Osauzo and. Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
The Edo State government this afternoon, made good its threat when it rolled out bulldozers and other earth-moving equipment to demolish multi-million naira hotel belonging to Mr. Tony Kabaka Adun.
Governor Godwin Obaseki and Mr. Adun, who was a major campaigner in support for the state government removal of illegal structures around the Ring Road in Benin during the early stage of the administration, fell apart shortly after over disagreement on economic empowerment.
Bulldozers and security personnel were mobilised to the hotel at about noon y to commence the demolition exercise which lasted for several hours.
Heavily-armed men were stationed at strategic locations within the area where the property is located possibly to forestall any breakdown of law and order while stores shut down for business.
A journalist was barred from covering the demolition exercise, as some of the police officers threatened to beat him up despite showing them his identity card.
It, however, took the intervention of a senior officer who prevailed on them to allow him in.
Sympathizers were seen watching helplessly from afar as the bulldozers descended on the building.
The demolition exercise however, led to a serious traffic gridlock in the area.
According to the state government, the demolition was its commitment to the removal of illegal structures erected on government property, including public schools and waterways as well as roofs, extensions, and structures erected on the right of way of roads/streets, moats, riverbanks, TCN high tension lines, among others in Benin City and other major settlements in the state.
The state government had in October last year, through the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, issued a seven-day notice to Tony Adun to remove his T. Latifah Hotel and Suites, located at the Ugbor axis of the state capital, insisting that the hotel was built on public primary school property.
But after intense verbal war between Governor Obaseki and Kabaka, he (Kabaka) later begged the governor and apologised to him for the words he used in the previous video saying he was “angered.”
Mr. Adun and other private revenue contractors engaged by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s administration to collect taxes from drivers were sacked by Governor Obaseki who insisted the state government has the ability to collect its revenue.
The governor had last year stressed that the hotel must be demolished, that no amount of blackmail would stop him from demolishing the building because it was built on government property.
He told reporters last year that there was no political undertone in the decision since he had warned in the past that his administration would not tolerate lawlessness.
“Businesses cannot thrive when there are anarchy and complete disrespect for the law. For us as a government, whatever we need to do to ensure that there is law and order will be done.
“If you have done the wrong thing and taken over properties that are not yours to build on government property, it is the wrong thing to do. If you go and build on a road, that is not the right thing to do. If government tolerates that, then more people will become lawless.
“If any law has been breached in Edo State, I have sworn to the constitution to preserve order. This is a government that is not afraid of anybody and will not be subject to blackmail. Anybody who contravenes the law no matter how highly placed you are in Edo State, you will be dealt with.
“It has no political undertone. If you go to Etete now, I am doing the same thing. I am fencing the sports centre. I have warned in the past that anybody who encroached on government land or school properties will be dealt with. Go to Bénin Technical College, that is evident. As long as they continue to behave lawlessly, we will enforce the law,” Obaseki had said.
Reacting to the demolition, Kabaka who spoke on phone, said he was saddened that the state government could not wait for judgment to be delivered in the case, disclosing that the court had fixed Friday, February 7, 2020, for judgment in the suit.
He said he had secured injunctions stopping the demolition of the hotel.
“We are still in court. I have injunctions against the government. The judgment is on Friday. I have a Certificate of Occupancy in my house but I don’t have C of O in the hotel.
“Let him go ahead and demolish it. One hundred years is not forever,” he said.
But Special Adviser to Governor Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said all injunctions had been vacated by the court.