Nigerians do not, and should not, expect their houses to be pulled down peremptorily by political opponents, deploying governmental power. Thus, no matter how the Kaduna State Government headed by Governor Nasir El-Rufai spins the demolition of Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi’s storey building situated at No. 11B Sambo Street, Ungwar Rimi, Kaduna, it must take responsibility for what is clearly the most vicious and politically motivated administrative high-handedness in the country, in recent memory.
We had thought Nigerian politics had progressed beyond such narrow, despotic cruelties. Alas, the demolition of the structure which houses an opposing faction of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state is a warning on the insidious despotism in the state.
It is no secret that the APC is factionalised in Kaduna State, and that a week or so ago, the faction of the party led by Senator Hunkuyi handed down a six-month suspension to Governor El-Rufai for “anti-party activities.” Senator Hunkuyi’s property that was demolished was being used as the office of his APC faction in the state. The demolition of that property by the Kaduna State Government cannot, therefore, be a coincidence.
We appreciate that the Land Use Act vests tremendous powers in the governor of a state. It is the duty of the governor to issue the Certificate of Occupancy. He could also revoke it for certain reasons. But, the law also provides that before the governor takes penal action, he must give sufficient notice. The Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Agency (KASUPDA) has claimed responsibility for the demolition on the claim that it was performing its normal functions. The agency had invaded the property at the unnatural hour of 4 am. The bulldozer was accompanied by armed soldiers who blocked both sides of the road leading to the building. The excuse for the demolition is that the property was allocated for residential purposes and not political activities. The agency also alleged that the building was demolished for a flagrant violation of Land Use and non-payment of ground rent since 2010.
It is easy to see through the administrative fiction cleverly woven to justify this blatantly tyrannical exercise. According to the Kaduna State Geographic Information Service (KADGIS), the demolition was apolitical, and the land has now been allocated to KASUPDA “for the purpose of developing and maintaining a public park that will provide a green area and a serene place for recreation in that residential neighbourhood.” The KADGIS is challenging the senator to go to court to test his rights, vowing to be vindicated by the courts. Indeed, it also issued the senator a fresh N30.4 million ground rent bill for his private home, with an ultimatum to pay within 30 days.
The action of the Kaduna State Government is the outcome of a rancorous intra-party feud. If an intra-party dispute could degenerate into so much bitterness and viciousness, it is frightening to imagine what could result from an inter-party fight. Yet, we all know that rancorous politics is antithetical to socio-economic development in any country. Life is hard enough when there is bi-partisan consensus. Is it any wonder, therefore, that there is so much violence in our polity, as politicians continue to organise violence, recruit thugs and maintain private militias, thereby creating tension and insecurity in the country?
Even if, for the sake of argument, the senator had violated some parts of the original purpose of the allocation, there is no provision in the Land Use Act for demolition as the sanction for such a violation. And, it is inconceivable that the punishment for late payment of ground rent would be the demolition of the property. Besides, the Kaduna State Government has not shown any proof that it followed the regular process, as the senator is entitled to fair hearing under Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, and should not have been deprived of it.
This ill-tempered, vengeful action is political vindictiveness at its height. It is astonishing that Governor El-Rufai was tempted to resort to such an underhand tactic, in spite of his high education and experience. The demolition is an indication of weakness rather than strength. Nigeria’s politics degenerates into warfare because of actions like this, and Nigerians should in unison not just frown at such actions but actively protest against them, whenever they occur. Senator Hunkuyi should seek legal redress and compensation for the demolition of his property.