- As They Fight Over His Vast Estate
Since late Chief Jimoh Alabi Mumumi died in September 1995, what was once a happy family and the cordial relationship among his children has suddenly degenerated into acrimony. Since his death, 23 years ago, they have been at war over the way to share their father’s huge inheritance.
Before his death, late Chief Jimoh Alabi Mumuni, was a very successful businessman and a committed muslim who had invested prudently and left a massive estate for his wife, Kariboba, and his 6 children namely: Mrs. GbemiMumuni-Numa, Ms ToluMumuni, Ms SopeMumuni, Ms BisiBatubo (nee Mumuni), Mr. Babatunde Mumuni and Mr. TayoMumuni. His friend and lawyer, Mr. Adekunle Sofola Esq, was named Executor in his Will, alongside 3 of his children Gbemi, Tunde and Sope.
Chief Jimoh in his lifetime pioneered a number of successful companies, including the Nigerian Investigation and Safety Company Limited (NISCO) – the first private security company in Nigeria. It was founded in 1967. There was also M & D Phonotas Nigeria Limited, Gateshead Engineering Company Limited and Suthercraft Limited.
A notable entrepreneur, the late Mumuni who invested in landed properties, also had considerable shares in Nigerian Breweries Plc, CFAO, Nigerian Textiles Limited, PZ Limited, Lever Brothers (now Unilever) John Holt, Dunlop Nigeria Limited, Nigerian Bottling Company, Nigerian Cement Limited, First Bank Plc, amongst many others, where he bought numerous shares in their thousands and ten thousands – all to be equally shared among his children.
Despite the sizeable fortune left by their father, it appears not everyone is a Beneficiary as should be, hence the contention. As a matter of fact, 2 of the siblings, Gbemi the eldest child and Babatunde, the eldest son – both signatories to the accounts – have been accused by their siblings of not handling the use of the family’s vast wealth well.
They alleged (with some supporting documents) that their siblings have been depriving them and their now deceased mother of what they call their entitlement from their father’s estate, in addition to expending the family’s wealth on what they describe as unimportant issues. It still hurts one of them, Sope that her mum was allegedly ill-treated while suffering from Osteoarthritis and high blood pressure.
On March 25, 2003, ToluMumuni, (one of the daughters of late Mr. Mumuni wrote a letter through the lawyer Kunle Sofola, the Executor of their late father’s estate, informing the Estate that their mother who was ill and bedridden, was urgently in need of a total knee replacement surgery in both legs. The letter stated that the surgery would cost £9,445. The letter explained that if the surgery wasn’t performed, the aged woman would lose all mobility and her life would be diminished.
The lawyer replied in a letter that there was no money in the account. His response read: “The meeting also resolved that for you to commit the estate or the company to over N2 million medical bills, you ought to have informed them beforehand so that both estate and company can advise you as to their financial capabilities to fund such medical treatment. Unfortunately, the estate just shared rents of N1.140.000.00 received for 36, Adeniran Ogunsanya Street, Suru-Lere Lagos, the sharing could have been put on hold and the rent used towards the settling the medical bills if the estate had been aware of the treatment. The balance in the estate account as at today is nil”.
The siblings also pointed out that their eldest sister, Gbemi didn’t take kindly to other letters written by them or their mother appealing for financial help. They regretted that the particular sister always referred to their mum as ‘madam’ and never as ‘mother.’
Between 2008 and 2015 a lot happened. It was discovered that the eldest, Gbemi Numa (nee Mumuni), allegedly created a sister company, NISCO Security Guards Limited, without the imprint of her younger siblings thereby leading to further confusion and division in the family. All the expected funds (which ran into about N20 million monthly) from the main NISCO were diverted to the sister company whilst the main NISCO suffered greatly. After she was challenged, Mrs. Numa eventually apologised for opening another company without their knowledge and a promise agreed upon that the sister company will be closed down.
In 2009, according to a statement by Sope Mumuni, Mrs. Gbemi Numa was removed as Managing Director of NISCO, not for mismanagement or illegal tithe payments but because she attempted to take over NISCO. To bring this matter to a swift resolution, Mrs. GbemiNuma was paid a settlement and ex-gratia payments for her years of service.
Moreso, Mr. Kunle Sofola – a lawyer with 37 years experience, who once was regarded as an uncle due this closeness to their late dad, also appears in the mix.
From evidence of emails between them, Kunle Sofola and Gbemi Numa were once at daggers drawn and when it was at its peak, he revealed a few things Gbemi allegedly did.
An excerpt from a letter from KunleSofola to Gbemi dated July 2008 revealed the following: “Records however show that it is only you, your immediate family and of course your church that receives N250, 000.00 monthly tithes that has benefited from the company to the detriment of others who are struggling to survive. Is this fair and just as a good Christian?”
Her siblings also stated that their eldest sister meted out what they called “unquantifiable degree of humiliation and trauma” on their late mother in her old age, forcing the deceased to spend her last days in misery.
The issue has lingered on for long. But a particular aspect that has remained particularly exasperating to the children is the allegation that, while their mother was living in abject penury, needing funds for urgent surgery abroad, their eldest sister remitted huge sums as Tithe and donations to a popular Lagos-church. Sope then wrote the church for the refund of the money, claiming it was illegally taken from the family business.
On October 3, 2008, she, wrote a letter to the head of the church, and complained about the donation. The letter partly reads: “My mother is still alive, and your member (names withheld) stopped paying her medical bills back in April. We have the money to make our mother’s last few years comfortable. She chooses instead to make these years of her life sorrowful. Over the years, she has demonstrated her lack of compassion for anyone other than herself. My father’s will made provisions for his entire family and I believe that it is unfair that tithe payments were made without our consent or agreement.
“I understand the payment of Tithe to be a personal sacrifice based on individual faith. My father was a proud Muslim and payment to a Christian church ought not to have been made. While her siblings and mother were facing difficulty, she ignored their human and legal rights and illegally paid tithe to your church. In the 13 years since my father’s death, his grave, even till today does not have a headstone.”
The church, later refunded N1.9 million while pledging to refund the balance at a later date.
A senior member of the church, however denied claims that the church was culpable in the matter. He asserted that when the issues initially came up, the Snr. Pastor of the church (name withheld) directed that all monies from NISCO companies traceable to the church be returned, adding that the sum of N1.9m was subsequently returned to the Mumunis. He expressed that some persons in the family were claiming another sum of N23m. But he said the church was waiting for the aggrieved parties to bring records of the payment amount to the church.
Babatunde Mumuni was alleged by his siblings to have sold the shares their father bought, estimated at that time at N6 to N8 million. He is accused of from the company account to the church, from 2000-2008. Their dad’s company which is no longer in operation, M&D Phonotas was also illegally appropriated, to which he admitted his actions in 2015, that what he did was solely for his personal gains. In a statement made available to City People, Sope claims that her brother still owes the estate tens of millions which he promised and will have to repay.
There is now a running battle in court with Tolu and Sope Mumuni on the one side and Mr. Sofola and other siblings on the other, due to their alleged involvement in many activities including the sale and loss of some of the Mumuni Estate’s property and funds. This is including a payment of N6.25 million to Mr. Sofola after the sale of a house on Adeniran Ogunsanya, Surulere, Lagos.
Between 2016 to 2017, many letters and emails were exchanged and the controversy developed into a court case lodged at the Federal High Court in Lagos since April 2016. The lawsuit seeks clarification on what exactly is going on with their inheritance. From all indications, the siblings would rather have every asset sold, shared amongst the siblings so that they may all go their separate ways. Then those who chose to come together can do so. As usual, like it happens in most inheritance cases, each of late Chief Mumuni’s children is hauling allegations at the other. Some of Chief Mumuni’s kids say they are also unhappy with the way Mr. Kunle Sofola has handled the affairs of the family, but this popular Lagos lawyer has repeatedly defended himself that he is not biased.
On 23rd of May, 2017, Sope, wrote a letter accusing Mr. KunleSofola, Chairman of NISCO, Executor and estate lawyer of disbursing what others describes as money meant for family members. In it she reiterated her displeasure on how she and her sisters were treated: “The nominal N100,000 (one hundred thousand naira) emolument directed by the beneficiaries to be paid to each Mumuni, you have with no reason refused to pay since March 2016 yet you continue to oblige Mrs. G. Numa and Babatunde Mumuni whom have squandered tens of millions of naira (that remain unaccounted for and unrepaid) belonging to the estate.”
However, in a letter from the estate of Chief Jimoh Mumuni, also signed by Gbemi Numa, denied any diversion of funds: “We reject any notion that the Executors of the estate mismanaged, sold, converted and or misappropriated assets of the company to her detriment as a beneficiary to the said estate. If Miss Tolulope Mumuni has evidence of this, she should kindly provide same to the Board of Directors, shareholders in General Meeting, or to the Executors of the estate in support of her allegations.”
Recently, in a chat with a Pastor in the church involved in the matter, he asserted that there was no record of NISCO paying any more money than the refunded N1.9 million to the church account. It would be immediately refunded as they were more concerned about peace within the Mumuni family. He however said it would be unfair to keep claiming that the church owes the family money, without any proof. Sope insists that the church’s comments are insincere and offensive to the beliefs of her father’s Muslim faith and wishes. The proof is in the cheques and bankers drafts the church deposited into their bank accounts and in the Fountain of Life payment file that can be obtained from Kunle Sofola (Chairman of NISCO), Mrs. GbemiNuma, Babatunde and Tayo Mumuni (NISCO Directors) which I personally calculated and handed over for them to follow up. A visit to the chambers of Kunle Sofola & Co revealed that since the case is still in court, Mr. Sofola would rather keep mum until the lawsuit is over.
Sope Mumuni in her personal statement made available to City People, concluded:
“I apportion the most blame to myself. Some people are incapable of change and don’t deserve a second chance. I failed to notice opportunist parasites that took and continue to take advantage of the division within the family. These parasites want the Mumunis to remain broken so that they can continue to feed and financially benefit.
“Due to their actions, no succession is possible and no legacy to pass on to the next generation.
“This isn’t about money; I’ve lost a considerable amount of my inheritance. It’s about equality and receiving for all a fair share of what remains. I’ll do what is necessary to prevent anything that will hinder, deny and delay my entitlement.”
She also expressed regret that their late mother’s wish that the feud in the family would come to a resolution before her death wasn’t realized. Years after Mummy’s demise, members of the family are still at daggers drawn over irregularities and misappropriation of funds.”
The case is still in court.