The Kwara State Government in the early hours of Thursday demolished houses on the land it claimed was wrongly appropriated by the late Dr Olusola Saraki.
The property was called Ile Arugbo at Ilofa Road, GRA, Ilorin. Residents of the area said the demolition was carried out at 3.50am by a bulldozer hired by the government. About 50 policemen were drafted to the area to mount security and prevent the breaking down of law and order during the demolition of the structures.
An eyewitness, who gave his name as Saheed, said residents started hearing sound of gunshots at about 3am to scare away elderly women who were keeping vigil on the property while several canisters of teargas were also fired to eject them from the land.
He said the demolition of the structures started at exactly four and ended at about 5am. The state government claimed responsibility for the destruction of the structures on the reclaimed land in a statement signed by the Commissioner for Communications, Alhaji Murtala Olanrewaju.
The statement read in part, “The Kwara State Government early today (Thursday) 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 had been served at the time the government took steps to preserve what lawfully belongs to the people.
The suit with Number KWS/463/2019 between Asa Investments Limited and Governor of Kwara State, Kwara House of Assembly, Attorney General of Kwara State, Director General of the Bureau of Lands and the Inspector-General of Police was filed on Tuesday.
“In an obviously desperate attempt to pre-empt the court case, the state governor directed one of his aides to lead a demolition team to the property on Tuesday morning accompanied by some policemen,” the forum stated.
This was not successful as some old women and youths prevented it on Tuesday. It added that on Thursday, the demolition was done. It added, “For hours, their attempt to commence the demolition exercise was rebuffed. At about 3.30am, the security agents began heavy shooting of gun and tear gas canisters to dislodge the people protesting against the demolition. It was after they were able to disperse the crowd that the bulldozer moved into the street and commenced the demolition exercise.
“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.
“On our part, we call on supporters of the Saraki family, particularly the women and youth who were brutalised during the attempts to carry out the illegal exercise to maintain peace and not take laws into their hands. We assure them that this illegality will not stand as the family will pursue all legal means to claim the rights of their late patriarch.
“The family will like to wish all the numerous supporters of Oloye a happy and prosperous year 2020”, Ajape stated.
Meanwhile, the state branch of the Peoples Democratic Party condemned the action of the state government, adding that the governor had taken it too far. Chairman of the party, Kola Shittu said, “Governor (AbduRahman) AbdulRazaq has taken it too far by demolishing the structures on Dr Olusola Saraki’s place where he used to take care of the elderly women (Ile Arugbo) every week.
“The demolition is shocking, it is unfortunate. The issue of the land was being treated as if it was a stolen land and it was not. It was allocated and there is a letter of allocation written by the government which allocated it.”