The crisis within the family of the late Dr. Tosin Ajayi, the Founder of First Foundation, has deepened over his inheritance.
Ajayi, who died on April 26, 2020, was until his death married to Oluwayemisi, with whom he had five children. However, he and his wife were separated for about 30 years before his demise without being divorced.
The deceased began living with ex-beauty queen, Helen Prest, for about 25 years and they had a daughter together but were never legally married.
Due to the feud between the two women and their children, Ajayi’s funeral was delayed by nine months pending a court case. However, on February 12, 2021, he was eventually buried but not without drama at the graveside.
Ajayi, who had investments running into billions of naira, died without a will, thereby deepening the crisis within the family.
Our correspondent was informed that Helen had blocked an attempt by her husband’s older children to take over a property measuring 3.7 hectares of land at Ilasan, Eti Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State.
In a letter signed by Helen’s lawyer, Mr. Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), which was addressed to Ajayi’s first family lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), it was argued that the ex-beauty queen could be recognised as a wife because she was a companion of the deceased for 25 years.
The letter, which was dated March 2, 2021, is titled: ‘Caveat against meddling in property situate at Ilasan Village, Eti Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State measuring 3.873 hectares identified as Block A in survey plan No. Pls 294A/Lag.89; other assets or held in First Foundation Medical Engineering Company Limited and all intestate assets of Dr. Tosin Ajayi (deceased)’.
The letter read in part, “We are solicitors to Mrs. Helen Prest-Ajayi and Miss Tomisin Ajayi, being the wife (via civil companionship) and daughter of late Dr. Tosin Ajayi, the deceased beneficial owner of the property but held in the name of a company, which he was in his lifetime, the alter-ego.”
Owonikoko claimed that Helen was a shadow director in the company through which the deceased acquired the properties.
He also argued that in Yoruba custom and tradition, when a man dies, the eldest surviving son called the ‘Dawodu’ becomes the leader of the family, but if there is going to be any important dealing with family property, “all branches of the family must be consulted and representation on the family council is per stripes (branch) according to the number of wives with children.”
However, in his response on behalf of Falana and Falana Chambers, Mr. Taiwo Olawanle, said Helen could never be described as a wife since she was not married to Ajayi based on the Marriage Act.
In a letter dated March 18, 2021, he said Helen was not legally married to the deceased, adding that she had no right to his inheritance.
Olawanle wrote, “In the first place, the ‘Idi Igi’ principle applies where a man, who died interstate, was legally married to two or more wives. However, where a man, who was married under the Marriage Act died intestate, his estate will be administered in accordance with the Administration of Estate Law.
“In the instant case, Ms. Helen Prest was not married to Dr. Ajayi either under the Customary Law of Marriage Act. Hence, Ms. Helen Ajayi has been parading herself as the posthumous civil companion of late Dr. Tosin Ajayi. The case cited by counsel for Ms. Helen in the letter under reference does not support the alien concept of civil companion as a form of marriage in Nigeria.”
The lawyer further stated that Helen was never a shadow director at First Foundation, a company the deceased established with his first wife.