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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

BIG FRAUD HITS LAGOS JUDICIARY PROBATE







After spending about a month in police custody, at Ikeja Police Command Headquaters Bukola Adeosun, Funmilayo Omolola Kassim and Taiye Opeloyeru regained their freedom, courtesy of police bail on Friday 21 November 2008. Also released alongside them is one Anthony, who had not spent as many days in custody like his colleagues.





The four afore-mentioned people are members of the staff of the Lagos State Judiciary. While Anthony works in the Audit Department as an auditor, the other three have their duty posts at the Probate Section of the Ikeja High Court.

It is not unusual in the Probate Section to hear staff, lamenting the poor and inadequate facilities in the Section “when this Department fetches daily the government a fortune everyday”.

This observation is very correct, as the case of one Bukola Adeosun clearly shows. A main duty of the Probate Section is to ensure the grant of Letters of Administration to beneficiaries or administrators of the estate (properties and valuables) of people in the jurisdiction of Lagos State and who died intestate.


Letters of administration are not granted to successful applicants for free. The government takes a fraction of the assessed value of the estate under application.
From all indications, not all monies due to government as Probate fees and duly paid for by application reach the coffers of the government. Fraud in the Probate Section takes many forms, as insiders revealed to the Squib. One of such methods, and only open to “high levels” in the Probate Section is the deliberate under-valuing of estates. The under-assessment fetches the assessors and their cronies tidy side-payments as compensation.
Another method is even more ingenious and profitable. Fraudsters in the Probate Section here liase with renegade family members of a deceased person or by themselves without assistance from outsiders, locate juicy properties (especially hidden off landed properties) of deceased persons and secretly process letters of administration for false trustees of the estate, who take over the estate and quickly sell it off to innocent third parties.


Yet a third form of ‘pen-robbery’ in the Probate Section is the crude diversion and conversion of Probate fees into private pockets. It is this form of fraud, which has netted some of the nabbed “practitioners” huge amounts of money said to range from four million naira to seven million naira that has landed Bukola Adeosun and the other three suspects in trouble.





The investigation of the escapades and financial shenanigans of Bukola Adeosun was not smooth. The complainant, Mrs. Lateef Folami the Chief Registrar of the Lagos State High Court and under whose over-all watch, is the Probate Section gave the Squib the cold shoulder when asked about the scam. The Chief Registrar refused to deny or confirm that fraud was committed in the Probate Section but admitted tersely to “re-organisation being carried out in the Probate”.





The investigators of the crime, the Nigerian Police was equally not forthcoming. Taking the Squib for a simpleton, police big-wigs tossed the magazine about with one excuse or the other for three days, all in a bid to hide information.
However Inspite of the best effort of the complainant and the investigators, the Squib relying on its ever trust-worthy Geckos Intelligence Unit can reveal and authoritatively too the following:

1. Bukola Adeosun, a female staff employed about seven years ago, and a divorcee with three kids is the chief of the accused persons and the prime suspect. When the bubble first burst, Adeosun initially escaped police arrest, but was finally corned in her father’s house somewhere in Ojuelegba. Adeosun’s father, an old man in his eighties, threatened with police arrest quietly arranged for the arrest of his errant daughter.
2. Bukola Adeosun got her opportunity to lay hands on Probate fees illegally when her supervisors assigned her to take over from Mrs. Funmilayo Omotola Kazeem, a staff manning one of the desks in the Probate Section. Kazeem widowed recently, had to have her work to attend to some grave personal concerns.
Once in Kazeem’s sadua Adeosun’s quickly positioned to get rich quickly Her stratagem was to persuade applicants for letters of administration to hand over to her, the assessed fees for payment in cash. Her usual story line was that she would help the applicants to pay in the money to the bank and thus hasten the completion of the process of the application.
3. Once the fees are given to Bukola Adeosun, sometimes as much as N 300,000:00 even N450,000:00 the “cool operator” writes out the teller (receipt) for the payer. The original copies of these vouchers would reflect the correct amount of money, while the duplicate and the triplicate copies would bear by far lesser amount of money. It is these duplicate and triplicate copies that are passed to the audit department for accounting.
4. The misconduct of Bukola Adeosun came into the open when Mrs. Kazeem resumed to her work and noticed that certain receipt booklets were missing. Worried about the missing booklets Kazeem was said to have informed her supervisors but upon deeper investigation, the authorities believed that Kazeem did not raise alarm early enough and may be guilty of shielding the “cool operator” Bukola Adeosun. The authorities and the police also believe that Taiwo Opeloyeru also a Probate Section staff and widely regarded as a “close buddy” of the cool operator” is also her accomplice in the crime. Some sources claim that both Kazeem and Taiwo Opeloyeru had at various times received mouth watering monetary gifts from Bukola Adeosun.

5. It was in further course of investigation of the crime that the police arrested and detained one Anthony of the Audit Department. Anthony is also regarded as belonging to Adeosun’s Gang because of certain implausible over-looks of distortions and apparent discrepancies in the vouchers and other papers submitted to his desk from Bukola Adeosun. Observers are however surprised that such large scale fraud could be perpetrated by relatively junior officer(s) of the Probate Section which is even less than a stone throne from the offices of the Chief Accountant, Chief Registrar and Chief Judge, more so the incumbent leadership of the Judiciary is feared by the workers as being ever ready to do away with the services of junior workers even over minor failures.
From all indications the Lagos State Judiciary is determined to see off all those involved in the crime to jail. However in the meanwhile, the police awaiting the D.P.P’s advice has granted the suspects bail.

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