By Sunday Onyemaechi Eze
SINCE March 4 when residents of Gbagyi Villa Community – a new settlement behind Kaduna Polytechnic by Sabon Tasha were issued notices of demolition amidst heavy security presence in what the Kaduna State government termed illegal encroachment of Kaduna Polytechnic land, life for the residents has become unbearable. Some law abiding residents were molested for daring to inquire the rationale behind KASUPDA’s action and the heavy presence of security in a civil and peaceful environment. From the foregoing, Gbagyi Villa is marked for unjustifiable demolition and waiting for the bulldozers to come in any moment from now.
As a civil and law abiding community, the temple of justice was its last resort and Kaduna State High Court currently entertains the matter. To ensure that justice was not denied both parties until the determination of the suit, an interlocutory injunction was given to Kaduna State government and its agents to desist from further actions. At this juncture, it was incumbent on both parties and proxies to desist from actions capable of endangering the peace, one that could interfere with the court processes, impugn on the authority of the court or violate the rights of both parties. The community in a peaceful manner has left the court to do its job bearing in mind that it is the last hope of the common man.
However, in an unscheduled visit by the governor to the over 3,000 fully developed housing community, 40 churches, about 12 schools and more than 5,000 inhabitants on July 21, the governor said there was no going back on the planned demolition exercise. El-Rufai who stormed the community in company of top Kaduna State government officials, Kaduna Polytechnic Management team amidst heavy security presence said it was unfortunate some people have been coned into buying government-owned land. Therefore, the community cannot stop their houses from being demolished. It is disheartening for one to stand and listen to a conversation where it has been concluded that one’s house stands at the mercy of an impending bulldozer. Did Kaduna State government take into account the enormity of pain and damage it will inflict on the community by taking this anti-people action?
El-Rufai informed journalists that although the government and its agencies were aware that the case is in a competent court, action will however be taken against criminal trespassers. The Governor said the encroached land case in court has little to do with breaking of the law, “when you break the law you can’t go to court and hide.” This sudden twist and the unscheduled visit to Gbagyi Community by the governor is serious considering his antecedent as a minister of the Federal Capital Territory. That visit was an affront to the ongoing judicial process and crass intimidation of a harmless community with the instrumentality of power.
A good father does not take sides when crisis breaks out among his children. He takes pains to peacefully mediate for peace to return and reign in his home. Up till now, the governor has not brought both parties to a round table for an amicable resolution of the land dispute. Instead, he has continued to show preference to the Polytechnic by his actions and deeds. The governor has already delivered judgement in his “executive court” in favour of Kaduna Polytechnic. The presence of the Rector, Kaduna Polytechnic Dr. Mohammed Bello Ibrahim, who was in the entourage of the governor at the time of that visit without any representative of Gbagyi Community, is a clear indication of the governor’s subjective position which must be noted.
The governor veered off the substance of discussion and blamed some people for giving the matter religious and ethnic colorations, maintaining that government will not allow illegal encroachment on Kaduna Polytechnic land to stand. He warned that, the present administration will not condone any form of illegality in the state, stressing that in Kaduna nobody can hide behind religion or his or her ethnic group to break the law and get away with it. As a listening government, the above sentiment raised by the governor should be a good reason to apply brake in the interest of peace.
According to the Chairman, Gbagyi Villa Community, Chris Obodum, Gbagyi Villa is the ancestral land of the Gbagyi people before part of it was acquired by Kaduna Polytechnic. He maintained that the parcel of land in question has been a source of conflict between the native people of Gbagyi because the owners claimed they were not duly compensated at the time of acquisition. Sometimes in 2010, a suit was instituted against Kaduna Polytechnic by indigenous Gbagyi people. In the course of the proceedings, Kaduna Polytechnic sought for out of court settlement of the case. The court obliged and the matter was settled amicably. Thereafter, the late governor of Kaduna State, Sir Patrick Yakowa waded into the matter and after due diligence and administrative processes inaugurated a “White Paper Committee” in May, 2011 which looked into the matter and amicably demarcated the boundary between the two parties. Consequently, Kaduna State government issued a white paper while the Surveyor General of Kaduna State produced a survey map demarcating Polytechnic land from that of Gbagyi Villa Community. As we speak, Kaduna Polytechnic land has been adequately secured with a wall of fence and it is instructive to mention that no member of Gbagyi Villa Community lives or is building inside the fenced Polytechnic land. He argued that the governor’s actions are untenable excuses to destroy the products and sweat of ordinary citizens by force of the law and power that he has sworn to protect citizens.
Government white paper is a definite instrument employed in the decision making processes of states on various range of issues including settlement of land matters. It is an authentic government policy document which lays to permanent rest such burning issues of state and not one to be dismissed or spurned to satisfy the vested interest of individuals. Government is a continuum and as such decisions of previous governments which the present found unacceptable could be reviewed in line with laid down administrative processes.
That has not been done by Kaduna State government in relation to Gbagyi Villa. The antagonistic and premeditated posture of Nasir El-Rufai on this issue contradicts the amicable out of the court resolution initiated by Kaduna Polytechnic.
*Eze writes from Kaduna