The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday condemned what it described as the “unwarranted and vindictive demolition” of a property linked to former Senate President Bukola Saraki.
A bulldozer accompanied by security operatives destroyed Ile Arugbo located at Iloffa Road, Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, midnight yesterday. The property belonged to the late Dr. Olusola Saraki, a Second Republic senator and father of the former senate president.
The development is the latest twist in the political tussle between the Saraki dynasty, which once held sway in the state and the administration of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq. “The action of the state government 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 said.
In a statement by National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP noted: “The demolition is a complete subversion of the 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.
“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 during which defenceless women were fired with gunshots.”
The PDP warned the APC and the Kwara State government against crossing boundaries that could trigger unrest in the country and called on them to steer clear of the property. It stressed: “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.”
But justifying its action, the Kwara State government said what it did was “to reclaim the land in the spirit of what it was originally meant for.” It explained: “The property being reclaimed by the Kwara State government is not Saraki’s ancestral home as is being portrayed in some section of the media. Saraki’s ancestral home is in Agbaji (Ilorin) while the property at issue is used for political meetings in the heart of the GRA, Ilorin.”
In a statement, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor Rafiu Ajakaye said: “The government’s position is that the land was (and still is) a public property originally meant for the construction of Government Secretariat, a civil service clinic, and a parking lot for the two. However, ownership of the property was spuriously transferred to a private firm – and for commercial purpose – without the firm paying a kobo to the government or obtaining the Certificate of Occupancy.”
Meanwhile, the chairman of a pro-Saraki group, Saraki Legacy Forum, Alhaji Bibire Ajape, has called on supporters of the family “particularly the women and youth who were brutalised during the attempts to carry out the illegal demolition exercise to maintain peace and not take laws into their hands.” He gave the assurance that the “illegality will not stand as the family will pursue all legal means to claim the rights of their late patriarch.”
In a signed statement, Ajape said: “It will be recalled that while the governor on December 27 claimed that there was no existing document showing that the land was properly allocated to the late Dr. Saraki, the same government through its agent on Monday circulated a letter of allocation to Asa Investments owned by Dr. Saraki in which the company was directed to pay the sum of N1,047,090 (One Million, Forty Seven Thousand and Ninety Naira only).
“The government then changed its story that the property was allocated to a company which had nothing to do with any politician, dead or alive and that they could not find any record of money paid. The Saraki family has maintained that a Right of Occupancy title was issued to Asa Investment, an indication that the allocation was lawfully concluded with all parties meeting their obligations.
“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.”
He added: “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.”