SUNDAY ISUWA and Francis Okoye examine the issues arising from the demolition of a structure rented by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Borno State, which was to be used as an office.
The old Premiere Cinema is a historical monument rented recently by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Borno State for office use, but was demolished penultimate Sunday by government authorities.
The structure was located along the famous Dandal Way which is also the gateway to the Royal throne of Borno, where the Shehus live. The Dandal Way Road is a historical monument in the sense that it is one of the oldest with many historical buildings.
Starting from the Dandal Way is the house of former governor of the then Northern region, Sir Kashim Ibrahim, then the old Premiere Cinema formerly occupied by the then Native Authority, Maiduguri Metroplitan secretariat is also located along the same way as well as the Maiduguri central mosque.
The Borno State House of Assembly Complex is also located around the area in which the structure rented by the PDP was demolished.
The then Premier Cinema building serves as a meeting point for hundreds of Borno youths from time immemorial. It also served as relaxation point for the youth especially in the evening.
Unfortunately, as the city grows, the location became unsuitable for cinema especially, taking into cognisance, the Kanuri and Borno traditions.
The famous Premiere Cenema building became an empty structure. It was again put into good use as political party offices. The most recent was its use as an office for The Buhari Youth Organization (BYO).
People that were using it for that purpose also abandoned it. Credible sources told LEADERSHIP that before the structure was rented to a governorship aspirant of the PDP, the governor of the state had approached the owners to sell the property to him at N100 million which he declined.
As the PDP officials began painting the structure with their party’s colours and logo, government bulldozers pulled down the structure on Sunday, 21 January, 2018.
LEADERSHIP further findings revealed that the demolished structure was rented this January by a PDP chieftain, who is also a family member to a 2019 governorship aspirant.
Speaking on the demolition of the PDP office, a chieftain of the party from Borno State, Hon Kudla Satumari said the action of the state government was very unfortunate.
According to Kudla, even though the demolition of the PDP structure has draw more sympathy to the party, he wants the Inspector General of Police to intervene in the matter and call his men to order.
He said the demolition of the physical structure of the PDP has sent a bad omen about the safety of opposition members in Borno state as the country prepares for the 2019 general elections.
“The demolition is an indication of probably the things to expect in 2019. The property we are talking about was leased for PDP use. This property had a tenancy agreement signed by all parties and the owner released the property to the officials of the PDP and they began to clean it up, repainting and putting it in the party colours.”
“All of a sudden, a detachment of the Police, Civil Defence and other agents that are working for the government to ensure that the activities of the PDP did not hold in that place, went and cordon the place. I was away but was contacted by some of our party officials in Maiduguri, who related to me exactly what I am telling you now. When I put a call to someone who was put in charge of cleaning the office, he confirmed to me what happened.”
“Our officials were taken to the police station to make statement, and they provided all the necessary documents, and even made a phone call to the owner of the building who said everything was done in his consent and that there was a tenancy agreement between him and the members of the PDP.”
“The following day, I was called that security operatives were led to stay at the building over night. And by 5:00am on Sunday morning, I was called again and informed that bulldozers were already positioned at the premises of the building we had rented. But before noon, the entire building was brought down with the instruction of the state government,” Kudla said.
“Why should government’s action override public interest? They should have followed certain processes. This is a clear indication of obstruction, this is a clear indication of intimidation of opposition by the ruling government. This has also brought to the fore our suspicion that other people are meddling into the affairs of our party rather than the members of the PDP in Borno State. This needs to be investigated, and it should be condemned by all political parties and by all people who cherish democracy and the rule of law,” Kudla added.
The Borno State PDP organising secretary, Buba Musa Tunga said the party is now planning an emergency meeting after which it will take a stand.
Tunga, who said he was involved in the sub-letting agreement for the house to be used as an office for a PDP gubernatorial aspirant, Mohammed Imam, added that the state government became frightened when they saw the building wearing PDP colours.
“What the Borno State government did has even promoted us more . We have been receiving sympathy from well-wishers. Unfortunately , the governor doesn’t know the implication of what he did,” Tunga said.
Also reacting, the Maiduguri Metroplitan Council (MMC) Chairman of PDP, Hon Usman Danjuma said the party had painted the place with PDP Logo and that attracted the attention of Borno State government.
He said as far as he was concerned, the action is not fair to the party since APC youth had used the place as an office before.
“From the information I have at my disposal, the APC officials did not pay for the rent for a very long time. The PDP rented the place and paid the owner of the property and were given receipt. Just because it is for PDP, they now demolished the building.”
“I think it is not fair. It is not fair to us as a party and it is is not fair to us as citizens of Borno State. In this period that we are in, we are supposed to play politics without bitterness. This is to show you the kind of politics this government will play in 2019. A do or die politics. If just because of a structure somebody just hired as a campaign office, you went ahead to demolish it, it is sending a wrong signal to the polity in Borno State.That is just my thinking,” Danjuma added.
Also reacting, Hon Mohammed Imam said his younger brother, Umar Alkali Iman rented the building from the owners and donated it to the PDP to be used as Maiduguri Metroplitan Council (MMC) party secretariat.
“Umar Alkali Iman is my younger brother who rented the building from the owners and contributed it to the PDP Maiduguri Metroplitan council as a party secretariat. We have started painting the property with our colour and logo before this demolition.”
“It is sad. In a democracy, everyone has his right, particularly, right to give out your property to whoever you want so far the person or the institution is a peaceful organization that is covered by the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
“We have been using that place as rallying point for most of our political activities in Borno State. It belongs to everyone and we grew up to meet it like that. It is really a sad development under democracy.”
“So we condemn this action and we want all democratic institutions globally, not only in Nigeria to condemn the action of the Borno State government,” he said.
However, the spokesman of the ruling APC in Borno State, Makinta Zarami disputed all the claims made by the PDP officials.
Zarami said the demolition of Premiere Cinema which used to be the local government secretariat of the defunct ANPP, the party from which APC was formed, has nothing to do with politics.
He said the action was triggered due to the illegal activities that have been going on in the property by some unscrupulous elements, which made the Borno State government to demolished it.
“And since the building belongs to the children of the late Umar Ali, the state government started bidding for the property for over a year ago. It took that long because three women inherited the property.”
“Dealing with women in such transaction is a bit difficult. But at the end of the day, the sale of Premier Cinema was perfected and it became the property of the state government.”
“But unfortunately, one of the sons of the women who is very close to the PDP officials in the state did not know about the transaction that took place; hence he went and said his family would give out the building to PDP for rent. That was why the state government decided to demolish the place to start the new projects that is of public interest there,” he said.
The Borno State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ali Bukar Dalori called on PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan to wear the thinking cap of a journalist and stop being fooled around by what he described as ‘a Borno faction of PDP’ whose members have been spreading mischievous allegations that the State PDP secretariat in Maiduguri was demolished.
Dalori said: “It is a shame that someone with the background of being a senior journalist didn’t find it worthy to establish facts before rushing to address the press. He ought to know that some officials of the PDP in Borno State themselves have since confirmed that their party’s secretariat wasn’t demolished as claimed.”
“The publicity secretary would be humiliated if he goes to court because he will come to see glaring evidence that first, the PDP secretariat wasn’t demolished and secondly, the building demolished was the old Premier Cinema which had actually served as headquarters of Buhari Youths Organization since 2011 before it was abandoned, then acquired by the APC-led government from its owners for the purpose of conversion to public use,” he said.
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