In a perceived case of political vendetta, the Edo State government has made good its threat to pull down a multi-million naira hotel, T. Latifa Hotel and Suites along Ugbor Road in Benin City owned by Tony Adun, aka Tony Kabaka, a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC loyal to immediate past governor of the state and national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole. Obaseki had engaged his predecessor and political benefactor in a fierce supremacy battle for the soul of Edo State in his desperate bid for a second term in office. Adun, a government-appointed revenue collector, was one of the former governor’s foot soldiers during the 2016 governorship election that brought in Obaseki and contributed financially to the campaign. The battle line was however drawn when Obaseki sacked him and other private revenue collectors in favour of a more structured and civilized mode of collection of government revenue. The revenue contractors, mostly members of the road transport employers/ workers union, had expected business as usual in the new administration in view of their huge investments to the governor’s election.
The Edo State Government had in October last year, through the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, issued a seven-day notice to Adun to remove his hotel on the ground that the hotel was built on a piece of land belonging to a public primary school. The government had vowed to remove illegal structures on government property, including public schools and waterways, roof leave-extensions and structures erected on the right of way of roads/streets, moats, riverbanks, TCN high tension lines, among others in Benin City and other major settlements in the state. Respite, however, came the way of the embattled Adun when the government was restrained by a state high court from demolishing the property. The billionaire businessman believed to have made his fortunes from revenues collected on behalf of government was however jolted by the sudden deployment of bulldozers to the prime property at noon Wednesday reducing it to rubbles. The demolition exercise was supervised by stern-looking security personnel deployed to stave off any reaction from Adun’s supporters in the area.
Apartfrom being a staunch associate of Oshiomhole, Adun, it was learnt, furtherincurred the governor’s wrath when in some amateur musical videos circulated onthe social media, he mocked him Obaseki and the factional state chairman of theparty, Anselm Ojezua. In one of the videos, Adun taunted Ojezua for standingunder a mango tree in Abuja taking ‘selfie’ while the chairman recognized bythe national leadership was meeting with the president having been denied accessto the meeting by presidential security aides. In another video, Adun mockedthe governor for allegedly squandering the state’s resources in his failedproject to compromise some members of the party’s national working committee,NWC, for the purpose of garnering the required number of signatures to removeOshiomhole as national chairman.
Announcing the demolition of the hotel in a press statement Wednesday afternoon, Crusoe Osagie, special adviser to the governor on media and communication strategy, said the hotel building was reduced to rubbles on Wednesday afternoon after an injunction secured by Adun against the exercise was vacated by the state government. Osagie said the government had penciled the structure for demolition as “it was illegal, without an approved building plan for a hotel and sitting across a road”. He said the deed of transfer being paraded by Adun was also not registered with the state government, according to court papers filed by Solicitor General of Edo State, Oluwole Iyamu, senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN.
Adun, in his reaction to the demolition of the hotel, admitted that he had no certificate of occupancy, C of O on the property. He was however sad that the state government could not wait for judgment to be delivered in the case. He alleged that the governor decided to demolish his hotel because he is opposed to him. According to him, the court had fixed Friday, February 7, 2020, for judgment in the suit he filed against previous attempts by government to demolish the building. “We are still in court. I have injunctions against the government. Judgment is on Friday. I have Certificate of Occupancy in my house but I don’t have C of O of the hotel. Let him go ahead and demolish it. 100 years is not forever” he said in frustration.
Speaking with journalists last year, Obasekihad tried to convince Edo people, indeed Nigerians, who were watching with keeninterest the drama between Obaseki and Kabaka, that the planned demolition hadno political undertone. Explaining why the hotel must be demolished, thegovernor said he had warned in the past that his administration would nottolerate lawlessness. In his words, “businesses cannot thrive when there isanarchy and complete disrespect for the law. For us as a government, whateverwe need to do to ensure that there is law and order will be done. If youhave done the wrong thing and taken over properties that are not yours; tobuild on government property is the wrong thing to do. If you go and build on theroad, that is not the right thing to do. If government tolerates that, thenmore people will become lawless”.
Further defending his position, Obaseki said “If any law has been breached in Edo State, I have sworn to the constitution to preserve order. This is a government that is not afraid of anybody and will not be subject to blackmail. Anybody who contravenes the law, no matter how highly placed you are in Edo State, you will be dealt with. It has no political undertone. If you go to Etete now, I am doing the same thing. I am fencing the sports centre. I have warned in the past that anybody who encroached on government land or school properties will be dealt with. Go to Benin Technical College; that is evidence. As long as they continue to behave lawlessly, we will enforce the law.”
Assoon as Kabaka’s hotel was brought down, the state government sent out a strongmessage to defaulters informing them that it had commenced statewide demolitionof illegal structures and alerting them of the consequences of violation of itsorders. In a statement by the commissioner for communication and orientation,Paul Ohonbamu, the government warned defaulters of building codes and those whohave encroached on government property to remove their structures or face thedire consequences. Ohonbamu said demolition of illegal structures becameimperative as defaulters and violators had failed to heed several noticesissued them. According to him, “the Edo State Government has commenced thedemolition of illegal structures across the state to bring sanity to urbanareas and restore government property to their original uses. The flagrantdisregard of building codes and respect for extant laws guarding propertydevelopment needed to be checked, hence the exercise. The process has commencedin earnest in different parts of the state and those with structures onunapproved sites or without necessary building plans are hereby put on notice.We warn all those who have built on roads, Right of Way (RoW), school propertyand on Federal and State governments’ land to remove the property immediatelyas demolition of such buildings statewide has commenced”.
Ohonbamu stated that the state notices served on the defaulters still subsisted, warning that whoever was caught violating the law would face the dire consequences. He said the state government had issued warnings on the defaulters severally and would not tolerate disruption of the exercise as enough leeway was allowed for the violators to do the needful by removing the illegal structures.