PUBLIC condemnation and outrage greeted the demolition of part of the Music House, the office complex of Fresh FM owned by the ace musician, Mr Yinka Ayefele, on Sunday.
Nigerian Tribune gathered that as early as 5.00 a.m., a bulldozer was used to pull down a part of the building and the perimeter fence, including some offices for the reception, newsroom, stores, among others.
Eyewitnesses said the team that came for the exercise was guarded by security personnel who provided cover against any attack.
The state government had, last week Monday, served a three-day demolition notice on the radio station, claiming it contravened urban and physical planning law, a decision that is already litigated.
As the exercise was ongoing, the station announced that it was shutting down transmission.
The news attracted fans of the station who came to show solidarity with Ayefele.
Nigerian Tribune found out from among the crowd that some of the sympathisers came from as far as Ijebu towns in Ogun State as well as Osogbo in Osun State.
As the news spread further, the atmosphere at the Music House and some parts of Ibadan metropolis became charged, as irate youths began to vandalise properly while condemning the action in strong terms.
The development forced Ayefele to address the people on air in order to calm frayed nerves.
“Fresh FM fans and lovers of Yinka Ayefele worldwide, I thank you all for consoling me. I thank you for your support and concern. Fresh F.M is not owned by me; you all own it. It is in this kind of situation that you will find a real man.
“Don’t get angry [at the government]; please let there be ceasefire. All our fans should stay calm. The one who did this today can tomorrow do something that will gladden my heart. Please, let us all stay calm and exercise a lot of patience. Let us not indulge in violence. I beg you in the name of God. If truly you love me and the station, please don’t take to violence.
“The government’s public transport bus [Ajumose bus] in front of the demolished building was deliberately parked there. Please, do not touch this bus. I beg you in the name of God. Fresh FM cannot be demolished, even if the building housing it is pulled down.
“Fresh FM is waxing strong and as long as we do not trample upon any law and do not abuse the government and we do not flout broadcasting code and ethics as stipulated by regulators, we shall continue to run the station.
“All our programmes will be running as usual. I take this opportunity to thank the Oyo State government for its love and support for me. I never knew it could get to this level. Nonetheless, I thank the government,” Ayefele said on the station in Yoruba Language.
Sympathisers who came to the scene condemned the action, describing it as politically-induced.
A woman in his late 50s, Alhaji Kudirat Afolabi, who was weeping uncontrollably while speaking with the Nigerian Tribune, said: “The reason I am sad is because Ayefele, despite his physical condition, through this building that was demolished is providing food on the table of hundreds of people on a daily basis.”
Another sympathiser at the scene, Mr Leonard Ighodalo, said he came all the way from Akinyele Local Government Area of the state when he got the news that the building had been partly demolished.
“I just want to tell Yinka Ayefele that nobody can stop him from contributing to the development of Oyo State. He should just be calm,” he said.
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SERAP heads for court, says Oyo govt contravenes UN resolution
Leading non-governmental organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), in a statement, demanded compensation for what it termed unlawful act of the government.
It promised to challenge the demolition and forced eviction in court.
While noting that Nigeria, of which Oyo State is a part, ratified covenants abolishing the alleged illegal act and chided the government for engaging in executive rascality.
In a statement by its deputy director, Timothy Adewale, the group said: “The action is politically motivated, patently arbitrary and entirely inconsistent with international human rights standards and national laws.
“The action amounts to executive rascality and seriously undermines the integrity and authority of our courts. This kind of action has no place in a democratic society that is based on the rule of law.”
It said it would challenge the act in court, adding that the government had not only engaged in forced eviction, but also violated the right to adequate housing, the right to freedom of expression and media freedom.
NUJ demands apology from govt
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) described the demolition as a deliberate effort of government and its agents to attack and assault some sections of the media.
The national body of journalists in Nigeria stated this in a statement signed and released by its national president, Abdulwaheed Odusile.
The union described the act as an impunity, one capable of discouraging a young and aspiring journalists from the profession.
It also demanded an apology from the state government and compensation for what it termed “wanton destruction.”
It said: “The NUJ condemns such acts of impunity and reiterates its position of working closely with stakeholders to promote a safer environment for media organisations and journalists to operate.
“We shall strive to combat relentlessly the present unacceptable level of impunity plaguing the country and deterring aspiring young Nigerians from embracing the profession and those already in the profession from leaving out of frustration.
“The NUJ demands apology and compensation for the wanton destruction of the radio station from the Oyo State government.”
Also, the Oyo State council of NUJ, in a statement jointly signed by the council’s chairman, Mr Adewunmi Faniran and the secretary, Mr Bola Ogunlayi, said it was disturbed that the building was partly demolished when the matter was before a court of competent jurisdiction.
The council expressed concern about the fate of the journalists and other media workers in the establishment as well as the loss suffered by the owner of the broadcast outfit.
“As the fourth estate of the realm and believer in the rule of law, the Oyo State NUJ expects that the court would have been left to take a definite decision on the issue of demolition before it was carried out,” it said.
The council called on the state government to ensure that “it comes to the aid of Fresh FM which has been a pride of Ibadan in particular and Oyo State.”
PDP, ADC, ADP, Makinde, Lanlehin, others react
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in a statement issued by Kola Ologbondiyan, the national publicity secretary, in Abuja, described the development as horrifying.
The party alerted Nigerians to a trend whereby the current clampdown on the media was now being extended to other public opinion moulders, including musicians and perhaps actors.
The party, therefore, called on all groups and individuals to condemn the emerging assault on free citizens for no just cause.
“Nigerians must, at all time, be free to hold and canvass opinion, politically associate and aspire, as long as their actions are within the ambits of our laws,” it stated.
Also, the Oyo State chapter of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) described the act as a manifestation of an anti-people government.
A statement by the publicity secretary of the party’s caretaker committee, Dr Nureni Adeniran, said it was shocked at the development, despite a pending suit on the matter.
“ADC empathises with the chairman, the entire staff of the station as well as all the teeming fans across the world for this unfortunate incident,” he said.
The state chapter of Action Democratic Party (ADP), in a statement by its spokesperson, Lawal Akindele, said the demolition was not only illegal but wicked.
The party added that the action would discourage potential investors from considering the state.
“For us, we see the demolition as an act of cowardice. We are in a democracy. And the constitution we operate is clear on issues like this; whenever there is a dispute between two people, especially with government, the court is the best place to seek redress.
“Dr Yinka Ayefele followed due process and the court had fixed tomorrow [today] for hearing. The demolition, especially at an odd hour, is undemocratic. Just like Dr Ayefele had alleged, it is political,” the party said.
A governorship aspirant in Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, in a statement issued by its campaign organisation and signed by Mr Dotun Oyelade, said he had to personally visit the station to confirm the incident.
Makinde, who met with Ayefele during the visit, said his presence at the Music House was beyond politics.
He said what the state government did was selective justice, sparing hundreds of structures to target the radio station.
He encouraged the staff and management not to despair as better times, according to him, would soon come.
Another governorship aspirant on the platform of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Senator Olufemi Lanlehin, described the development as complete adherence to the rule jungle.
Speaking to newsmen at the scene, Lanlehin berated the state government for carrying out the exercise despite the pendency of a litigation against its action.
“What I am seeing here this morning is unbelievable, incredulous and a total negation of the rule of law. This is complete adherence to the rule of jungle. I have been following the matter for some days now and I know the matter is in court.
“What the government has done is totally unacceptable and you can see the spontaneity of the solidarity from the people,” he said.
Also speaking with newsmen, a member of the House of Representatives, Honourable Dapo Lam-Adesina, described the incident as disheartening.
“It is very disheartening to see the building demolished. I was on the radio station yesterday [Saturday]. When I woke up this morning, I heard that the station was demolished in the middle of the night.
“Even if the governor has the right to do anything, it should not be done in the middle of the night. The government should have done it during the day if it has nothing to hide.
“It is a matter that is in court and so I would not like to say much about it. The government ought to have waited for the outcome of the matter in court before any action is taken,” he said.
Also reacting to the development, a member of the state House of Assembly, Honourable Olusegun Olayele, queried why the government demolished part of the radio station.
“When I was with Governor Abiola Ajimobi, the station gave me a platform to project the APC government under Ajimobi. The station has been involved in fair, balanced reporting of activities in the state and beyond.
“What the governor has done is gross abuse of power and an act of impunity,” he said.
A sociopolitical group, Itesiwaju-Oyo Coalition Movement, in a press statement by its coordinator, Dr Wasiu Olatubosun, condemned the government for dishonouring public opinions and that of the state high court.
A chieftain of the PDP in Oyo State, Senator Hamzat Ayoade Adeseun, in his reaction, said this was yet another intolerant action of the Oyo State government.
According to Adeseun, Ayefele had done the needful by approaching the court, while he urged him and other people of the state to remain calm and be law-abiding.
However, reacting to the development, the Oyo State government said it had nothing against Fresh FM as a media station, adding that the issue had to do with matters of deviating from originally-approved building plans without due approval.
According to the government, the matter was in no way that of witch-hunting or based on sentiments neither is it a vendetta against the media house as being portrayed by some people.
The government said the station was still on air because the issues were in no way related to the operations of the radio station but the structure.
“The demolition notice had earlier been served on the Music House, Fresh FM 105.9, Ibadan, just as contravention notices were served on different organisations in the state since June 14, 2017, including all radio stations in the state.
“This was after the government observed that property owners in the state are deviating from the originally approved building plans without seeking physical planning approvals from the Oyo State Bureau of Physical Planning and Development Control.
“The decision of the state government to demand for the building approved plan was not peculiar to Music House, as several companies and institutions such as the University of Ibadan, Kola Daisi University, University College Hospital, banks and radio stations in the state were asked to provide their planning approval.
“The government recently demolished several banks ATM extension and some local government structures in the state in line with the building laws of the state. So it was not an ambush as the letter to Fresh FM was received by one Bamiduro Aderonke and a reminder letter dated August 18, 2017 was sent to the radio station, to request for the planning approval/permit for the radio station in line with the Oyo State Physical and Development Control laws in which the radio station was expected to forward the approved building plan to the bureau within seven days.
“A copy of the letter was received by Adebisi Akinfunmi on August 21, 2017 and the submitted building approval was actually meant for an office complex and not a radio station, thereby contravening the Oyo State Physical Planning and Development Control laws, sections 30, 31 and 32 of the Oyo State Physical Planning and Urban Development Law of 2012.
“The submitted approval from Music House deviated from the approved plan which effect makes the approval null and void, because deceitful information was given to the approving authority and also deviation from the approval granted both in construction and use.
“A physical inspection was carried out on June 25 to ascertain the extent of the deviation from the approval where it was discovered that apart from the change in use of the building, spatial standards in terms of setback, airspace and parking spaces were found to be grossly inadequate.
“As a result of its findings, the government sent another letter to the Music House on June 29, to submit a fresh building plan application that will reflect the existing structures on site, but the radio house deliberately ignored the letter as there was no response from their end till date and based on that deviant posture, the Bureau was prompted to serve a three-day demolition notice on August 13, which expired on August 15.
“The government had also received petitions subsequent upon three fatal accidents that occurred around Music House in the last nine months, as the petitioners urged the government to look at the physical structure of the organisation in relation to the dual carriage way which lends itself easily to accidents.
“The government will do the needful and follow due process in accordance with the laws of the land but will not dignify or elevate the tantrums of Music House, Fresh FM, as there is nothing political in the matter as other institutions affected are all taking steps to regularise their plans,” the government noted.