By Clifford Ndujihe
AFTER days of misgivings, claims and counter-claims over the Oyo State Government’s last Sunday demolition of a part of the N800 million music house of popular gospel artiste, Evangelist Yinka Ayefele, the polity is now calm.
The ‘war’ came to an end on Thursday evening after a marathon peace meeting that was attended by 10 traditional rulers in Ibadan, the Oyo State Capital. The monarchs were led by the Alaafin of Oyo, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi.
Indeed, Governor Abiola Ajimobi and Ayefele embraced broadly after the peace parley with the governor assuring the gospel artiste that his government would take steps that would put smiles on his face.
Public Relations Officer to Ayefele, Mr. David Ajiboye, said the meeting ended on a good note and that contrary to the misconception that they did not obtain necessary documents or reply correspondence from the government, Governor Ajimobi later discovered that they got all relevant papers.
Ajiboye said: “We showed all our documents to the governor, who agreed with us that we got all relevant papers. After the meeting which the governor called, Governor Ajimobi hugged Ayefele.”
Lucky Ayefele. The polity is replete with similar demolitions, some linked to political misgivings and the owners had been left to lick their wounds.
Litany of controversial demolitions
May 16, 2007: -The house of Dr. Ahmadu Ali, the then national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, a duplex located at No.6, Abubakar Koko Crescent, Asokoro, was demolished by the Development Control Department of the Abuja Metropolitan Management Agency.
Then FCT Minister, who is now the governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, explained that it was his honesty that convinced him to demolish the house without caring a hoot. He pointed out that given his closeness to Ahmadu Ali he would have overlooked the infraction, and spared the building in Asokoro District, which was sitting on a sewage line.
September 6, 2007: -The house of a chieftain of the PDP in Abia State, Chief Obewu Onwuka, was demolished. Onwuka said the demolition of his property, in Aba, by officials of the Abia State Ministry of Lands was politically motivated, saying that his property would perhaps have been spared, if he belonged to the then ruling Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA, in the state.
Part of the property demolished during the exercise was Divine Grace International Secondary School belonging to Onwuka’s wife, Mrs Nnenna Obewu Onwuka, who was the state woman leader of the PDP.
July 21, 2011:- Another property of Dr Ahmadu Ali in Asokoro was pulled down.
The Federal Capital Territory Administration Development Control Department, through Yahaya Yusuf, a director in charge of the department, said that the developer had contravened the Land Use Act for which the land was allocated.
August 13, 2011: – 172 houses belonging to a consortium of businessmen from the South- East zone of the country were demolished in Abuja. The property was part of 475 houses built by the consortium at Sunshine Estate in Apo 11, Abuja.
Describing the development as “economic genocide against Igbo businesses in the nation’s capital,” Coordinator-General of the South East Revival Group (SERG), Chief Willy Ezugwu, said the demolition was capable of raising ethnic tension, stressing that construction of the estate followed due process with the Abuja Municipal Area Council with allocation papers duly certified by the Abuja Geographical Information Service (AGIS).
He said the demolition notice from the FCDA was issued August 10 with a 21-day grace period, regretting that DDC moved in its bulldozers on August 13, barely three days after the quit order. He said the FCDA did not give developers opportunity to seek legal redress, and that it took the intervention of the FCT Permanent Secretary, Biodun Nathaniel Olorunfemi, to suspend the demolition. But for this, the entire 475 houses would have been pulled down.
September 2011: -The then Governor Adams Oshiomhole Administration’s demolition of illegal structures in Edo State claimed the homes of some high profile politicians. Two houses belonging to the wife of General Samuel Ogbemudia, retd, and another by Senator Rowland Owie were affected.
In response to public outcry against what critics described as the emerging trend of using state apparatus to humiliate political opponents, Oshiomhole ordered the immediate arrest of the Chairman of the Task Force on Demolition of Illegal Properties, Loye, who was tried in the court, and charged with misdemeanor and abuse of public office.
Said Oshiomhole on Loye’s destruction of Mrs Ogbemudia’s property: “As you have seen, this building that he has destroyed does not in any way affect the moat. There is enough space between the property and the moat. The fact that you work for government does not give you license to visit harm and destruction on innocent people. I am convinced that he acted in bad faith; he acted in mischief. He is a sadist and his purpose is to bring confusion to the community and confuse the people about the genuineness of our intention.’ Roland Owie, Senator for Edo South (1999-2003), wasn’t so lucky. When his property was demolished in September, 2011, Oshiomhole did not lambast the Task Force Chairman for not taking directive from the appropriate authority before demolishing the building.
September 29, 2012:- on the weekend of September 29, 2012, officials of the Department of Development Control (DDC) of the Federal Capital Development Agency (FCDA) pulled down some 372 housing units – over 80 per cent completed and fully subscribed.
The disputing parties to the controversial plot (the developer and the DDC) had already fixed to meet on October 2, 2012 with the Senate House Committee on the Federal Capital Territory of the 7th Assembly headed by Senator Smart Adeyemi in order to reach a truce. But between Saturday (September 29) and October 1, FCDA bulldozers swung into action. The reason given was that the houses were built on an illegal plot of land but the developers disagreed, alleging that the FCDA wanted to re-allocate the same plot to some senators.
The plot is located some kilometres away from the airport and is surrounded by other estates.
September 24, 2016:- In Lagos, Bashorun J.K. Randle cried out over the demolition of three historical sites in Lagos bearing the Randle family name by the Physical Planning Ministry.
The demolished sites consisted of the Chief J.K. Randle Memorial Hall, Dr. J.K. Randle Swimming Pool and Dr J.K. Randle Love Garden.
He accused the Lagos State Government of plotting to wipe out the family’s name through the demolition of its property.
He said the state government had no legal rights to the property, explaining that the hall, which belonged to the British Crown, was named after his father, Chief J.K. Randle, for his achievements, adding that the place was passed on to the Federal Government after independence.
He said his grandfather, Dr J.K. Randle, constructed the swimming pool and the love garden with his money, but handed them over to the Lagos City Council in 1928 to manage.
August 26, 2017:- The destruction of the Ekeukwu Market in Owerri, IMO State by the Governor Rochas Okorocha Administration, in spite of a court order, elicited condemnations from the Owerri intelligentsia and political class, and the national hierarchy of the PDP, who opposed it stridently.
However, Okorocha said “one of the reasons I also decided to demolish and relocate Ekeukwu Market was when the unfounded story of a female deity owning the market came up and I resolved that Imo people would never be in a market said to be owned by a deity.”
February 20, 2018:- The Kaduna State Government demolished the APC’s factional secretariat, in a move that critics said was influenced by political bickering between Governor El-Rufai and two serving senators in the state.
However, the Kaduna State Government said the demolition was not politically motivated, according to the Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Agency (KAPSUDA). Mr. Ibrahim Husseini, the Director-General, the Kaduna Geographic Information Service (KADGIS), said that the “building on 11B Sambo Close was removed for flagrant violations of land use and non-payment of ground rent since 2010. This illegal violation of use had begun to distress neighbours who were being forced to endure an influx of thugs and blockage of the road.”
However, Senator Shehu Sani, APC, Kaduna Central, saw the demolition as being politically motivated.
“The demolishing of the APC secretariat at Sambo Road stands unreservedly condemned.The Kaduna State Governor’s action is insane, despicable, cruel and desperate.
“Bulldozers can only demolish structures and not the spirit.We remain unshaken in our faith, our conviction, our position and our cause to uphold the constitutional rights and liberties of our people.
“The use of environmental laws to destroy the homes of perceived political opponents or to silence dissent is legendary in the tyrannical history of fascists and sadists. Power is ephemeral. Bulldozers, thugs and guns will not change in our position.”
The Secretariat belonged to the APC faction loyal to senators Sani and that of Kaduna North zone, Sen. Suleiman Hunkuyi, who has defected to the PDP.