I Didn’t Defraud Afe Babalola Of $10 Million –PedroFeatured, Latest News, News Monday, April 4th, 2016
LAGOS, NIGERIA (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Ex-Lagos Solicitor-General, Lawal Pedro (SAN) has denied allegation that he defrauded Chief Afe Babalola’s firm (SAN) of $10 million in professional fees.
Babalola had petitioned the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to investigate Pedro for allegedly defrauding his law firm of $10 million in professional fees.
In a statement made available to newsmen on Monday, Pedro said he did not and could not have defrauded Babalola or his firm of $10 Million professional fees or any amount, describing the allegation as not only false, but malicious, having regard to the facts on ground.
“I wish to state that his petition to the ICPC which I have gone to, respond to, was as a result of his misunderstanding of my role in the settlement of the Supreme Court Judgment in favour of his clients (the Gbadamosi Eletu family) in suit No. SC/146/05. On the 13th of March, I was with Chief Afe Babalola, SAN in Ado Ekiti to resolve the misunderstanding and we have been relating since then. We still spoke today and I verily believed him when he informed me that he did not authorize or authenticate the publications of the 4th of April, 2016. I also have his text message to me to that effect,” he said.
“For the record, I was the Solicitor General of Lagos State when I chaired the settlement meetings of representatives of government (from Lands Bureau, Surveyor General office, Land Registry, Ministry of Physical Planning and Ministry of Justice), the Judgment Creditors (Eletu Family) and Solicitors and 3rd parties who have fully or partly developed the judgment land with government’s approval and consent to their title. They include NICON, UAC PDC, Beach Resort Nig. Ltd., Lekki Silver Touch Nig. Ltd. etc.
“At the end of the several meetings held in the conference room of the Ministry of Justice, I was able to persuade the Eletu family to agree to accept alternative parcel of land in replacement of the 216.7 Hectares of land at Osapa awarded to them in the judgment. This is in forbearance of execution of the said judgment by Eletu family against the 3rd parties/occupiers of the land to avoid breach of peace, destruction of properties and injuries to persons which may occur in the event of execution as evidence by the initial attempt at execution and which made the government to intervene in the matter,” he explained.
The former Solicitor General said even “though the non-execution of the judgment delayed the immediate payment of Babalola’s fee by his clients, I acted in the best interest of the people in arriving at a resolution of the matter between the parties concerned. I did not abuse my official office at any time or in the settlement of the said judgment or any case that arose from it.
“I also deny hijacking any brief for any law firm or as alleged. As regards Chief Afe Babalola’s professional fees, it is a matter between him and his clients (the Eletu family) which I am aware is a subject of a pending case which parties are trying to resolve in suit No. LD/1827LWM/15.”
Pedro said “There is no problem between me and Chief Afe Babalola, SAN and I verily believe that the publication must have been sponsored by some people with intent to injure me in my credit, reputation and profession for reasons best known to them. I leave them to their conscience and wish them well.”
In his petition to the ICPC, Babalola explained how Pedro allegedly abused his office and hijacked the briefs he handled for the family of Eletu in Supreme Court while his professional fees had not been paid.
He requested the ICPC to investigate the corrupt practices in respect of the settlement of some lawsuits, which Pedro concluded in connivance with the Eletu family and other parties “to defraud his law firm of its professional fees.”
Babalola said in the petition that the Remedium Chambers was the private law firm, which Pedro allegedly used fraudulently to hijack the briefs of other lawyers while he was in the employment of Lagos State Government.
“Pedro used his private law firm to hijack the negotiation of Suit No: LD/4897/2014 between Beach Resorts and the Eletu family. As a result, the Eletu family deprived the law firm of Afe Babalola of its professional fees of $10 million,” he said.
Babalola claimed in a Suit No: LD/1827/LMW/15 he recently filed at a Lagos High Court argued that after his retirement, Pedro moved “to the premises of De Remedium Chambers located at No. 2 Akintoye Shogunle Street, Off John Olugbemi Street, Ikeja where he practices law privately. He has since changed the name of the said office to Lawal Pedro, SAN and Co.”
He added that the Eletu family approached his law firm through a lawyer, Mr. Ademola Koko in 2005 asking him to appeal against the decision of a Court of Appeal involving 254 hectares of land, saying that after he agreed to handle the appeal at the Supreme Court, he asked the Eletu family for a professional fee of $20 million, which was later reduced to $10 million after the family pleaded.
He explained when asked to pay part of the professional fees, the senior advocate noted that the Eletu family offered “to give him land to cover the payment,” which he said, was rejected in favour of a cash payment of fees.
He said upon agreement, he asked an agreement on his professional fees to be in writing and that the agreement should be executed before a magistrate, which the family complied with as proof of good faith.
Babalola said that his law firm prosecuted the appeal for eight years before the Supreme Court delivered judgment on July 12, 2013 and awarded 216.7 hectares of land in favour of the Eletu family.
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