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KASUPDA’s wages of haste

Claims and counterclaims have continued to trail the demolition, by authorities of the Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Authority (KASUPDA), of the Asher Restaurant…

Claims and counterclaims have continued to trail the demolition, by authorities of the Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Authority (KASUPDA), of the Asher Restaurant in Kaduna.

The demolition of the building, which is located on Kachia Road, Sabon Tasha in Kaduna took place on December 31, 2020. The order to demolish the structure was sequel to a notice on the social media that announced Asher Restaurant and Lounge as the venue for a sex party.

According to KASUPDA, the sex party would have showcased (if it held) “A high-level immorality that negates our socio-cultural, religious, and traditional values”; adding that “This act of immorality is partly the reason why we are bedevilled with security challenges in our dear state”. It also said Governor Nasiru Ahmed El-Rufai “in his proactive leadership style ordered the immediate arrest of the organisers” and asked KASUPDA “to demolish the structure to forestall a recurrence” as well as deter other clubs that are intending to host similar events.

A few days later, KASUPDA made a U-turn from its earlier position that justified the demolition of Asher Restaurant for allegedly being the venue for a botched sex party. It said the building was brought down for its illegal status stressing that, “Checks of government records show that the building housing Asher Restaurant had neither a valid title nor development permit.” KASUPDA Director General, Ismail Umaru Dikko, while regretting the inaccuracy of previous statements by the handler of their social media account said: “There is no reservation about steps taken to enforce the laws and regulations of Kaduna State on a property that was in violation of its provisions.”  Dikko said only holders of valid title and development permits required notification before enforcing provisions of the law.

When the police eventually arrested the suspect that posted the sex party notice in the social media, he confessed that it was simply a hoax. According to the suspect, the sex party started as a joke between him and his friends; and was not meant to go public. “The whole thing was a joke. A friend made the flier that was posted on Twitter and put my number on it and we all laughed over it, but somebody sent it to someone and to another person, until it got to Twitter”, the suspect said.

The owner of the restaurant, Aisha Mercy Yakubu, however, denied knowledge of the event. She said a customer had hired the VIP Lounge of the restaurant for a 15-man reunion/clothing line promo, to appreciate his customers for their good patronage of his brands. According to her, she lost goods worth N32 million as well as cooking utensils, furniture, electric appliances, chillers, deep freezers and outdoor catering utensils. “I watched them pull down the building without allowing me remove any item before the demolition and as a result of the trauma, I lost my one-month-old pregnancy,” she said.

Kaduna State Government last week arraigned five suspects including the owner of Asher Restaurant, her husband, and Marvellous Akpan who allegedly disseminated information about the party. They were charged before Magistrate Benjamin Nok of the Gabasawa Magistrate Court with flouting COVID-19 protocol and acting immorally. Other charges include violation of a partial lockdown order of the Kaduna State Government 2020, criminal conspiracy and attempt to commit an offence with public nuisance, obscene or indecent act, gross indecency and adultery.

It is obvious that KASUPDA over-reacted to the social media message. The conflicting statements by KASUPDA in which it reversed itself from an earlier one is the result of an action hastily taken. The latter claim advanced to justify its action was an after-thought. Even if the building lacked title as claimed, demolition should be a consequence of legal procedures, not an executive fiat. While we call on the court hearing the case to ensure that justice prevails in this matter without undue delays, government agencies, like citizens, are urged to verify social media contents before acting on them. This demolition is, indeed, the wages of careless haste.

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