By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor
For some time now, trustees of the estate of the late Mobolaji Bank-Anthony have been at loggerheads with offspring of the great philanthropist who left the quantum of his massive wealth to humanity.
The ding-dong battle led to many unwholesome developments including allegations of kidnapping, threats to life and ceaseless petitions to the police. A retired veteran of the United States Air Force who claims to represent the alleged abandoned offspring of Sir Banks, Queen Irene Cole, 68, opened up on how the whole sordid drama started.
Why all these hullabaloo about the will of late philanthropist, Bank Anthony
With humility, I have never fooled myself that I can right the wrongs of the world and or change all the evil, or wickedness of the world. On the contrary, I learnt at an early stage of my life that there was no option to God Almighty.
The late Sir Mobolaji Bank Anthony cherished Ijebu-Ode Grammar School, so as one of the greatest philanthropists of his era, to have made the successful journey through life, he left an annual amount of money for books, equipment, maintenance and upgrade of the library in the school.
He left such a legacy that for generations to come, Ijebu-Ode grammar school would never lack. Sadly, even the best of us are genuinely subject to temptation though I concede that there are wicked people who really don’t care what happens to their fellowman.
Then what happened?
Yet for 29 years, Ijebu-Ode grammar school did not even know that they had been provided for and never received one kobo. It means that since 1991 when our patriot died till date, all the children that attended and graduated from the school were deprived of a library and the school never received the money their benefactor provided for them.
Proof of which the Old Boys Association of the school came together in 1993 to support and upgrade the library not knowing that one of their old boys had already provided for it. There is a plaque to attest to this effort. Sadly, but subsequently today, the library still bears the name of our philanthropist , but as you can see, it is in a very deplorable condition because the so called trustees of his will never gave the school the money made available to them by Sir Banks.
How did the journey towards the recovery of his estate start?
Early last year, when I started this journey to recover the Sir Bank Anthony Estate from the people who he nominated personally and whom he trusted to fulfill his last wishes to which one of them , had regularized his nomination through probate, but the two others were carrying around a fake court order and upon investigation led to a suit unrelated to the order.
All this would not have mattered if they had just fulfilled the testators last wishes because there was more than enough for generations to come. I started with the family, whom though some names not expressly mentioned in the will, came into light because he specifically expressed his sentimental value in a paragraph that mandated that said trustees should oblige some of his family obligations.
That is apart from the salaries, incentives and benefits to the trustees themselves, to ensure that what he wanted was for his last wishes to be fulfilled. Unfortunately, these people, ignoring the magnitude of what was left behind, the properties, assets, shares, unimaginable money just did not give the beneficiaries anything.
Initially, I waded into the matter to correct a public erroneous statement made by my God daughter, Funmiade Bank-Anthony stating that her grandfather who was my God father, the Late Bank-Anthony who was my father’s best friend and had given an interview to newspaper that her grandfather had died, leaving nothing for the family.
I chastised her that the statement did not reflect my late Godfather’s vision and demanded to see his will which she then admitted that she had never seen but had heard. I had known Sir Bank-Anthony to be the greatest philanthropist that Nigeria ever had.
He was Godfather to both my older brother. This led me insisting that we find the will and I waded into the recovery of the estate initially representing her interest. She did all she could to bring in her other cousins, children and grandchildren most of who lived outside the country completely believing that they were not entitled to anything.
These children, till I stepped in, had been convinced for 29 years that nothing had been left for anyone. I launched investigations and ended up becoming a thorn in the side of not only the trustees, but others who had been concealing the secret of these provisions that had not been fulfilled.
What was the reaction of the trustees?
After collecting all the relevant documents which took us to the archives, libraries, probate etc, we petitioned the police and they were invited. That was when real trouble, harassment, intimidation and open threats started. The shocking and sad experience saw us been abducted by their paid agents and security men, detained for days, thrown out of our apartment etc.
At a stage, the so-called trustees decided to bring out N200 million from God knows where, since there still has been no audit mandate and gave each of the children N5m each. Goddaughter had made aware of my bid to recover the estate. The main condition for them to receive the money was to stop any law suit that I had instituted and any further publications.
I encouraged the children to take the money as a beginning to an end. They had been promised more money and houses making them believe that all the money in their possession belong to the family and that at long last if given a few months, they would give the children more money and even houses.
They could not have fulfilled such a promise even if they wanted to and did not. I continued with my investigation anyway because I then realized the magnitude of Sir Banks legacy which he did leave same expressly for his family, but for millions of other Nigerians for generations to come. Please understand that this is almost thirty years later, three decades and he is still providing for his beneficiaries.
Unexpectedly, about six week ago, the only probated trustee of the estate died leaving the estate in complete disarray. No lawful trustee. Monies accounted for. Our petition to the Inspector-general of Police, IGP, was approved and the investigation has brought us to where there would be accountability for what was and is in the estate to date.
What brought you to Ijebu-Ode grammar school?
I went to the school to openly demand, through the court of public opinion, that the two persons claiming to be trustees, but are not, to cease and desist from parading themselves as such and to warn them and make them realize that they cannot disburse money from the estate to anyone. It is a crime for them to sign any checks, or give the estate money to anybody.
The estate money can only be given to the beneficiaries by duly probated trustees in compliance with his last wishes. No one can re-write anyone’s will. I have a list of some of the corporate beneficiaries that were supposed to have received money but did not.
It includes but not limited to; Ijebu-ode grammar school, Sir. Bank –Anthony Research Funds at the University of Ibadan, Sir Bank Anthony Graduate Fellowship Scholarship for Urology, Nephrology and Forensic Medicine at UNIBADAN, Nigerian Academy of science c/o UNILAG where he said they should be given cash benefits yearly, The Nigerian Society for the Blind, Pacelli School for the blind, Boys Scout Movement etc.
What is the way forward?
I am pleading with all Nigerians that know these two senior citizens to appeal to them to simply hand over to us.
They can bow out honorably and we will legally appoint credible trustees after thorough audit of the state of affairs of the estate. We can start a new beginning for the estate with transparency of who knows what and I am not interested in prosecuting any of them out of respect for sir Banks who nominated them to begin with unless they fail to listen to the voice of reason.