Months after PREMIUM TIMES’ report, controversy has continued to trail the administration of the Redeemer Excellent Men Housing Estate scheme, Pyakassa Lugbe, as the management of the estate and subscribers trade tackles over administrative issues.
An official of the housing scheme, Ade Adeyemi, told PREMIUM TIMES that the management of the scheme had been wrongly accused of fraudulent activities by subscribers when they were ”merely assisting the subscribers become land owners in Abuja”.
PREMIUM TIMES had last year reported how the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) officials allegedly duped members of millions in the controversial housing scheme.
The scheme was initiated by the Excellent Men Fellowship (EMF) of the Resurrection Parish of RCCG in Lugbe, Abuja, to assist its members and other churchgoers become land owners in the Federal Capital Territory.
The subscribers were expected to pay N1.5 million for 600 square metre portions. Each subscriber was expected to pay an initial deposit of N250, 000 while remaining payment was spread over two years. Subscribers who pay up to N900, 000 would have their plot allotted to them to commence building.
Apart from the N1.5 million for the land, beneficiaries were also expected to pay an additional N500, 000 for infrastructural development in the estate after they might have started developing the plot allotted to them.
However, trouble started when some of the subscribers accused the estate management of fraud and insincerity.
Some subscribers alleged that the estate management were not transparent in their dealings as they were not giving proper account of their activities and how they spent the money.
While some of the subscribers got land, (500 square metres instead of the initial 600), some did not get despite paying the agreed sum. Some of the people who did not get are also yet to get a refund, PREMIUM TIMES was told.
Mr. Adeyemi, however, said the allegation of fraud against them was not correct.
He said though the scheme started in 2009 from the EMF, ”the scheme however does not belong to the church (RCCG)”.
Mr. Adeyemi said contrary to claims by some of the subscribers that funds used to buy the plots of land was contributed by them (subscribers), he said the funds were pooled together by the management of the estate and the land was already procured before the subscribers were invited to key into the scheme.
“There has been no fraud in the scheme. The scheme started as the brainchild of eight men who were members of the RCCG, Resurrection Parish, Lugbe. The business does not belong to the church. Though we started out from the church, we only used that to assist the members of the excellent men fellowship. It was not the money they paid we used to acquire the land, we had already procured it before the scheme started,” he said.
However, according to the subscribers, this claim contradicts what ”the subscribers were told before they subscribed to the scheme”.
One of the subscribers, Adebambo Adefarakan, said Mr. Adeyemi’s claim was false.
He said why most people subscribed to the scheme was because ”they were all contributors from the church”.
Mr. Adefarakan said based on the new claims of the management, ”nobody would have subscribed to the scheme then”.
“Why would we want to do business with them if they had pooled money on their own to buy the land? That still means they are fraudulent people because what they are claiming now is that they used the name of the church to perpetuate their intention,” he said.
Mr. Adefarakan said the money used to buy the land was contributed by the subscribers and was done in good faith because they used the account in the name of the church.
“Who would have done business with them if they are private business men? We did so based on trust that it was a project done in the church. The question we should ask is how they got money to buy those land if they claim to have gotten it before our contributions. We know where they work, most of them were civil servants, so where did they get the money or loan. They should provide the evidence,” he said.
Trouble has since been brewing between some of the subscribers and estate management.
While some of the subscribers were given land and had started building, they are yet to finish because of the controversy.
Some, however, have finished building their homes and moved into the estate. In spite of this, some who have moved into the estate are still having problems with the management.
The residents accuse the management of several issues including extortion from security fee, lack of infrastructural development, lack of trust in the activities of the management, ‘harassment’, among others.
This crisis has made the management and residents of the estate become constant visitors to various security outfits where they have taken each other over the past few months.
A resident of the estate, Loice Benjamin-Anyawueze, told PREMIUM TIMES that she was beaten in front of her house, by two officials of the private outfit securing the estate, Pentho Security Guard Limited ”because she refused doing business with them”.
Mrs. Benjamin-Anyawueze agreed owing infrastructure development fee, which was part of the initial agreement she had with the management.
She, however, said she has since refused doing business with the management after the RCCG published a disclaimer on the management of the estate in some national dallies.
The disclaimer came following complaints by subscribers that the church committee appointed to administer the private housing development scheme was mismanaging funds.
Allegations of fraud and mismanagement led to a fracas among subscribers of the scheme which prompted the national headquarters of the RCCG to wade in.
The church later washed its hands off the scheme and published a disclaimer in some dailies that the scheme should no longer be associated with the church.
Mrs. Benjamin-Anyawueze said the management charges house owners infrastructure fee to carry out development such as roads and drainages in the estate.
“I had refused to pay them any money ever since the Redeemed Christian Church of God published a disclaimer of the management of the estate in national dallies, saying anyone doing business with ‘the unscrupulous people’ was doing so at their own risk. We are still having some fracas and I have petitioned the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps,” she said.
Another subscriber, Augustine Eigbe, said the claims of the management and the church is ridiculous.
He said it was the involvement of the Redeemed church that made them subscribe to the scheme.
“It is ‘Redeemed’ (RCCG) that we know we don’t know them, (management of the scheme). How did they get document of Redeemed to open their accounts. The account we paid money into (Redeemed Church account named: RCCG-RC-EMHS (Project) with number: 0421201006911, at the defunct, Oceanic Bank (now Ecobank)) was in the name of the church. They operated two accounts, Oceanic and Fidelity bank. This type of scam is out of it,” he said
Mr. Eigbe said they should explain how they got money to get the land. He also accused Mr. Adeyemi of falsehood.
Meanwhile, Mr. Adefarakan insists that the letter on which modalities for the scheme was stated and subsequently issued was from RCCG.
“If they knew they were prosperous and creditable enough they should have come out on their own as a private entity and not use the name of the Church. If they believe they were that popular they should have used their name to see if anybody will key into it. They used the name of the church to deceive everybody.
“Initially they said they are not selling land to Muslims, but they have deviated from the original plans they had. It is just a terrible scam that they are committing and nobody is ready to do anything to do about. Even EFCC did not give us an outcome of the situation,” he said.
Mr. Adefarakan said ”many people in the church have been whipping up religious sentiments” to beg them drop a court case the subscribers had initiated.
“It was the church that said we should settle out of court that we want to ridicule the church, that is why I withdrew the case from court. The church had to plead with us to withdraw the case which we did and yet there was no suitable outcome,” he said.
Undeterred, Mr. Adeyemi said ”the (account) books of the management are clean”. He also said they had not been able to give out refunds to some people because ”currently we do not have money in the estate account”.
“We do not have cash at hand, what we do is immediately we collect money from people we use it to pay the contractors who are working on the infrastructure in the estate. That is why we have not been able to pay most of the people who have written for their refund,” he said.
Mr. Adeyemi said he blames the church for the crisis because the interim committee set up by the church to wade into the matter ”did not do what it was meant to do but instead the compounded the issue”.
He also lamented that the management did not see the report of the church commitee which investigated the matter. Mr. Adeyemi said this would have cleared all doubts that they were fraudulent.
“We have been cleared by the EFCC, after some of the subscribers reported our case to them. Everyone who has investigated us know we are not fraudulent people. However, we will maintain our stand, if anybody wants to work on their building, they must pay whatever money remains, if they don’t they will not work or move in,” he said.