What started as a simple tenancy transaction has turned full cycle to probable intent to defraud. An attempt by a young business entrepreneur to set up a healthy food centre at the nation’s capital, has become a case the police will need to unravel.
Lynda Inyarwghadoo Adzuanaga although a lawyer, is a food enthusiast. But her ambition to take her business further has suffered a shock arrest following many months of frustration allegedly caused by her would-be landlords who refused to fix outstanding fittings, conclude tenancy agreement and in the end forced Adzuanaga to review the relationship.
More painful to the lawyer is that after hinting of readiness to refund the rent and the service charge, amounting to over N1.8 million, for nearly two years, the would-be landlord has refused either directly or through her proxies to buck. All attempts to settle the matter has only energised Lynda’s traducers who go about parading their connections.
Lynda spoke to Politicos on the trauma she has been put through:
Q: When did you come across the property which rent is under dispute?
A: So in November of 2018, a friend responsed to my quest for a location for my business, mentioned this food court to me. I sell healthy food options; smoothies, parfaits, salads etc.
My friend sent me the number of a lady called Haleema Grema of H and H Entertainement Services, Wuse Abuja. I sent her a message, when she didn’t respond I sent another message.
She later responded to say she was out of town but we should meet on a certain date.
I went, looked at the place and liked it.
She said rent was N1.5 million and service charge 420. I asked for a discount and she agreed to give the place at N1. 4 million.
I travelled shortly to Benue to do a contract and on the 3rd of December 2018 I made payment for the place. For both rent and service charge.
I have the print out of my bank statement and text messages from her and confirmation of receipt from her.
Q: What were the conditions for rent and when was the tenancy supposed to commence and end?
A: Upon return to Abuja I expected and indeed asked for a receipt for the payment, but they told me we needed to have the tenancy agreement signed first. They directed me to their lawyer Ibrahim Mujaheed of No. 26 Blantyre Street with whom I spoke and even sat down to go over the terms. Because they insisted I be specific about what I was going to sell there since their premises doesn’t allow sale of alcohol.
I asked him to send me a clean copy we could agree on and then print so we could sign. This was a few weeks to Christmas. I neither saw nor heard from him since then.
There was a partition to be fixed and a few other things that required fixing that they agreed to do, they said they would do same and I travelled for Christmas (2018).
Indeed I allowed time to pass so they could do the work and early January, I asked a friend whom I wanted to do the interior to go look the place up so we could know what to do in terms of fixing and all.
She got there and found out nothing had been done. Thus, I assumed she went to the wrong place and went there with her when I came back to town to find out nothing had been done. I called and she was acting confused or feigning ignorance. In the end, we agreed to a date to see and discuss it.
We got there and she was very rude and condescending, claiming my rent had started counting, I was so pissed and was going to walk away, when her partner intervened and said they would work on it.
However at that point I realized that it was going to be a problematic business relationship which I didn’t think I wanted to go through. Shortly after I expressed my intention to not continue and for them to refund my money to which they agreed.
Please note that at no time did I occupy the place in any form. By putting a door or a lock on any part of it . So they had the liberty to give it out to anyone else if they wanted. The entire food court was empty at this time. I was probably the only prospective tenant.
That should have been a red flag, but I guess I wasn’t sensitive enough.
What made me begin to worry was that after we spoke and they agreed to refund ‘as soon as they have someone’. Haleema called me sometime on the 26th of August last year to tell me that i should bear in my mind my rent is running and if they didn’t find anyone, I might as well know I’d to forfeit my rent and service charge.
I reached out to their lawyer, through mine and he suggested settlement. But they failed as they refused to come to terms. It was at this point the first letter of demand was sent.
When I shared my experience with a friend who happens to also know them, she noted that a mutual friend who owns Santifood and was their tenant at some point, had a similar issue with them. They didn’t pay service charge even though they are in the same premises, but went ahead to demand same and enjoy the facilities.
They were not happy when she confronted them. A sense of entitlement and arrogance from their attitude, by acting like they could bully or intimidate me, into parting with my money. They were and are aware, their restaurant is in the same premises. The phone call of 25th August that I referenced, was the day Haleema said my rent was running.
Q: What is the content of your agreement with them in respect of the commencement of rent or expiry of same and other issues?
A: I was not given any tenancy agreement nor even a receipt for payment, even though I sat with the lawyer to agree on terms, I never saw the agreement and never signed anything.
Q: Has anyone tried to mediate, and what has been their response?
A: Before the first demand letter in September 2019, my lawyer had called theirs with a view to settlement. But they were insistent and refused to come to terms. He then adviced us to seek any other legal alternative.
Q: What exactly do you want?
A: All I want is a full refund of my money seeing that I never used the place, didn’t tie it down in anyway, that prevented it from being accessed if they needed to give it to another tenant. Going back on the word to refund same when they had agreed, only shows that the intention was to defraud me.
They never called even for a day to ask for us to sit and talk with a view to settling. They probably assumed I would be cowed by their status or connections in society and be afraid to confront them. I have reported the matter to the FCT police command. We are meant to meet there next week.