By: Chima Osuji
The Federal Government has concluded the demolition of buildings erected illegally on oil pipelines belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) at the Tanke area in Ilorin, Kwara State.
UCJ UNILORIN gathered that the exercise lasted from 3rd to 7th April in the Tanke area of the state, while that of an area known as Okeoyi was said to have been carried out about two weeks earlier.
Armed with soldiers in order to ensure compliance, the NNPC team bulldozed every structure that stood on their way. Private residences, schools, shops, police station, market place, and religious institutions all had aspects of their edifices brought down to a rubble by the destructive spree.
We also gathered that the soldiers hired to enforce the law didn’t allow onlookers to take photographs of the exercise. In fact, a female journalist reporting for the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) was allegedly restricted from covering the event and harassed by the trigger-happy khaki boys.
Furthermore, the action was said to have been taken after the expiration of a purported 7-day ultimatum given by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
From our findings however, we learnt that a similar notice had been given by the Federal Government about 8 years ago, to the effect that property owners should take down their buildings in the designated area that violated the 5 metre rule.
Unfortunately, the warnings seemed to have fallen on deaf ears due largely to a perceived lack of political will on the part of the Federal government to make good its threat. To that end, the most recent 7 days ultimatum given, was backed up by action which led to the demolition exercise.
One of the victims simply referred to as Gbenga Ibiloye, gives an account of what happened. “The first day they came, them put mark. Them give us just a week. So they mark everywhere…that we should quit out. After that one week, they came and demolish everywhere including my shop…”, he narrated.
In his account, Usman Adam, an eyewitness and resident of the affected area, however blames both the government and the people for the ugly situation. In his words: “As a matter of fact, government has its own fault, and the people too, have their own fault. Because, there’s no way you’ll build on pipeline and you take the plan to the Town Planning, and they will not tell you that you’re building on pipeline. People will still insist that the government will not come now…after all, for the past ten years, they did not do anything. Don’t worry, just help us do it. We’ll find our way. We would have even made our money before they come. So, most of them know they’re on pipeline…
“So, Town Planning did not do their job very well. They should not have even compromised of helping them or taking any money from them to approve their plan on the building that encroach five metres on pipeline”, he concluded.
Another victim who pleaded anonymity, was one of the opinion that the timing for the action was wrong in view of the harsh living conditions of the people. “This is not a good period for this. It’s a right thing at a wrong time. The political timing is wrong. The timing is wrong politically. The timing is wrong economically. The timing is even wrong spiritually because people at the lower ebb are feeding from the dustbin”, he lamented.
As at the time of compiling this report, all efforts to get the Director, Kwara State Town Planning Authority, Mr Adeoti, to respond to the allegation of issuing temporary approval for buildings erected on pipelines, was frustrated. Rather than answering the question via voice calls on two occasions, he resorted to intimidation, and eventually hung up evasively.
At the first attempt last Sunday, Mr Adeoti queried our correspondent for engaging him on a non-working day, saying our correspondent should do the right thing impliedly. The next day, a similar effort was made but he further queried the medium used by our correspondent as inappropriate and hung up like he did previously.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Kwara State Governor on Media and Publicity, Dr Muyideen Femi Akorede, was also contacted by our correspondent.
When asked if the Kwara State government was aware of the demolition exercise, Dr Muyideen Femi Akorede, said: “The report has come to us and apparently it’s been done by NNPC”.
Dr Akorede further stated that the state government was not aware of the 7 days notice. However, he disclosed to our correspondent that the government knew about the demolished houses.
“No I’m not (as regards the 7-days notice). The only thing I’m aware of is that houses were demolished and all that…I don’t know what kind of communication went on between the NNPC and the owners of those shops”, he disclosed.
When asked if the Kwara state government was aware of the Temporary Approval issued by the Town Planning Authority, he said: “Well, as far as I’m aware, the government does not issue temporary approval. It’s either your house is approved or not. Another thing is, why didn’t they go for permanent approval before they started building? Assuming they got temporary approval, if they had gone for the final one, I’m sure it would have been rejected… That place belongs to NNPC”, he emphasised.