Construction firm, Julius Berger, in land grab controversy

On a sunny Thursday afternoon in November 2014, Nonso Ofole, a motor sports park entrepreneur, arrived at his project site in Abuja to a great shocker – a Julius Berger-owned earth-mover was clearing the site he said is duly his.

Julius Berger, is a German-owned Nigerian-based construction firm.

What followed after Mr. Ofole observed the construction company allegedly trespassing his property and snubbing a court order restraining the company from commencing work on the site heralded a new twist in a knotty land grab case that has thrown up the oppressive tactics of some foreign-owned businesses in Nigeria.

Just as he walked across the field with his phone to get a closer look and record the destruction of his property, a man with a machete on his left and a “big stick” on his right, emerged from the bush behind the roaring machine and raced towards him, Mr. Ofole told this newspaper.

The attacker, who was dressed in Julius Berger apparels, threatened to hit him with the stick if he refused to delete the video he had shot.

“He also threatened to attack me if I didn’t leave the place immediately,” Mr. Ofole told PREMIUM TIMES and added that he refused to leave or delete the video.

Nonso Ofole, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Hunt Africa Events Limited, got the approval of Abuja Metropolitan Management Agency to develop the site into a beech motor sports park.

He was allocated the said portion of land via a “Letter of Temporary Approval to Develop Recreational Centre” dated May 25, 2011, with reference number AMMA/P&R/S.420.

The site is about 100 square metres, adjourning Julius Berger shooting Range in Jabi Abuja. Mr. Ofole said the city administration approved the site for his use after he paid the N25, 000 administrative fee.

The land is a Buffer Zone, which is a reserved Area for Parks and Recreation Department in the Abuja Metropolitan Management Agency that is used for garden and recreational centres on temporary basis.

Gestapo arrest

Moments into his argument with the attacker demanding the deletion of the video he shot, a black van pulled into the site with Nigerian mobile police officers armed with AK-47 rifles. They bundled him into the van and sped away.

“The police men drove me to the station and started questioning me about what I was doing on the land and why I did not leave when the man with the machete asked me to go,” Mr. Ofole narrated.

The police officers charged him for trespass and intrusion before their colleagues. But hours later, a senior officer intervened and demanded his release after dismissing the junior officers as rascally.

Two months earlier, when Mr. Ofole first moved into the site to commence development, Nigerian officials of Julius Berger, led by one Kolade Balogun, approached him to drop his interest on the site.

“At first, they were persuasive,” he said. “They offered to pay me half a million Naira if I agreed to stop work on the site. But I declined the offer.”

Mr. Ofole claims several workers of Julius Berger, including Mr. Balogun, explained that the German bosses at the construction firm did not want him there because their business premises would share fences.

He said they feared his resort may attract too many locals – Nigerians – and pose a security threat to the Germans who dominate the management cadre of Julius Berger.

Julius Berger allegedly forced their way into the site and cordoned the premises after it failed to convince Mr. Ofole to forego the property.

Nigeria is facing a growing insurgency in its northern flanks and few Germans have been kidnapped and killed in process.

The insurgents have also bombed Abuja, the nation’s capital, leaving hundreds of Nigerians dead.

“I agree Nigeria is in the middle of a war with Boko Haram insurgents but I cannot comprehend why a foreigner would oppress me in my country,” Mr. Ofole said.

Mr. Balogun refused to comment on this story when PREMIUM TIMES contacted him.

The court order

Mr. Ofole subsequently sued Julius Berger hoping to assert his authority over the land. He also sought the court to award him damages claiming Julius Berger destroyed his equipment and slowed his earnings.

On October 24, 2014, the court issued an order restraining Julius Berger, as well as Mr. Ofole’s company from tampering with the disputed land.

The court restrained the construction firm, “either by itself, servants, privies, agents or any other person howsoever called, acting on its authority, from further trespassing into, grading with bulldozers, demolishing, constructing, defacing, developing or in any way interfering with all that portion of land of about 1000 Square Meters, adjourning Julius Berger Shooting Range, Jabi, Abuja, allocated to the 1st Plaintiff by the Abuja Metropolitan Management Agency, (AMMA),pending the hearing and determination of this case”.

The construction company disobeyed the order, and Mr. Ofole said he was was shocked that November afternoon when he saw Julius Berger’s mover on the site the day he was accosted by the machete-wielding attacker.

Mr. Ofole later proceeded to a different police unit in Abuja where he complained about the November harassment and got two key Nigerian officers of Julius Berger arrested and detained for two days. A third official, a German, was questioned for hours.

PREMIUM TIMES contacted the spokesperson of Julius Berger, Clement Iloba. He denied knowledge of the case.


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  • Ebele Factory Child

    Under GEJ government again.

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  • Kamal

    I heard Nigerian graduates are treated like slaves in that company.
    Very very sad indeed..

    • Walter

      Because we treat each other as parasites. We are not patriotic towards one another, so how do you think other nationals will treat us? When we see a white man, we believe he is better than us and will never take our own man’s word over a white man.

      • Bala Luguja

        gbam! you hit it on the head

      • Bassey Eniang

        I agree with you Walter! Our people suffer from a cocktail of greed, inferiority complex and idolatry ( worship of money) . Just see the way our own public officials treat us, their citizens, not only without patriotism but with absolute contempt, allowing foreigners to hold sway against us whilst treating us with criminal contempt. Except God, what is,
        will pass. It’s only a matter of time!

  • Johnson Omale

    PT, I advise you carry a deep investigation on this issue. It appears the story is one sided. Mr. Ofole seems to have told you some lies. How can JBeger says it does not want Nigerians to come near its site. Do you believe that story?

    • Seriously

      Why are you siding with the Germans? Especially as Mr Ofole has gotten a court judgement against them?

    • Bassey Eniang

      Johnson Omale, l agree that Premium Times needs to do “deed investigation on this issue”. I do not however think that Mr Ogole’s story is one sided. The other party ( JB) exercise it right, rebutt and state their position with evidence. The issue that must be addressed is what authorities concerned are doing to promote and protect the interests of their hapless citizens who are left unprotected to contend for justice with foreigners who “have money and know people” in high places!

      In my own experience, Indian nationals coverted my company’s property plot c9 situate in between theirs ( plots c8 & c10) and used the Deed of their c8 to obtain Governor’s Consent to Assignment, registration and illegal occupation of c9 belonging to us. The lndians’ solicitor, company secretary and legal adviser made application to Lagos Lands Bureau for Governors Consent and registration of the fraudulent deed, falsely claiming to be my company’s “solicitor” and also claiming to have our “instruction” when they did not! The Police investigated, confirmed my allegation of criminal conversion of property and impersonation, but even after two court warrants were isuued for the suspects’ arrest, to date (a year after) nothing has happened, no suspects arrest and statement taken on oath, so the investigation has not been concluded after two years and as such, no new legal advice and so criminal prosecution has stalled!

      Whereas the suspect use money and influence peddling to subvert justice, continue their tresspas and attempt to sweep the matter under the carpet by claiming that It is “civil”, the Police informed me that even in a civil matter, if fraud, criminal offence is disclosed, they have the duty to prosecute the crime. They also stated that both civil and criminal prosecution can go on simultaneously. I am still waiting for justice, 15 years after the fraud and illegal occupation of my company’s property!

      Is is disheartening that foreigners are allowed to intimidate, frustrate and dispossess us of our assets and public officials look the other way! I pray that whoever is voted in as President on Feb 14, 2015 will undertake changes that will stop foreigners from defrauding and humiliating us in our country. No Nigerian, no matter how highly placed will be allowed in Germany or lndia, to treat their hosts, the way Germans or Indian nationals treat us here. Government and its agencies refusal or neglect to help us is open invitation to Nigerians to help themselves!

      • tyson

        It really scares the hell out of me if your story is true—-those who jhave land in abuja—-better move in to start doing something on it before one Chinese he-goat takes over d land———–It would be worse under Buhari—-Because the Fulanis are not happy with the number of land the Ibos have in abuja—am I an Ibo why should I care—-na lie It could be my turn tomorrow–that is why I care—-aware we have the Indian mafia in lagos——that body is very strong——powerful and well connected to the high ups in lagos-

        • Bassey Eniang

          Tyson, thanks for your support and advice. My story is true! I have documentary evidence of all my allegations, including the original C/O. No. 1/1/1987D and the lndians 5 court depositions which is evidence that they used the deed of their own land c8 to fraudulently acquire c9 belonging to my company. This is fraud, criminal offence which cannot be wished away! The APC Vice Presidential candidate, Prof Osinbajo exposed the fraud when he was Lagos State Attorney General. I know and l know that if he gets back to Government at Federal level, Nigerians will get justice without having to bribe anybody! Lagos State Government (Land Registry) cancelled the Memorandum of Loss the lndians used in place of the C/O for the fraudulent Governor’s consent to Assignment and registration, citing “FRAUD”! I will never give up my land no matter who are the supporters of the “lndian mafia”! When the bubble busts..its just a matter of time and opportunity, we shall know who owns Nigeria.. lndians, Germans, Chinese or their “powerful , well connected high ups in Lagos”! Late Fell Anikulapo said, “who no know go know!”