Barely three years after the untimely demise of the former governor of Kaduna State, Sir, Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, the current APC administration in the state has continued to take actions that show total disdain for the late peace maker. One of such actions is the recent invasion of Gbagyi Villa, a settlement in Kaduna, the state capital.
Peace and sleep were murdered in the life of the people of Gbagyi Villa on Friday, 4th March 2016. Gbagyi Villa is a community settlement behind the Bye-pass campus, College of Administrative Studies and Social Sciences (CASSS) of the Kaduna Polytechnic, located in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State, North-west, Nigeria. Governor Nasiru Ahmed El-Rufa’i on that black Friday morning dispatched KASUPDA officials to go and serve the entire community twenty-one days demolition notice. KASUPDA officials, New Impression learnt, were accompanied by about 30 truck-loads of military and police personnel in full battle gear who stormed the area in commando style to ensure non-resistance.
The demolition notice which was signed by the General Manager of KASUPDA, Saratu M. Haruna was pasted on strategic points of the walls of many properties at the area and it reads: “The Board has noticed with dismay that you have illegally embarked on developing a structure at the above mentioned plot without obtaining Planning Permission from the Agency.
This action of yours is a contravention of section 26 and 27 of the KASUPDA Law.
In view of the above, you are hereby given Twenty One (21) days with effect from the above date, within which to remove all structures so erected.
Failure to comply with the above directives, the Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Authority (KASUPDA) would have no option than to demolish the illegal structures at your expense, in accordance with section 48 (2) of the aforementioned laws, please,” the letter read.
When New Impression visited Gbagyi Villa on March 6, a mournful atmosphere pervaded the entire community as people huddled in groups discussing the development.
Ikeonu Ndilonu, who owns a splashing Abuja-style four bedroom facility in the area, said he had moved into the house with his family barely four weeks before the demolition notices popped up. Ikeonu said he bought the piece of land from the traditional ruler (i.e. Sarki) of Gbagyi Villa and further explained that he ensured the conclusion of all processes with relevant government agencies before the commencement of construction on his residence. He said all his life’s savings had gone into the project, adding that he had no option but to resort to heavy borrowing from banks when it became obvious that the funds he had at hand could not complete the building of the property. Ndilonu also told this reporter that he did not know what he would do if El-Rufa’i with his penchant for demolition carries out his threats. “I can’t even remember exactly how long I’ve been working on this house. I only know that everything I saved went into it…”, his voice trailed off as tears threatened to betray his emotions. Beside him, was his wife, heavy with pregnancy, crying quietly.
In an emotionally laden voice and tears almost dropping from his eyes, Ikeonu Ndilonu lamented that his forty-eight year old wife has been suffering pains in her chest since March 4, the day officials of KASUPDA had come to put up the demolition notices. New Impression checks also showed that Ikeonu was not the only person in Gbagyi Villa in that mood as there are hundreds of people who suddenly developed several heart related ailments as a result of the demolition notice.
The anger, agony, anguish and mournful dispositions of the people in Gbagyi Villa against Governor El-Rufa’i could almost be tangibly felt following his slating for demolition precisely on the 26th of March, the entire community with no fewer than 3,500 fully developed modern housing units, primary/Nursery and Secondary schools, 40 Churches and about 4,000 inhabitants if the notices of demolition pasted on the buildings all over the Villa are anything to go by.
Mrs. Lucy Edolo, a widow and indigene of Bayelsa State who had just returned from the burial of her husband, late Christopher Ebiokubu that owns a modest four bedroom apartment on a piece of land measuring roughly 50 feet by 100 feet which is located on John Tanko Street of the Gbagyi Villa said, “My husband and I toiled for years before we were able to put up this structure. I can assure you that before we started building the house, my husband made sure he obtained the KASUPDA’s planning permission to build.” Mrs. Edolo showed this reporter some documents and the official part payment receipt for payment to the agency.
Gbagyi Villa is beautifully located in a serene expanse of land covering about 600 acres directly behind the popular Kaduna Polytechnic on the Nnamdi Azikiwe Bye-pass adjacent to Sabon Tasha. The Villa, an expansive land serving as home to about 4,000 inhabitants is a well-organized settlement with clearly delineated roads and plots. Gbagyi Villa also enjoys active business activities with super-markets, hotels and other assorted businesses as well as a robust social life. The Villa’s location, few kilometres from the ever noisy, hustle and bustle of the Kaduna metropolis gives it a serene atmosphere, an ideal place to retire to at the end of the day’s tedium.
New Impression investigations revealed that Gbagyi Villa is a long standing settlement which historically belongs to the Gbagyi people. However, this magazine learnt that without any form of compensation to the original Gbagyi inhabitants, in mid ‘70s, the federal government designated the entire area as the permanent site of the Kaduna Polytechnic with the issuance of statutory N0. NCL 3075; NCL. 6940 and this meant that the indigenous inhabitants had to relocate. Given the vast nature of the settlement, the Polytechnic however did not occupy the entire land, choosing as it did, to locate other campuses of the institution at Unguwan Rimi, Tudun Wada and Barnawa areas of the state capital. Meanwhile, no perimeter walled-fence was built to cover the entire 1,120 acres’ land although some portions of it where staff quarters and CASSS were built are fenced, yet not all of it is fenced. One of the original indigenous owners of the area toldNew Impression that the actual measurement of the whole land comprising the present expanse covered by the Polytechnic and the Gbagyi Villa is about 1,120 acres.
Before anyone including the management of the institution could notice it, and over many years, this reporter learnt that the original inhabitants, bitter about the non-payment of compensations, coupled with the allegation that their sons and daughters are not given employment especially in the junior staff cadre of the Polytechnic as enshrined in the Federal Character Law, out of anger and frustration decided to recover their land. But Muhammadu Lawal Kamba, the Deputy Registrar of the Polytechnic claimed that the original settlers on the land had been paid compensations. That instead of relocating, they resorted to parceling out the land for sale while others went ahead to erect structures on the land. Following these sale and purchases, people began to erect modern residential structures while others established schools, shopping complexes for businesses there. Gbagyi Villa is currently a mini-Nigeria having a representation of almost every ethnic group in Nigeria owning a plot there. The past religious crises that engulfed the state is reason why there are no Muslims living there as Kaduna has since been divided residentially along religious lines.
Armed with some documents containing great revelations relating to the land in controversy and the verbal briefing received that the late Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa had in 2011 made frantic efforts to find permanent solutions between the management of Kaduna Polytechnic and the Gbagyi Villa community, New Impressionset out to investigate and get to the roots of the current crisis.
Some of the Polytechnic staff and officials who spoke to New Impression on condition of anonymity, said at the time the management of the institution noticed the encroachments, over 1,500 modern structures had been erected and efforts to reclaim the land became difficult and fruitless as the settlers stiffly resisted any attempt to evict them.
The battle to have them evicted from the land became completely difficult or impossible until a suit N0. KDH/KAD/407/2010 was filed in the High Court of Justice of Kaduna State and brought before His lordship, Justice Abiriyi now at the Court of Appeal by the Governing Council of the Federal Polytechnic Kaduna and the Federal Polytechnic Kaduna with Mr. Hassan Sarki, Mr. Luka Barde (Alhaji), Mr. Dantata Auta, Mr. Joel Bala, Alhaji Usman Ali and other defendants who are persons as yet unknown as defendants, while Barr Emmanuel Kantiok served as the defense counsel in this case.
As the legal fire-works continued, for reasons best known to the plaintiffs (i.e. Federal Polytechnic Kaduna), they applied for out of court settlement to which the defendants obliged. This magazine reliably gathered that the management of the Polytechnic later decided to approach the late Governor Patrick Yakowa. Upon Yakowa’s intervention with a promise to give the institution another land elsewhere so as to allow the inhabitants of Gbagyi Villa to take full and permanent possession of the land, the end to the prolonged land crisis was immediately foreseeable. The decision to give the Polytechnic another land was preceded by extensive discussions and widespread consultations which enabled the then governor to broker a truce, an agreement which resulted in the demarcation of a certain area of the hitherto Polytechnic land, while the people of Gbagyi Villa were then allowed to retain their settlement.
New impression learnt from some management staff of the Polytechnic as well as from impeccable KASUPDA sources that the then governor had expressed the feelings that it would be inhuman to displace such a large population which informed his promise to issue the school another portion of land elsewhere, a promise which he was yet to fulfill before his untimely death in a Helicopter accident.
However before Yakowa’s death, a White Paper Committee was set up under the chairmanship of I.L. Ibrahim, the state Solicitor-General & Permanent Secretary. The state Surveyor-General, M.L. Balarabe was also mandated to produce a sketch map demarcating the Polytechnic land from that of the people of Gbagyi Villa which was done. The sketch map was attached to the letter to the Registrar, Kaduna Polytechnic from the Ministry of Justice dated 12th May 2011 with reference number WPC/T/1/17. This magazine cannot authoritatively confirm if former Governor Mukhtar Yero fulfilled the late Yakowa’s promise of giving the Polytechnic another land as government is a continuous process.
With Yakowa’s death, obviously not satisfied with the way he (Yakowa) handled the case, the Polytechnic authorities renewed their efforts to reclaim the entire settlement. Surprisingly and obviously out of mischief, Lawal Muhammadu Kamba, the Deputy Registrar Information and Protocol of the Federal Polytechnic Kaduna in an interview withNew Impression claimed that when the Polytechnic management visited the late Governor Yakowa and presented all the facts concerning their ownership of the land and the encroachment, the late governor did not take any action. Kamba posited that since the late Governor Yakowa did not take any action and the Polytechnic had not achieved what it set to achieve, they had to continue “until you achieve what you want to achieve”.
“The former governor of Kaduna State, late Yakowa was visited on the particular land. I was there in the entourage of the management. We presented our facts as we did this time around and no action was taken. When action was not taken then you have to follow it continuously until you achieve what you want to achieve,” Kamba said.
From Kamba’s submission in the interview, it would seem that when the Polytechnic did not achieve what it initially set out to, that is, total eviction of the people from Gbagyi Villa, the only option left was to represent the matter to the current governor, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufa’i who promised to take action. Kamba said, “But when the case was last presented, that was on 19 October 2015, the Management visited the current governor of Kaduna State and presented all the facts concerning the ownership of the land. When all the facts were presented to the present governor, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufa’i promised to take action”. El-Rufa’i was ready to do the cruel and dirty job of demolishing over 3,500 houses in Gbagyi Villa.
Lawal, the Deputy Registrar of Kaduna Polytechnic who claimed to be conversant with the details of this land disputes and who said he was in the entourage that visited the late Governor Yakowa, but no action was taken at this juncture was given a letter from the Kaduna State Ministry of Justice addressed to the Registrar with reference N0. WPC/T/1/7 dated 12th May 2011 which conveyed to the institution government decision to constitute a White paper Committee on the encroachment into Kaduna Polytechnic land. After reading the letter, he denied ever seeing that document. Kamba said, “I have not seen this letter.” Although Kamba has denied ever seeing this letter, New Impressionhowever can authoritatively confirm that the institution is presently defending a suit filed by some people who further encroached into the land within the walled-fence and the same letter is one of the documents annexed as exhibits to proof the Polytechnic’s ownership of the whole land.
It will be recalled that after the late Governor Ibrahim Yakowa had promised to give the Polytechnic another land and when the agreement was concretized, the Polytechnic immediately proceeded to build the dwarf fence demarcating their land from that of Gbagyi Villa. But when Kamba, the Information and Protocol officer of the school was asked the year the dwarf fence was built, he claimed not to know. But when the reporter rephrased his question to know during whose tenure as governor of Kaduna State the dwarf fence was built, Kamba said it was during the late Governor Yakowa’s tenure.
Kamba, consciously or otherwise eventually opened up on the Polytechnic’s stance regardless of the peace brokered by the late Yakowa when he said, “As far as we are concerned, the management was not satisfied with what the former governor (Yakowa) did. You understand what I am saying? What I am just telling you is that as far as management is concerned, we still want our land to be retrieved from the community”.
Also asked what the Polytechnic will want to be done since there are up to 2,000 houses already erected at Gbagyi Villa, Kamba said, “The government is to take the decision”. Although Kamba said the government is to take the decision on the matter, what is not clear is whether he and the present management of Kaduna Polytechnic do not agree that the late Governor Ibrahim Yakowa’s administration which brokered a peaceful resolution was a legitimate one and whether Yakowa’s action was not a decision.
Given Governor Nasiru El-Rufa’i’s seeming penchant for demolitions, it is easy to understand the fears of the people. Already, several buildings in Zaria, Kaduna Millennium City, Maiduguri road, just to mention a few, have gone under El-Rufa’i’s bulldozers. Also, at the Thursday, March 17 press conference, some aggrieved Gbagyi Villa landlords accused the governor of hating Christians and particularly, the people of Southern Kaduna, adding that he takes delight in making people cry.
Another interesting twist in the whole drama is the role KASUPDA is playing. Documents at the disposal of New Impression indicate that the agency is playing double standard. The same agency that has gone to paste demolition notices on the walls of the building at the Gbagyi Villa accusing the people of building without obtaining planning permission is observed to have issued many of them permission to build. Meanwhile, there is no evidence to show that at any time, such permission was revoked. This magazine is in possession of at least, three photocopies of planning permission issued to Mr. Christian Ojole, Alex Abedo and Dr. Dogara Bijimi (Habek Int’l School). The permissions were duly computed and issued by KASUPDA. Original copies of payment receipts belonging to KASUPDA were also cited by this reporter.
In an interview, Saratu Haruna, General Manager of KASUPDA who signed the demolition notices told the magazine that occupants of Gbagyi Villa were illegal occupants pointing out that, since the notices were pasted, no one had come forward to complain about any infraction. She challenged anyone with claims of planning permission from KASUPDA to come forward.
The documents in the possession of New Impression however contradict the claims of the KASUPDA General Manager as they appear to prove that the agency itself had continued to issue permissions for development on the land in question until as late as 16th April 2015. The planning permission issued to one Dr. Dogara Bijimi (Habek Int’l School) whose address simply says: Adjacent Aso Hotel, Television, Kaduna, is for the construction of (a) G/floor – (i) thirteen (13) classroom, (ii) A store, (iii) An office, (c) Upper floor – (i) six (6) classes, (ii) A laboratory, (iii) A staff room, (iv) Two (2) Offices, (v) Two (2) Halls (vi) A Library, (vii) A store, (c) Wall fence only along an Access Road, Gbagyi Villa, Television, Kaduna. The document, reference PS/14/PP/ZIII/15,727/VOL.I is registered under certificate of occupancy No. District Head of Television’s Confirmation letter, in Chikun Local Government Area.” It is dated 16th April, 2015 and duly stamped and signed by General Manager, KASUPDA. This building is also marked for demolition come March 26, 2016. New Impression learnt that so many residents of the area are in possession of similar letters.
While the version of the controversy concerning the intervention of late Yakowa is denied by his detractors for instance, Lawal Kamba, some critics also have described El-Rufa’i as a greedy land grabber whose interest lies mainly in the vast economic potentials of Gbagyi Villa. According to such people, El-Rufa’i has been under intense pressure from his estate developer friends and associates, especially those in Abuja, to open up investment opportunities for them in the state capital, which he has set out to do through many of the demolitions in the state. El-Rufa’i’s critics claim that the real reason behind his “callous and deliberate mindset is to send hundreds of people to their early grave by several demolitions”, as one of them, who refused to be named, put it.
This magazine gathered that the management of the Polytechnic which instituted the 2011 suit actually decided to settle for an out-of-court settlement. A Ministry of Justice, Kaduna State communication titled “Re: White Paper Committee on Encroachment into Kaduna Polytechnic Land Situated At Television By-Pass, Kaduna”, and addressed to The Registrar, Kaduna Polytechnic, stated inter-alia: “You may wish to note that the Kaduna State Government constituted a Committee on the issue under reference, which had submitted its report. In view of the security implication, a White Paper Committee was immediately mandated to articulate the position of government on the issue at stake.”
Recalling that the committee held consultations with representatives of both the Gbagyi community and the Polytechnic, the letter further noted that the two sides had agreed on a common boundary, and that both parties had “expressed willingness to file terms of settlement in the impending case before the court”. The letter, dated 12th May, 2011, was signed by I.L. Ibrahim, Solicitor and Permanent Secretary/Chairman, White Paper Committee.
Based on this mutual agreement, New Impression learnt that the late Governor Yakowa directed the Surveyor General of the state to produce a sketch map which the White Paper Committee presented as the demarcating point that clearly delineated the Polytechnic’s land from that of the Gbagyi community. The Polytechnic consequently proceeded to build a dwarf fence to separate its land from that of the Gbagyi people.
To many legal practitioners, El-Rufa’i’s plan to demolish the Gbagyi Villa structures is a flagrant violation of this agreement which many say amounts to spiting on Yakowa’s grave. Others further allege that the management of Kaduna Polytechnic as betrayed by Kamba’s position in the interview earlier mentioned and Governor El-Rufa’i’s hatred for Christians and the people of Southern Kaduna has informed his inhuman decision to pull down 3,500 houses, render about 4,000 people homeless and send hundreds of people to their early grave.
The letter written by the Rector of Kaduna Polytechnic to the General Manager, KASUPDA titled: REQUEST FOR DEMOLITION OF ILLEGAL STRUCTURES AT KADUNA POLYTECHNIC 1,000 ACRES BYE-PASS LAND, KADUNA with reference N0. KPT/CASRTR/GEN.COR/VOL.V/452 dated 19th January, 2015 seems to lend credence to the allegation of El-Rufa’i’s hatred against the people of Southern Kaduna and Christians.
The letter acknowledged the efforts of the late Governor Ibrahim Yakowa for releasing a white paper through the Ministry of Justice which helped to broker peace in the state. The letter reads in part:
“You may recall that on the 20th March, 2014 the Rector and Members of the Polytechnic Governing Council addressed the Kaduna State Security Council Members on the issue of encroachment/trespass at 1,000 acres land parcel belonging to the Institution by the host Community. The Rector stressed among others the effort made by the then Kaduna State Governor Late, Patrick I. Yakowa in May, 2011 for releasing a white paper through the Ministry of Justice, Kaduna State in which the host community was allowed ownership of certain portion of the encroached land parcel in exchange for another suitable land in the interest of peace in the State.
In his response, the Executive Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Dr. Mukhtar Ramallan Yero instructed that your agency should carry out demolition of all illegal structures found on the portion of land that was further encroached beyond the agreed boundary in May, 2011.
It is in the light of the above that the Polytechnic Management is requesting for your agency to arrange for the demolition exercise of all illegal building structures erected within the agreed Kaduna Polytechnic land
Attached to this request are vital documents for your perusal, namely:
Copy of offer of Grant of Statutory Right of occupancy
Copy of Ministry of Justice, Kaduna State White Paper Committee on encroachment into Kaduna Polytechnic Land situate at Television Bye-pass, Kaduna.
Sketch plan demarcating Kaduna Polytechnic Bye-pass campus land and Gbagyi;
Community as resolved between the parties
Description of the Kaduna Polytechnic Land Situated at Television/Rorni villages
along Nnamdi Azikwe Express South Television Village and Anguwan Yelwa Village
Copy of report on demolition of Polytechnic Fence to the Commissioner of Police
Kaduna State written in February, 2011.
Copy of report on Demolition of Polytechnic Fence to the Director of State Services, Kaduna State written in February, 2014”.
A careful examination of the Kaduna Polytechnic’s letter to KASUPDA signed by the Rector, Dr. Muhammed Bello Ibrahim with reference N0. KPT/CASRTR/GEN.COR/VOL.V/452 dated 19th January, 2015 quoted above will show that there was really out of court settlement between the Polytechnic and the Gbagyi Villa community. The letter conceded to that fact when it said, “…The Rector stressed among others the effort made by the then Kaduna State Governor Late, Patrick I. Yakowa in May, 2011 for releasing a white paper through the Ministry of Justice, Kaduna State in which the host community was allowed ownership of certain portion of the encroached land parcel in exchange for another suitable land in the interest of peace in the State”.
Further to above, the Rector in the letter was only asking the GM KASUPDA to carry out the demolition of all illegal structures found on the portion of land that was further encroached beyond the agreed boundary in May, 2011 being the dwarf fence. Dr. Ibrahim in the letter said, “… the Executive Governor of Kaduna State… instructed that your agency should carry out demolition of all illegal structures found on the portion of land that was further encroached beyond the agreed boundary in May, 2011,” adding that, “It is in the light of the above that the Polytechnic Management is requesting fur your agency to arrange for the demolition exercise of all illegal building structures erected within the agreed Kaduna Polytechnic land”.
From the clear request of the Rector that KASUPDA should assist in carrying out the demolition of all illegal structures found on the portion of land that was further encroached beyond the agreed boundary, analysts are asking what is the rational for the governor’s directive that all the structures of the legitimate inhabitants of Gbagyi Villa outside the encroached area which the Polytechnic’s letter complained about be demolished by March 26. Could it be that the allegation that El-Rufa’i has penchant for demolitions and that he hates Christians and the non-Hausa Fulani is true?
On Thursday 16th of March, the Gbagyi Villa Community held a world press conference where they called on the Kaduna State government to leave their community alone. The press conference which was addressed by Chris Obodumu, featured hundreds of men women and children who carried placards denouncing the planned demolition. The community argued that it had no grouse with the Polytechnic or any of its neighbours, pointing out that the Yakowa settlement was still valid. “It is clear to us that the Polytechnic is not laying claim to Gbagyi Villa, and has no pending case against us,” they said.
The community also argued that “the allegation of non-possession of planning permits is false. KASUPDA knows it. It is just a veil to deceive the public and to obscure the true motive of government.”
The Gbagyi Villa community wants the state government to set up a probe committee to verify KASUPDA’s claims that they built without planning permits.
New Impression spoke to some legal practitioners on the out of court settlement which the late Governor Ibrahim Yakowa brokered between the management of Kaduna Polytechnic and the Gbagyi Villa community who said going by the provisions of Evidence Act, Sections 169 and 170, (2011) the Kaduna Polytechnic is Estopped from claiming the portion of land which they ceded to the community. Lawyers believe the honourable part for Governor El-Rufa’i to take is to conclude the last leg of the peace earlier brokered by the late Ibrahim Yakowa by giving the Polytechnic the promised land elsewhere and also to ensure that those who have encroached the Polytechnic land be removed.
The Rector of Kaduna Polytechnic, Dr. Muhammed Bello Ibrahim in his letter to KASUPDA acknowledged that the late Governor Ibrahim Yakowa had offered to give the institution another land. A sketch map demarcating the full 1,000 acres’ land into two; one for the Polytechnic and the other for the Gbagyi Villa community was produced by the state Surveyor General which the institution has since been using.
The Polytechnic has also in agreement with the demarcation as shown in the sketch map since 2010 built a dwarf wall-fence around its land. Government is a continuous process. If the provisions of the Evidence Act, Sections 169 and 170 (2011) is anything to rely upon vis-à-vis the out of court settlement and or agreement entered between Kaduna Polytechnic and the Gbagyi Villa community, then the motive for the demolition notices the governor through KASUPDA served the community becomes questionable. It remains to be seen how a government that prides itself as a government working for peace in the state shall resolve this impasse which critics believe it created.
All efforts to get the Special Assistant to governor on Media and Publicity, Samuel Aruwan to arrange for an interview with his principal or for him or any of the governor’s representatives to speak on the matter proved abortive. New Impression forwarded this text message to him as early as 9.45am: “Good morning Samuel. Please we are doing a story on the Demolition Notice served Gbagyi Villa for two of our newsmagazines. I have interviewed the GM KASUPDA and there is still the need to get the governor’s side to balance our story. Please can you arrange or speak on his behalf? Publisher, New Impression & Prevailing Truth magazines”. Samuel did not reply until after four hours and he simply said, “Kaduna Polytechnic will address a press conference tomorrow.”
We replied to tell him that, “I have already interviewed the Deputy Registrar on the instructions of the Rector. It is government angle that is remaining now. Do I meet you in the office?” But in his further reply, Samuel insisted we should see the Rector. “In a briefing, it’s the Rector that will address the press conference tomorrow.”
New Impression however called the SA Media line three times, it rang but he did not pick the call only to reply that, “Sorry, I can’t talk right now”. The Publisher of New Impression immediately drove to government house at about 3.15pm for the purpose of getting the government side of the story but his office was locked. While trying to leave a short note for him, Aruwan came out of an office which is next to his. A request was made for him to speak on the matter but he declined.