Agents of Kwara State Governor, Mr Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq led by one of his aides in the early hours of Thursday morning demolished the structures on Plots 1, 3 and 5, otherwise known as Ile Arugbo (Old People’s Home) which belong to Late Mr Olusola Saraki, after heavy firing of gunshots and tear gas canisters to scare away the women and youths who have been keeping vigil on the land since New Year eve.
The overnight demolition squad eventually set to work after four failed attempts which were resisted by old women and youths who have always gathered at the Ile Arugbo to benefit from the social welfare Programme initiated by the late politician about 20 years ago. The old women had resisted previous attempts to carry out the illegal demolition exercise between the morning of December 31, 2019 and very early hours of January 2, 2020. In a statement in Ilorin signed by Mr Bibire Ajape, chairman of Saraki Legacy Forum, the family stated that following the announcement by the Governor that he had revoked the title on the land which had been rightfully possessed by late Saraki for more than 20 years, they filed a case at the High Court, Ilorin, on December 31, 2019, challenging the action.
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 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. However, the policemen withdrew when they saw the crowd of old women and youths who gathered to protest the illegal demolition exercise. With the withdrawal of the policemen, the team from the state government were forced to quickly leave the place.
“Some hours later, exactly a few minutes to the New Year, about 11.45pm, the particular aide led another team, this time with a bulldozer and some policemen massed around the premises of Ile Arugbo but were again resisted by the crowd of women and youth who had then decided to mount a continuous vigil around the property.
“Early this morning from 12.40am, while the old women and youth were having their New Year entertainment as they mounted watch on the premises of Ile Arugbo, the aide again led a team of demolition squad comprising security agents from the Government House, Ilorin, workers of Ministry of Works and some urchins to Ilofa Street.
“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 would be recalled that while the Governor on December 27 claimed that there was no existing document showing that the land was properly allocated to late Saraki, the same government through its agent on Monday circulated a letter of allocation to Asa Investments owned by 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.
“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.
“On our part, we call on supporters of the Saraki family, particularly the women and youth who were brutalized during the attempts to carry out the illegal demolition 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.