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER‘
“After Nnamdi left the place, he directed me to one Mrs Taiwo Akintayo, who was in charge. I spoke to her for a long time but there was no response. When I called their office, the call didn’t go any longer. I learnt they changed office,” Benson said.
Without explaining to investors how their funds were mismanaged by Metropole Interproject Limited, Taiwo Akintayo and Isaac Etim, both directors at Ooni Ogunwusi’s companies when subscribers were defrauded, changed jobs.
While Akintayo left in 2018 to join PortPlus Limited as the head of Human Resource and Administration, Isaac Etim’s whereabouts are still unknown.
“He should not get away with it,” said Mohammed Usman (not real name), who lost N7 million but was refunded N1million. “But forming motivational speaker and influential father of Yoruba land is annoying and insulting to some of us.”
Metropole and Gran Imperio have been unable to provide evidence to back claims that Ooni Ogunwusi no longer owns the companies.
Tomisin Olawale, Personal Assistant to the monarch, had refused to explicitly state Ooni Ogunwusi’s connection to Gran Imperio, when FIJ contacted the monarch. He said questions should be directed to Gran Imperio’s staff dealing with the daily operations of the company. He evaded other questions.
While some staff members contacted by FIJ denied being involved in the fraud, others did not respond to requests for comment.
INDEBTED TO INVESTORS BUT MAKING COVID-19 DONATIONS
Enmeshed in a fraud scandal which occurred when he was actively involved in the activities of his companies, Ooni Ogunwusi attended the Royal African Awards event last weekend appearing indifferent to the loss suffered by investors.
“Two friends of mine who attended the awards last weekend said their transport and accommodation and meals were paid for and there were over 100 of them in attendance along with other guests,” one victim told FIJ.
“I am shocked he has money to be giving awards whilst still doing this fraud and giving impressionable young people these awards so his PR can rise. If he spent anything less than N100million last weekend for that his award, then he did not spend!”
Sources who are not investors in the failed Essential Homes Project, and who asked to not be named, described Ooni Ogunwusi as one who would willingly not pay his debts but lives flamboyant lifestyle and participates in philanthropical jamborees.
“And to think that last year, he went around donating things for Covid-19 despite owing a lot of people is sickening,” Njoku said — an opinion shared by Mustapha Ahmed (not real name) who lost N6million.
The reluctance of law enforcement agencies, including the EFCC and the FCCPC to investigate and prosecute Ooni Ogunwusi and his companies, reinforces the fears of many investors that they may never get their monies.
“Each time I see him on TV, I feel hatred because he used my money to pursue the Ooni of Ife stool,” John said. “You can’t be hurting someone at the expense of good living. I feel that he is not fit to be king.”