This Day (Lagos)

27 March 2010

Nigeria: Five Years After, FRA Williams' Children Reconcile

Lagos — Five years after the death of renowned legal luminary, Chief Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams (SAN), his four sons who have been feuding over his estate for nearly four years have settled their differences for the sake of family and for peace to reign.

Making this known yesterday, Ladi Williams (SAN), his eldest son, yesterday announced that he has resolved his feud with his brothers Kayode, Folarin and Tokunbo over the estate valued at over N11 billion left behind by their father.

Ladi, who along with his siblings, extended family members, friends and well wishers, gathered at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Lagos, for the fifth remembrance service held for their father, declared that the once strained relationship that had torn the family apart was "a thing of the past."

Demonstrating a high sense of brotherly love by embracing his brothers and niece, Abimbola, before the congregation, Ladi said he had resolved the differences in the interest of the family to bury the hatchet and allow peace reign.

The reunion, which stirred up a sense of nostalgia and an atmosphere of friendship among relatives, family members and friends, saw their wives, children and close associates also hugging each other and exchanging pleasantries.

Before his death in March 2005, Chief Williams, who is believed to have died intestate (without a will), built up a sizeable fortune in real estate assets and cash through his lucrative legal practice.

Part of his assets comprise property in the United Kingdom and Nigeria, including 13 hectares of land in Lekki, Lagos State.

But shortly after his demise, his four sons were at each other's throats over the division of their father's estate, thus setting up the stage for court battles on how it should be administered.

The wrangling among the siblings led to a strain in their relationship, with each person seeking legal interpretations on how the estate should be managed.

Part of the settlement, sources close to the family said, is that Ladi should be recognised as the eldest son of the late legal icon.

Sources informed this newspaper that Ladi has made it clear he is not interested in his father's property, but is insisting on being paid his due respect as the eldest son and child in the family.

During the feud between the siblings, Ladi who like two of his siblings, Folarin and Tokunbo is a lawyer, instituted a law suit to get his father's assets frozen, pending the determination of other suits over the administration of the estate.

But sources confirmed that with the reconciliation by the siblings, it is very likely that the lawsuits will be withdrawn.

Speaking at the occasion, which had the former Head of the Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, former military governor of Lagos State, Brig. Mobolaji Johnson (rtd.) and his wife, Senator David Dafinone, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, Chief Akintola Williams (older brother of FRA Williams), Chief Rasheed Alaba Williams, Olorogun Felix Ibru, Chief Adekunle Ojora and his wife, Ojuolape, and Chief Rasaq Okoya, among others, Ladi said the feud was "a thing of the past," a statement which the other siblings concurred with by nodding in unison.

He blamed the prolonged feud on what he described as the negative influence of "external factors" which contributed to the strained relationship between him and his three brothers.

While assuring that the crisis was over, Ladi said he was optimistic that a new ray of hope had enveloped his family as the crisis which trailed the enviable legacy left by his father would remain intact on the basis of reconciliation and fair play currently displayed by the family.

He stated that had external factors been checked, the family's respected name, which his father had established while he was alive, wouldn't have been dragged in the mud with the various litigations and counter-litigations that trailed the family since 2005.

Ladi expressed regrets for the feud because of the negative impact it has had on the family, adding that he has resolved to move the family forward in the interest of peace as "one big family."

"The family is a public family and that was why the problems lingered. A lot of people appealed while others because of their selfish interest wanted the problems to continue.

"In this world, we brought nothing and we would not go with nothing. This is why the feud lasted," he stated.

Ladi Williams thanked the officiating priests, his siblings and niece of whom he said "I love so much. We are one in (Jesus) Christ despite our differences.

"Together, by the grace of God, we would come together as one big family."

He stated further that despite the dispute which was still before the court, "today's service has marked the end of the bitterness that existed among us as whichever property my brothers want, they would have as long as it brings peace to the family."

But while the dust of the reconciliation was yet to settle, another controversy reared its head at the venue of the reception when some relatives, family friends and guests were being treated to a lavish reception at the Lagos Toasts, said to be owned by Kayode, while another reception was held simultaneously at the Lagos Boat Club, Ikoyi.

Prior to yesterday, an advertisement published in newspapers had announced that the reception would hold at Lagos Toasts, with a footnote that information in the advert super-seded previous arrangements as regards the reception venue.

Interestingly, while the two receptions were on going at the same time, the Lagos Boat Club venue, apparently hosted by Folarin, drew large political bigwigs, captains of industry, legal experts and close associates.

Among those who turned up at the Lagos Boat Club were former Cross River State governor, Donald Duke; former Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Richard Akinjide; former Lagos State deputy governor, Femi Pedro; National Chairman of the Labour Party, Chief Dan Nwanyanwu; chairman of StanbicIBTC Plc, Atedo Peterside; and Mrs. Ronke Ayuba.

In his sermon, Rev. Segun Laseinde, the officiating priest, urged the four brothers to eschew violence and internal bickering in order to protect their father's hard earned legacy.

He said quarrelling amongst brothers or sisters was not ordained by God, adding it was time for them to sheathe their swords in the interest of peace.

Sources close to the family and who have followed the feud, said the real test of the reconciliation will be when all the law suits instituted by the siblings are withdrawn at the courts.

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