Friday, July 26, 2013

Nigeria: Aggrieved Client Slams First City Group

Abuja based businessman Mr. Washington Agbons Umweni, who allegedly went into business with Dubai property marketing company, The First City Group, has accused the company of defrauding him of the sum of N9.8 million.

This is even as The First City Group Through its lawyer, Mr. Ismail Muftau, has insisted that the relationship between The First Group and Umweni is founded on a contract which is governed by a Sales Purchase Agreement (SPA), signed by both parties and that the said sales purchase agreement shall only be governed and or construed by, in accordance with the Federal Laws of the United Arab Emirate and that it is only the courts of Dubai that shall have absolute jurisdiction to entertain any dispute or issues arising from that contract.

Narrating his ordeal with the company, Umweni said he met a sales representative of the company in the lobby of a hotel in Abuja who told him about property investment opportunities in Dubai, through the company, after which he visited the company at their head office at the 7th floor of Bank of Industry building in the central business district of Abuja for further discussions.

He said the company told him that as part of his commitment to make an investment, he had to pay the sum of N260, 000 for his air ticket to Dubai while the company volunteered to procure a Dubai visa, at the cost of $150 for him, adding that he was also asked to deposit $10,000 with The First Group's Abuja office which he did and proceeded to Dubai on October 19, 2012.

The aggrieved client said while in Dubai, the company's representatives showed him around the proposed site for the construction of the TFG Marina, where some construction equipment had already been mobilised, adding that a billboard at the site described the proposed project and listed the number of floors it would have, with a proposed completion date of November 30, 2014.

Umweni said while in Dubai, he was given a draft Sales Purchase Agreement for the purchase of Unit 2212 which was allocated to him, he chose and signed a proposed monthly payment plan and a draft contractual agreement was also signed by both parties after which he was told a proper contract will be presented to him for signing at the Abuja office of the company.

According to him, on December 17, 2012, having refused to make his deposits into the company's account at Emirate NBD Bank PJSC at Jumeirah, Dubai, the company issued him details of its account in one of the commercial banks in the country, where he made a payment of N800, 000 and a total of N9.8 million between October 22 and December 21, 2012.

He said he visited the site of the proposed TFG Marina while on a business visit to Dubai after six months to see progress of work only to find that no work had been done at the site just as the construction equipment ment during the first visit were no longer there, adding that he also saw a new billboard which now described the project site as Wyndham Dubai Marina, no longer TFG Marina and check on the company's website where the TFG Marine project was initially advertised also revealed that it was no longer on the list of both completed and ongoing projects.

The client said he had at this point demanded for the refund of all the money deposited for the purchase of unit 2212 at TFG Marina, through his lawyer, Mr. Tunde Abioje and threatened to hand the matter over to the anti-graft agencies, Real Estate Institute of Nigeria (REIN), the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Nigeria and the Dubai Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA), if the company fails to refund the money within 10 days of the receipt of his letter but the demand was rebuffed by the company.

The First City Group's lawyer, in a response noted that Umweni's refusal to pay his overdue installments amounts to a material breach of his payment obligation and denied claims that work at the TGF Marina had stopped, expressing optimism that the project will be delivered as soon as possible.
This was just as Muftau pointed out a clause in the draft SPA signed by the parties where it was provided that if the purchaser (Umweni), fulfilled all his financial obligation and the seller; The First Group, fails to deliver the unit on the agreed date and or on the provided 6 months extension time, that the company will pay back all funds paid by the purchaser but without any form of interest.

Umweni's lawyer, however dismissed the draft SPA, saying it is not a valid legal document and therefore not binding on his client as it failed to make provision for what happens where the purchaser is meeting his financial obligation and The First Group is unable to make progress on the construction of the project, describing the clauses of the purported agreement as obnoxious, vexatious, onerous and repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.

The complainant said the company has dragged him and his lawyer before a Lagos State High Court seeking an order of the court to restrain them from involving the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the matter, which the company it insists is a civil commercial transaction, even as the company which accused his lawyer of interfering in their agreement with him which was responsible for their loss of business deal with him is claiming about N200 million against them for general damages, cost of litigation and for breach of contract.

In his response to the suit, Umweni stated that it is The First Group who is in breach of their contract hence it made three separate proposals to make a refund and noted that there would not have been any problem if the company had refunded him his hard earned money following their breach of the contract rather than insisting on taking a whooping sum of N2.9 million out of it for what they said was administrative and handling charges even as he pointed out that the company is merely using the suit to cover up their fraudulent acts and to tie up his money but reiterated his confidence in Nigeria's judiciary noting that the justice system may be slow, but that eventually substantial justice will be done and the company will be exposed for their fraudulent acts.

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