By SIMON REEF MUSA
In the dying hours of 2020, the Kaduna State Urban Planning Development Agency (KASUPDA) swiftly, and without any prior notice to the “erring developer”, pulled down a structure housing Asher Lounge located in Sabon Tasha, Kaduna. Reason: the structure had come short of what the agency considered as the basis for its legal status. Before the destruction of the lounge by KASUPDA’s bulldozers, Kaduna and Abuja residents, among other Nigerians, have never been strangers to the footprints of Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai whose capacity for demolishing illegal structures had assumed a frightening notoriety. For many, Governor el-Rufai has become a fitting metaphor for the demolition of illegal structures.
When the lounge was destroyed on the last day of the year considered annus horribilis by many Nigerians, it sent ripples among residents and citizens who had expressed shock and angst amidst the rampaging pandemic that is threatening a comeback. According to the twitter handle of KASUPDA, the building had been destroyed over a sex party invite.
This is not the first time a structure in the Kaduna metropolis would suffer demolition within a twinkling of an eye. Before last year, parts of Senator Suleiman Othman Hunkuyi’s Kaduna home were pulled down for what authorities labelled as violation of land use. Far away from Kaduna State, Governor Yahaya Bello had in March 2017 ordered the destruction of a building in Okene used by suspected kidnappers in housing their victims in the state. Sex party is not only alien in Nigeria, it is abhorred by our nation’s most popular religions.
The demolition of the lounge had instantly turned Governor el-Rufai into a punching bag for many, as angry social media activists recalled how bulldozers had destroyed Hunkuyi’s home before sunrise. Amidst the bashing launched on the governor, the Director General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Segun Runsewe, declared support for the man who was never afraid of reclaiming the Abuja master plan when he served as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Otunba Runsewe, who had battled Nigerian cross-dresser Bobrisky, had commended Governor el-Rufai for intervening and demolishing the lounge as a warning for others, adding, “But for this intervention by the governor, kaduna state possibly would become the new capital and destination for sex tourism in Nigeria, leading to social disconnect and dislocations with drug peddling in tow and our children destroyed in the process”.
Going down memory lane on the massive invasion of sex tourists into Uganda and Senegal in 1992, Otunba Runsewe, who is also the President of the Africa Region World Craft Council (WCC), lamented that if some destructive social behaviors among our youths were not curbed, Nigerians’ cultural values run the risk of destruction. The demolition of the building by KASUPDA, the NCAC boss reiterated, should serve as a wake-up call on parents to closely monitor their children/wards and curb untoward activities amongst them.
Beyond praising the courage of the state governor in checkmating foreign behavioral influences and sending a clear signals to those committed to the entrenchment of alien cultural values that are strange to Nigerians, Otunba Runsewe declared: “I am sure with the pulling down of the house for the sex party, sufficient signals have been sent to other deviants, their sponsors and publics. The laws of this country must be applied to the fullest to stop this rage from the pit of darkness.”
Soon after the demolition, tongues started wagging as many questions dominated the airwaves: Why should a structure be pulled down on a mere premise of being a venue for a sex party that never held? Did the authorities embark on the necessary checks to confirm the authenticity of such a nude party before unleashing the bulldozers on the building? Even if the party took place, who were the organisers? Is KASUPDA in possession of proofs that the sex party actually took place? These and many questions combined to confuse discourse. Not a few are of the opinion that the entire sex party invite was a ruse deliberately crafted to give a dog a bad name in order to hand it.
Realising that treading the path of sex party could turn out a weak position for the agency that has come under ceaseless criticisms, the Director General of KASUPDA, Ismail Umaru Dikko, on January 5, 2021 reversed its earlier position that the demolition of the lounge was based on the sex party invite.
Speaking to a select group of journalists in Kaduna, Dikko said contrary to the earlier position of his agency as contained on the agency’s twitter handle, the building was demolished for not having a valid title and development permit. In his words: “Checks of government records showed that the building housing Asher Lounge has neither a valid title nor development permit. Once due diligence revealed the illegal status of the building, there was a need for enforcement action without the notification requirements that the law compels holders of valid title and development permits”.
The agency’s boss said that though the attention of the agency was first drawn to the sex party invite, Dikko explained that KASUPDA later found out from its records that the building that housed the demolished lounge was without a valid title and development permit.
Of course, not a few Nigerians have expressed bewilderment at this inscrutable exercise of pulling down a structure without following the due process. Unknown too, many Nigerians, including yours sincerely, the reviewed laws of KASUPDA that was signed by the governor in December 2018 confer power on KASUPDA to pull down structures that do not have valid title and development permit without any prior notification. Therefore, without sentiments, and on the basis of the law establishing it, KASUPDA can’t be faulted.
I spoke to two lawyers yesterday on the contentious matter, with all of them pleading anonymity. The first lawyer noted that even though the demolition exercise could be deemed legal, he argued that there was a violation of process. To simply pull down a structure without following laid down rules of issuing prior notice amounts to a desecration of the laws. The attorney disclosed that it would serve the interest of the public for the case to be taken to the courts to develop our jurisprudence.
The second lawyer said there was nothing wrong as the agency’s action was clearly guided by the powers conferred on it by the 2018 KASUPDA Laws as reviewed and gazetted by the Kaduna State Government. To this lawyer, there was nothing wrong in the demolition of the lounge by KASUPDA.
From the smokes of disagreements that have trailed the sex party saga, it is very obvious that the state government did not get its act right in evolving effective communication on the matter. The intervention of Otunba Runsewe made some people look into the circumstances of appreciating third party intervention in throwing light on the activities of a government whose actions are always viewed with suspicion.
In the days ahead as more unbelievable twists of the story invade the airwaves, there is need for the state lawmakers to review aspects of the KASUPDA’s laws that contain what some refer to as the “violation of due process”. The owner of the lounge must not be engaged in activism as such an option may threaten chances of getting justice. The road to justice may be long and windy, but negotiation may work faster to ameliorate the damage done .
For now, KASUPDA holds the four aces as its action was in line with powers conferred by the law.
Except for competent court rules otherwise, considering the law establishing the KASUPDA, property owners with no valid titles will always find themselves trapped in deep holes of frightening unpredictability.
Read the Source post on Leadership Newspaper.