On 31st December 2020, the Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Authority (KASUPDA) demolished the Asher Lounge Bar in Barnawa Kaduna South without warning, legal authorisation or sensible consideration. Although no offence had actually been committed, the action was based on the feeble grounds that it was allegedly the scheduled venue for a proposed sex party. According to KASUPDA officials, the Kaduna State governor ordered the structure to be demolished and organisers of the proposed party arrested. The quite illogical rationale for this action was that although the venue had no record of previously hosting such parties, it was supposed to “forestall reoccurrence” of an event, which never happened in the first place! Initially, unable to quote any law, which had been broken, KASUPDA officials said that the party… if it had held … would have showcased “a high level immorality that negates our socio-cultural, religious and traditional values/ beliefs”. This is mere hyperbole because guarding those values and beliefs is not the function of KASUPDA.
In attempting to justify the demolition without notice, the KASUPDA’s Public Relations Officer, Nuhu Garba erroneously claimed that the law vests the agency with powers to demolish any building that contravenes the rights of occupancy. He quite evidently fails to appreciate that in constitutional democracy, the power to determine whether or not a law has been breached, and any applicable punishment therein lies with the Judiciary. Citizens have a constitutional right to a fair hearing and there can be no “law”, which ousts the authority of the courts to carry out this function. Both Governor El Rufai and KASUPDA officials have wrongfully ascribed to themselves powers to determine legalities, which are the prerogative of lawyers and judges. They irrationally believe they are vested with the power to be the plaintiff, prosecutor, judge and judgment executioner in their matters! Consequently, the justice system was totally cast aside.
The general public deserves answers to following questions. Why was the matter not charged to court? Why were there no warnings issued? What specific law was contravened? What offences had the property owner committed? Could the property not have been put to better more intelligent use? The whole affair makes little sense. The party didn’t hold, no charges were brought against the owners of the property, no guilty verdict was delivered by a competent court, yet the property was demolished. It’s becoming an increasingly common and all too disturbing for governors nationwide to order the demolition of structures. Somehow, they view themselves as “Sole Administrators” who can ignore the judiciary, pocket the Legislature then do as they please. They appear far more concerned with demolishing structures rather than constructing them! In Nigeria’s history of ill-considered demolitions, Governor El Rufai stands head and shoulders above all others. He has immersed himself in numerous demolitions of people’s property, using false applications of the law in which he enforces his will rather than the will of any competent court. He has also been severally restrained. For example, in March 2020 a Kaduna State High Court presided over by Justice Binta Zubairu granted a restraining order against Governor El Rufai or any state’s agency from demolishing over 2,000 houses in Nisi and Tasu communities of Chikun Local Government Area of the State. In that case, those affected went to court having been given a 22-days ultimatum to vacate their premises.
By demolishing Asher Lounge Bar without notice, EI Rufai and KASUPDA effectively pre-empted judicial authority over the matter. Justice and fair play are essential parts of the application of laws and the demolition of the property of a third party without warning can never be justified. Paradoxically, while ordering the demolition of a place where no offence had been committed, the governor pardoned some convicted criminals to commemorate New Year’s Day! If the nation’s leaders are seriously trying to nurture democracy and the rule of law, then they must also learn to subject themselves to the restrictions and processes of the law.
They must learn to lead by example rather than give the impression that the sole purpose for aspiring to office is to be able to take the law into your own hands. In an attempt to create a “crime” as an afterthought and cover up what many lawyers have termed “the illegality of KASUPDA actions”, the story is now being put out that the Lounge was caught “contravening the COVID-19 guidelines of the state”. This is derisible. When Nollywood star, Funke Akindele was filmed breaking COVID-19 regulations in Lagos State and an offence actually took place, she was charged to court and pleaded guilty. Her house was not destroyed by authorities and nobody was rendered jobless. The governor was indisputably myopic, feigning populism in his approach.
It makes no sense whatsoever to demolish a structure in an ill-advised, arbitrary and totally unnecessary manner. He should have acted with more haste and less speed. The venue is not a hotel and has never been one and contains no accommodation. It is registered under the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) for food production and processing services. The owner of the premises is law abiding and has committed no offence. With this rueful exhibition of self-righteousness by Governor El Rufai, any person who does not wish his enemy well, simply needs to report a planned sex party at his premises and the place will be destroyed without due process! It’s simply absurd at this time of economic downturn to habitually seek to demolish a property without previous warning or judicial processes. It is increasingly evident that many high political office holders are vindictive and unfit for office. The refusal to allow the owner to remove millions of Naira worth of property and thereby causing them to lose a month old pregnancy was sheer inexcusable evil and wickedness. It is not necessary to use a hammer to kill a fly! Nobody has been able to justify how throwing people into the unemployment market with the potential of increasing the already abysmal crime rate in the state and destroying private property on which government collected tax has now made Kaduna State a better place?