About 16 months after the demolition of T. Latifah Hotel and Suites, Benin, belonging to Tony Adun, aka Tony Kabaka, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC in Edo State, and close ally of the immediate past governor of the state, Adams Oshiomhole, the state government has pulled down another set of commercial buildings – a sprawling hotel, and a shopping complex of about 60 lock-up shops – for allegedly contravening town planning regulations.
Just as the demolition of Kabaka’s hotel located in an eye-brow area of the state capital, Ugbor Road, estimated at about one billion naira raised a lot of dust and elicited wide condemnation by many Edo citizens, Sunday’s deployment of the bulldozers to bring down the two structures has also sparked outrage against the Godwin Obaseki-led government, with the main opposition political party in the state, the APC dismissing the reason given for the demolition as untenable.
In a statement on Tuesday, the state chairman of the APC, David Imuse, medical doctor and retired army colonel, condemned the demolition of the two properties – one at No. 13, Aideyan Street, off Ihama Road, and the other, a shopping complex with over 60 stores under construction at No. 90, Akenzua Road, both in Benin City.
Imuse said “it is distressing that the Obaseki government is celebrating these demolitions like a rampaging occupation force”.
He noted that these properties did not drop from the skies, and had been under construction with the knowledge of the Edo State Department of Physical and Urban Planning. He posited that the explanation that their owners failed to get relevant approvals as the basis for their demolition does not hold water.
According to the APC chairman, “They did not start the buildings overnight. Relevant authorities cannot say they were not in the know of their construction. Moreover, the owners meant well for the State by investing their hard earned resources running into millions of Naira, into the properties designed to create jobs for the youths of the State”.
Imuse stated that “Whereas previous demolitions targeted members of the APC, recent demolitions are targeting the same investors the government claims it is searching for; an indication which has further shown that the PDP government in Edo State does not have the interest of the people at heart, but is only out to repress and plunge our state into untold hardship”.
However, the state government insisted that its action was the enforcement of the demolition of illegal structures in parts of the state capital, in line with the urban renewal agenda of the Obaseki-led government. The state government had in a notice dated June 18, 2021, and signed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Physical and Urban Development, Chris Abode, stated that the government began the demolition of illegal structures following the expiration of notices earlier served on the owners for violating the state’s town planning laws and regulations. The ministry said the owner of the property in Aideyan had earlier been served notice on his property on June 6, 2021, with a reminder to remove or demolish the building after it allegedly failed to meet necessary approvals.
The demolition is said to be connected with the conversion of the property from a residential apartment to a hotel without approval from the appropriate authority. On the property at Akenzua Road, the owner of the building, unconfirmed sources said, did not approach the appropriate authorities for approval of the building plan.