A multi-million naira set of lockup stores under construction, belonging to a Benin-based businessman and chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC), John Osamede Adun, popularly known as Bob Izua, was Thursday demolished by Edo State government.
The complex was located at the popular and ever busy Mission Road, at the heart of Kings Square, in Benin-City.
A statement issued by John Mayaki, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Godwin Obaseki, said the demolition was in fulfillment of the state government’s commitment to enforcing all physical and town planning laws in the state and to restore integrity to the environment’s master plan.
The statement said that “there are town planning rules and laws in the state and nobody is bigger than the law. So, for the development of Edo state and to upgrade the people’s standard of living, there should be full compliance from everyone to the law.”
Mayaki in the statement further said that the demolished buildings which had about 150 pick-up shops, contravened the government’s approved plan.
He disclosed that what the owner of the buildings sought government’s approval for “was at variance with what was erected. In other words, the structure which was built was in contravention of what was approved,” he said.
But speaking with journalists, the owner of the demolished property, Adun, said it was untrue that the land has invalid document, adding that he legally acquired the property from five families, namely Legema, Igbinosun, Morgan, Elaho and Mandilas.
Adun further added that he sold part of the property measuring 100 x 130 feet at the sum of N135m to the immediate past Governor of the State, Adams Oshiomhole.
He also disclosed that he always informed the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development every stages of development of the property, adding that he was given a valid approval from the ministry before commencing the construction.
“I don’t have problem with the Governor. I don’t have any quarrel with the Governor. He is my Governor. We are in the same party. He is right to do what the people report to him.
“I sold part of that land to [former] Governor Adams Oshiomhole for use for Comrade Bus park. Oshiomhole acquired 100 x 130 from me and he paid me N135m. Before I started construction I wrote to the state government. The government officials monitored stage by stage development of the building. The building is legal.
“When I demolished the building, I wrote the government and then approved this plan for me dated February 06, 2017. The state government designed the complex building themselves because the design I showed them, they rejected it and gave me another design.
“The house belongs to me. It is not illegal. I showed you all the approval from the Ministry of Urban and Housing Development,” he said.
He further disclosed that his son, Nosa, was arrested along with a police Inspector on the order of a top government official at about 1 am.
“My son, Nosa was arrested along with Inspector. He went there to notify the people that there are tiles that were bought inside the building and that he should be allowed to remove them when he was arrested”, he stated.
He said the cost of the tiles destroyed was about N7m.
Adun further disclosed that he borrowed the sum of N750m as well as sold his property in USA to build the complex.
He said the former building was about 86 stores but the demolished complex contained 218 stores.
“There are about 109 stores down and 109 stores up. I don’t take money from anybody to build. I borrowed N750m from the bank. I also sold my house in USA and my wife signed for me as a witness. I sold the property for over $80,000 and I pumped the money into the building.
Meanwhile, traders who claimed to have already paid for the stores have called for the refund of their money.
Some of the traders said they paid according to the size of their stores, ranging from N400,000, N200,000,N150,000 and N70,000.
The traders also alleged that they paid between N100,000 and N120,000 as “kola” to the owner of the property.
Celestine Okoro, who spoke for the traders at the premises on Nigeria Union of Journalists in Benin, said: “In December last year (2016), we made an advance payment for 2017. I have two stores there. Depending on the size of the store, some persons paid N200,000, some paid N150,000. The least amount is for those paying for attachments, which cost N70,000.
“All of us have paid for 2017. In January, we were informed by the landlord that he wants to demolish the building and replace it with a standard one. When the building got to the lintel level, he demanded another payment, which he called ‘kola money,’ or consultation fee.
“The old tenants paid N100,000 while the new ones paid N120,000. We also paid an extra N175,000 or N400,000 for seven months, depending on the size.
“Surprisingly, the Governor came last week and sealed the place. Since then, we have been hanging around to hear from him (Adun), but we were kept in the dark. We did not know what our fate was until this morning (Thursday) when the building was demolished.”