The Kwara State Government has explained that it opted for an early morning demolition of the late Olusola Saraki’s building, popularly called Ile Arugbo (old people’s home), to prevent a clash with sympathisers of the family.
Ile Arugbo is also seen as a political meeting place of supporters of the Saraki political machinery over the decades.
But former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, appears ready to fight the demolition of the structure belonging to his late father, Dr. Olusola Saraki, in court as gleaned from his statement almost 17 hours after the government action.
Said Saraki, “Following development this morning in Ile Arugbo, I want to commend the women, men, old and young, who displayed their affection, love and staunch support for my late father and the family”, he said.
“I appreciate the genuine support of the women and youths who stood firmly in the face of aggression and naked show of force.
“Your action throughout the night gave full expression to my belief that what Ile Arugbo represents to all of us is etched in our hearts. It goes beyond the physical structure. I am happy that you were not intimidated as you stood your ground.
“This day will go down as the day you reciprocated the love and affection my father and family have for you. You have displayed a gesture of goodwill and passionate love. We assure you that justice shall prevail in a not too distant future.”
The Kwara government’s explanation for the demolition comes amid allegations that tear-gas cannisters and live bullets were fired into Senator Bukola Saraki’s residence that was at least 300 meters away.
After some resistance by protesters that included women, the state government enforcement team pull down structures there around 4.00 a.m.
The Kwara State Commissioner for Communications, Alhaji Murtala Olanrewaju, in a statement on Thursday, said, “The Kwara State Government early today 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 has been served as at the time the government took steps to preserve what lawfully belongs to the people.
“Finally, we urge the people of the state to remain calm, peaceful, and be guided only by facts of the matter and not be drawn into an emotional outburst that is targeted at distracting the public from the issues at stake.
“While the administration is focused on restoring sanity to the state after years of barefaced impunity, we will do so within the limit of the law.”
But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, dismissed the reasons given by the state government for the “New Year’s dastard act as baseless, false and incongruous, as they fail to add up, to justify the ferocious invasion, harassment of citizens and demolition of the said property.”
The party adds, “The demolition is a complete subversion of 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.
“Nigerians know how the APC and its government have been hounding, harassing and dragging Senator Saraki around over trumped-up charges, for daring to be among compatriots at the forefront of the quest to rescue our nation from misrule and strangleholds of the APC and its cabal….
“Nigerians should note that the demolition of property, genuinely belonging to opposition leaders and other Nigerians perceived to be opposed to APC’s oppressive administration, has become a policy of the APC and its government in their bid to subjugate Nigerians and exclusively appropriate our common patrimony for their selfish purposes.
“Nigerians have not forgotten how APC leaders, including those at the Presidency, applauded whenever property belonging to perceived political opponents was unjustly and viciously pulled down in APC-controlled states and even in Abuja.”
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the Saraki building was demolished at 4am on Thursday.
When the enforcement team got to the scene about 3am, it was learnt that they were initially resisted by some women.
The house, popularly called Ile Arugbo (old people’s home), is located along the Ilofa Road in the Government Reserved Area of Ilorin.
Some residents gathered at the site discussing the demolition when the News Agency of Nigeria correspondent visited the place.
A resident said he woke up to meet bulldozers carrying out the demolition.
NAN reports that the land on which the house was built became a subject of controversy in the last few days.
Men of the Nigeria Police Force had taken over the place in the last 48 hours to forestall break down of law following the Tuesday’s protest by some old women against the state government’s decision.
The building was a place where the late Saraki used to distribute foods, money and clothes to old women, a tradition that the former governor of the state inherited.
Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, had on December 27, 2019, announced the revocation of the tittle to land over alleged illegal possession.
The Chief Press Secretary, Mr Rafiu Ajakaye, said, in a statement, that the tittle was revoked to build a new government secretariat that it was originally meant for.
According to him, the land was unlawfully allocated to a private firm without any record of payment to the state government.
“No certificate of occupancy was issued in favour of the firm,” he said.
But the scion of the late Kwara political leader, Bukola Saraki, in his reaction accused the governor of waging a war against him and his father.
Bukola, who was the immediate former Senate President, was the state governor for eight years between 2003 and 2011.
He claimed that the said property was rightfully allocated to his late father in the name of one of his companies, Asa Investment Limited, since the 1980s and contrary to the claim of the governor, the land was properly allocated with a right of occupancy title issued on it.