Debo Thomas, a businessman in Ibadan, has narrated how Peter Rufai, a former Nigerian goalkeeper, took his N1 million and denied him value for it.
He also accused Rufai of using his influence within the police to avoid refunding his money.
Thomas said Rufai had promised to help achieve his dream of building a sports complex. A friend connected the duo in 2021, and not long after, they agreed to meet in the latter’s office in Festac, Lagos.
According to Thomas, an elated Rufai accepted the project after their meeting in October 2021.
“He said he wanted to be a part of the project. The way he spoke, it felt like this was something he could do. He said he had done something like that before. He said he had helped Belgium build their sports city,” Thomas told FIJ.
“Rufai said he was going to create a sports city for Lagos but was double-crossed by officials of the state government. He told me not to worry because he had templates. He said he would give me everything he had on the project because he was not all about money.”
Thomas said he refused to accept a template without a fee because he thought that Rufai must have spent some money on the template and thus should be paid for his effort. Rufai strongly disagreed, saying he would get back to Thomas.
Thomas went his way after the meeting ended, only to receive a call from Rufai that same day, telling him he would like to have a meeting with him the following Monday to discuss a few things.
Thomas said he agreed without hesitation. According to Thomas, he arrived at Rufai’s office before the agreed time of 2 pm, but his host didn’t show up until 4 pm.
“When he arrived, he blamed his delay on the traffic he claimed to have encountered coming from the Republic of Benin. But even if there was gridlock, he did not take our calls. In fact, my team and I met him by the roadside when we were already taking our leave,” he said.
This time, Thomas said, Rufai came with a lady called Mikaila, whom he introduced as his wife, manager and co-director of Star Roof Sports Development, his company.
Thomas said he asked Rufai the second time what he wanted him to pay for the template he wanted to give him, and he insisted he wasn’t in it for the money but for a legacy.
“We needed him to tell us how much the template would cost, and then we’d talk about how much he’d charge us to help us set up the sports academy, but he said he wouldn’t charge us,” Thomas said.
Thomas said before he and his team left the meeting spot, Rufai gave him a UBA account number and asked him to pay into the account based on his discretion.
“We spoke to the lady, but she said that if we paid the money, it would be donated to charity because Peter Rufai was wealthy. He didn’t name a price. “We concluded we should pay with our discretion,” he explained.
PROBLEM AFTER PAYMENT
After the meeting ended, Thomas said he, his lawyer, and a friend contemplated what to pay Rufai. The following day, he sent a million naira to him.
“When I called him so he could acknowledge the payment, he said he was expecting more than a million naira. He then said we should add N3.5 million,” he said.
Confused, Thomas asked Rufai why he did not state any figure for his expectations earlier, but instead of providing an answer, Rufai said he spent more than a million on the template.
“All I saw was inconsistency. I wanted Rufai to share with my team an executive summary of his plan since we had shown commitment by paying a million naira without seeing anything, but he never did.”
He said at first, Rufai assured him he would forward the documents for the template, but later asked him to be patient because he wanted to make some adjustments to it.
Four weeks later, Rufai did not tell him the status of the adjustments, Thomas said. He said he called Rufai himself to find out why he had not heard from him, but he told him to pay between N8 and N10 million before he would release the template.
RUFAI HOLDS ON TO A MILLION
Thomas said he asked Rufai to send his N1 million in frustration, as he and his team were no longer interested in the project.
“But he did not want to pay back the money. He brought in a lawyer to structure the terms of payment with my lawyer. However, when the lawyer heard of how the matter began, he couldn’t function normally,” said Thomas.
When the lawyer failed to effect a change, Thomas and his team had a meeting with Rufai to discuss the entire terms of payment.
“We told him we’d have to sign the memorandum of understanding between his and our companies before we gave him anything else, including the executive summary. He said he would get it ready by January 2022,” Thomas stated.
Thomas said Rufai started calling him in January 2022 for the balance of the deal even when he had presented no plan.
He said he asked him to show him a plan but Rufai kept telling him not to worry. Days later, Thomas said, Rufai stopped taking his calls.
Thomas wrote to Rufai, asking him to refund his money, but Rufai told him that until he made the complete payment of N8 million, he would not give him any template.
“At that point, I was angry. I told him I wanted no trouble with him. And I didn’t expect him to be dubious. I forwarded him my account number and asked for a refund, but he would not refund,” said Thomas.
Thomas said he stumbled on links from online newspapers connecting Rufai with a fraudulent deal in Belgium. He said he forwarded it to Rufai, telling him to refund him because he didn’t want to add to his already tarnished media image.
When Rufai failed to show concern, Thomas wrote him and gave him an ultimatum to pay up, but once again, he didn’t care.
RUFAI INTIMIDATES THOMAS WITH THE POLICE
Thomas was amazed in March when his lawyer called him and said there was a petition from the Lagos Police at Onikan to produce him.
Thomas’ lawyer went to the police to ask what the matter was, but they wouldn’t tell him. Since he knew what the police could do, Thomas wrote a counter-petition to a higher office – Alagbon – but the police took no action.
He said his lawyer took the matter to the Ogba Magistrate’s Court in Lagos for them to get justice, but despite the judge’s order, Rufai still did not pay him.
“As I walked out of the court after absession in which I appeared as a witness in June, two guys blocked me and told me I was under arrest. Immediately after I saw them, I saw Peter Rufai pointing his fingers towards me,” Thomas said.
“I wasn’t sure who they were, but they threatened to shoot me, and then they drove me to a police station in Onikan. They would not listen to my side of the story. They accused me of sending assassins to Rufai, burning his car and threatening his life.
“I said Rufai cooked this up to distract from the facts, and no one was going to look at the substance of the matter.
“Before I knew it, they were harassing me. They didn’t let me have my phone to call people until later in the evening.
“The officer said he knew the substance of the matter, but I had to pay him some money for them to grant me bail and later settle with Rufai. It was late, and they threw me in their cell. When they gave me my phone, I called some of my friends.”
Thomas said the police released him the following morning but didn’t let him go immediately. That was where he learned Rufai was a friend of a senior official in that command.
“The police called Rufai and me saying they wanted us to settle, but I told them it was already in court. They said it was a civil matter. They wanted to take me to court, knowing Lagos is not my territory and it might be difficult for me to meet bail terms.
“One officer said what was happening was not right. They let me go that day, although I paid some money. I left, and they told me to come back another day. The day I went back, Rufai didn’t show up. The police officers said Rufai was not showing up and I could go. I wrote an undertaking before I left.
“The car he accused me of burning has not been the subject of an investigation by the police. There was no investigation into the alleged assassination attempt. As evidence, he only presented a screenshot of the chat in which I stated he had a history of fraud. He said I was defaming him.
“Since the police stopped calling me, we have focused on the case in court. The court judgement asked Rufai to refund my N1 million. I thought Rufai would reach out, but he didn’t. My lawyer said we should make another abdication to enforce the judgement, but I wasn’t ready for the wahala.
When FIJ called Rufai on his mobile line, he refrained from speaking, claiming the matter was still in court.
Based on documents obtained by FIJ however, the court has since ordered Rufai to pay Thomas a million naira.
When this reporter asked Rufai for his part of the story, he said, “It would be nice for your source to explain to you everything that has trespassed and where the case is at the moment. The person has not given you the complete information. Whatever the person has told you has not made sense.”
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