Nigeria: Tension in Ilorin As... Kwara Govt Demolishes Late Saraki's 'Ile Arugbo' Home

Photo: AllAfrica
Then-Kwara Governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki, in his Ilorin office in 2009.
3 January 2020

Tension has enveloped, Ilorin, Kwara State, following the demolition of a building, tagged "Ile-Arugbo," constructed on the controversial land of late Dr Olusola Saraki in Iloffa GRA, Ilorin by the Kwara State Government around 3.30a.m., yesterday.

The demolition was in a bid to take over the controversial land to construct Phase II of the state secretariat as claimed by Governor Abdulrazaq Abdulrahman.

Meanwhile, immediate past Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, has thanked the people of Kwara for standing by his family and assured them that justice will soon be done.

Also, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has cautioned Governor Abdulrahman to respect the rule of law and stop all actions that could lead to breakdown of law and order.

Similarly, Agbaji Development Association in Ilorin, described as "unfair," the demolition of late Olusola Saraki's political pot in llorin.

It will be recalled that the Kwara State government had issued a statement on Wednesday that there were no records of payment for the land by the late politician, no proper documentation as required by law, and that no Certificate of Occupancy, C of O, was issued to anyone in respect of the now controversial land.

The expansive land, tagged 'Ile-Arugbo,' meaning house of the aged, had a portion on it, where a small bungalow was constructed for aged women to gather and be taken care of by the aides of the late politician. The land was later taken over by aides of the former Senate president, Dr Bukola Saraki.

Apparently apprised of the state government's demolition plan, no fewer than 50 aged women were mobilised to the area late Wednesday afternoon, displaying their grey hairs in protest against the action.

Vanguard further gathered that the aged women did not leave the scene until they were dispersed around 10p.m., same day by a team of anti riot mobile policemen, who had been drafted to provide security on the controversial plot of land.

It was further gathered that the demolition was effected sooner than expected because of the planned court action by Saraki's family and other stakeholders, to stave off possible court action against the state government's plan to take over the land.

Kwara Govt reacts

Preparatory to taking over the controversial land, the Kwara State government reacted to the demolition of a small bungalow building, saying that it took steps to take over what rightly belongs to the people of Kwara.

The statement also said the state government had not been served any court papers on the matter, and urged the people of Kwara State to remain calm, peaceful and be guided by the facts of the matter only.

A statement by the Commissioner for Communications, Mr Muritala Olanrewaju, yesterday, said: "The Kwara State Government early today (yesterday) began the physical reclamation of the plot of land bordering the civil service clinic in Ilorin.

"The reclamation exercise began in the early hours of Thursday to avoid any needless confrontation. Attempts by some persons to provoke government's agents on lawful duty were resisted by the security agents, who exercised the highest level of restraint and professionalism.

"Contrary to the claim that the state government was served court papers on the matter, we state that no court paper has been served as at the time the government took steps to preserve what lawfully belongs to the people.

"Finally, we urge the people of the state to remain calm, peaceful, and be guided only by facts of the matter and not be drawn into emotional outburst that is targeted at distracting the public from the issues at stake. While the administration is focused on restoring sanity to the state after years of bare-faced impunity, we will do so within the limit of the law."

Action, recipe for crisis --PDP

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has condemned the demolition of the property by the Kwara State government, describing the development as wicked, cowardly and a direct recipe for crisis in the state.

PDP in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, yesterday, said action of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC-led government in Kwara State "is borne out of hatred and political intolerance, in furtherance of the larger plot by the APC and its administration to intimidate, suppress, hound, crush and silence opposition and dissenting voices in our country, in the bid to foist a siege mentality on the citizenry.

"The PDP dismisses the reasons being spewed by the APC administration for this New Year' dastardly act as baseless, false and incongruous, as they fail to add up, to justify the ferocious invasion, harassment of citizens and demolition of the said property.

"The demolition is a complete subversion of rule of law as the matter is already in court. The APC-led Kwara State government could not wait for the outcome of the court process apparently because it knows that it is pursuing an illegal agenda.

"Nigerians know how the APC and its government have been hounding, harassing and dragging Senator Saraki around over trumped-up charges, for daring to be among compatriots at the forefront of the quest to rescue our nation from misrule and strangleholds of the APC and its cabal.

"The APC and Kwara State government should perish their idea of trying to use false claims and propaganda to justify their wicked act and take over the property, as such cannot hoodwink Nigerians from the truth.

"Moreover, the timing of the invasion and demolition, in the wee hours and under the cover of darkness, is a direct indication that the state government was carrying out an unwholesome and condemnable operation.

"The PDP invites Nigerians to note that demolition of property, genuinely belonging to opposition leaders and other Nigerians perceived to be opposed to APC's oppressive administration, has become a policy of the APC and its government in their bid to subjugate Nigerians and exclusively appropriate our common patrimony for their selfish purposes.

"Nigerians have not forgotten how APC leaders, including those at the Presidency, applauded whenever property belonging to perceived political opponents was unjustly and viciously pulled down in APC-controlled states and even in Abuja.

"The PDP, however, cautions the APC, its administration, and in this particular case, the Kwara State Government, against crossing the boundaries and stretching the forbearance of the people, which is already causing a tension that could trigger serious unrest in our country.

"It is also instructive to note that in the years the PDP governed Kwara State, there was no case of government demolishing the property of opposition members or supporters under any guise whatsoever.

"Our party, therefore, stands with Senator Saraki and cautions the Kwara State Government to henceforth steer clear of the property."

Also, the PDP in the state, in a statement cautioned Governor Abdulrahman to respect the rule of law and stop all actions that could lead to breakdown of law and order.

In a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Tunde Ashaolu, it called on the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, to ensure that the police were not used to foment crisis in the state or subvert the on-going court process on the property.

It said: "We noticed that early in the morning today (yesterday), policemen from the Kwara State Police Command were deployed to take over Plots 1, 3 and 5 Ilofa Road property of late Oloye Olusola Saraki, apparently on the orders of Governor Abdulrazaq.

"This action was taken in violation of the rights of the Late Saraki and his heirs to own property and in subversion of the rule of law as we are aware of a court process that has been filed by the Saraki family at the state High Court, Ilorin.

"The process with Suit No KWS / 463 / 2019 between Asa Investments Limited as claimant vs Governor of Kwara State, Kwara State House of Assembly, Attorney General of Kwara State, Director General of the Kwara State Bureau of Lands and the Inspector General of Police had been served on the IGP through the Kwara State Police Command and also the Attorney General of the State.

"In the suit, the claimant is seeking for a declaration that the revocation/ recovery of Plots 1, 3 and 5 TOS/ MISC 139A situate at Ilofa Road belonging to the Claimant without a proper notice of revocation is unconstitutional and void and that the purported notice of revocation is equally null and void and of no effect in that the said purported Notice was not personally served on the claimant.

"With the matter now before the courts, the governor should stay all actions on it and wait for the final adjudication on the matter, instead of taking actions that will pre-empt the court decision and render the judicial verdict useless.

"The PDP noted that if not for the grace of God and the maturity of all concerned, there would have been a clash between the old women who usually congregate on the property for their welfare package and the policemen. The Police withdrew after the women held the ground and refused to be intimidated.

"We call on the IGP to prevent any action that would lead to break down of law and order by insisting that policemen are not used to intimidate innocent people and help in the plot to present the court with a fait accompli. Land matters are civil cases and therefore should not involve the use of armed policemen to intimidate people.

"The state governor is equally advised to shun actions that amount to abuse of powers, illegality and seek to create tension in the state. The governor knows that he has not served the necessary statutory notices on the owners of the property and also have to respect the fact that with the filing of the case, the issue of the said land is now sub-judice. All parties should respect the institution of the courts and wait for the resolution of the case.

"Kwara people are peace loving people. They are appreciative and supportive of all the contributions of Oloye Saraki, whose property is now being threatened by the revocation order to the development of the state. They do not want anything that will threaten the existing peace in the state. We do not want a repeat of the pre-2003 situation in Kwara State.

"The governor should promote peace and not take any action that will threaten peace. We in PDP will hold the Governor responsible if any violence is wreaked on any Kwaran," the party added.

Bukola Saraki reacts

Saraki, reacting to the development, in a tweet on his twitter handle, said: "Following the development this morning (yesterday) in Ile Arugbo, I want to commend the women and men, old and young, who displayed their affection, love and staunch support for my late father and the family. I appreciate the genuine support of the women and youths who stood firmly in the face of aggression and naked show of force.

"Your action throughout the night gave full expression to my belief that what Ile Arugbo represents to all of us is etched in our hearts. It goes beyond the physical structure. I am happy that you were not intimidated as you stood your ground. This day will go down as the day you reciprocated the love and affection my father and family have for you. You have displayed a gesture of goodwill and passionate love. We assure you that justice shall prevail in a not too distant future."

Demolition of Saraki's house in llorin 'not fair' -- Kinsmen

Also, President of Agbaji Development Association in Ilorin, Alhaji Yusuf Olanrewaju, has described as "unfair," the demolition of late second republic Senate Leader Olusola Saraki's political plot in llorin.

Reacting to the incident, Olanrewaju described the demolition as "cruel," adding that the demolition of the structure was in contempt of court since the matter was still before the state high court.

Olanrewaju, spokesman of Saraki's kinsmen at home and in the Diaspora, said that the demolition was improper and "a calculated action to chase away the Saraki family from the plot.

"It is not fair to try to rubbish the late Saraki's contributions to the socio-economic development of the llorin emirate. The demolition of the structure is not right since the matter is before the court," Olanrewaju said.

The President of the association, however, appealed to Saraki's kinsmen at home and in the Diaspora to remain calm and continue be law abiding.

Demolition carried out to pre-empt the court case --SLF

Also, Chairman, Saraki Legacy Forum, SLF, Bibire Ajape, in a statement said, what happened was "an obviously desperate attempt to pre-empt the court case, hence the state governor directed one of his aides to lead a demolition team to the property on Tuesday morning accompanied by some policemen.

"The pre-emptive move by the state government to demolish the property was made to undermine and frustrate the judicial process and it represents another act of disrespect for the judiciary and the rule of law which the current government of Kwara State is known for.

"While we praise the security agencies in the state for refusing to supply their men from the respective commands to participate in the Midnight Demolition Exercise, we call on them to also caution their men attached to the Government House to stop being used to settle political scores and avoid participating in illegal actions of the state government. It is also important for them to caution the Governor to stop escalating tension in the state."

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