DATKEM Demolition: You are not above the law, Dapo Abiodun tells Gbenga Daniel

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The  Ogun State governor, Dapo Abiodun has said that in Nigeria and the state at large, no one is above the law. 

Abiodun on Monday while reacting to the accusations following the demolition after inspecting the 8-kilometre Mowe-Ofada Road, in Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of the state explained that the law that governs ordinary citizens also applies to the VIPs.

The governor who reiterated that his administration will not tolerate lawlessness and the violation of the state’s building codes, denied any political motives in the partial demolition of DATKEM Plaza, Ijebu-Ode.

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According to the him, the partial demolition exercise carried out by the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development was in line with the laws of the state.

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“The reasons are very simple, we are a responsible government. We are responsible to our citizens. We are a law-abiding administration. I’m sure that everyone would testify to the fact that since I assumed office in 2019, I have ensured equity, fairness and upheld the rule of law. I have not in any way attempted to be vindictive or in any form or manner appear like someone who is trying to witch-hunt anyone.

“Having said that, because these are some of the insinuations I have read on social media and nothing could be farther from the truth. You all have seen the position of the Ministry of Physical Planning, which is the ministry that is entrusted with ensuring that people adhere to our different building codes. Because if we don’t respect building codes, if we don’t abide by building laws, it means that we are nothing but a chaotic society.

“These are the people charged with ensuring that our cities and towns are well laid out, well planned and the buildings that are constructed are safe to live in. We are all living witnesses to what has happened in the state and Lagos State when buildings have collapsed. And proactively, our government and across the country have brought some buildings down for violations of different building regulations.

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“Only a few weeks ago, the new minister of the FCT said any person who builds in FCT without approval no matter how highly placed they are, be it a minister or anybody, the building will come down. And recalled sometime last year, when a building collapsed on Gerald in Lagos, a building that belonged to someone that I know personally, I held a press conference and said we would not allow for this to happen in Ogun State. You build without approval, you build beyond your approval, if you don’t build in line with our regulations, that building will come down.

“Now, let’s go to this DATKEM. First I can assure you that our physical planning team do not have the responsibility of unmasking who the owner of a company is. It is beyond their mandate. As far as they know, a company called DATKEM had applied for approval to erect a five-story building. That approval was filed in 2009, way beyond our administration. But sometime in 2022, a contravention notice was sent to the owners of DATKEM.

“In Ogun State and in Nigeria, we don’t have a set of laws for the common man and the VIP. That is not the way it works. There is one law for everybody. Nobody is above the law. And the law is not the respecter of VIPs or VIPPs. So, they sent the contravention notice to DATKEM, regardless of who the owner of DATKEM was, which was not their priority. After they sent that contravention notice in May 2022, they sent a stop order notice to DATKEM, saying you are in contravention, stop working on this project until you come and correct these contraventions. They followed that stop order with another stop order. They sent a violation order. They sealed the premises. “The owners of DATKEM in their minds must have felt they were above the law. It smirks of impunity if the Ministry of Physical Planning sends you a contravention order, sends you a seal order and you continue with the construction in violation of the safety of all of us in Ogun State.

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“They sent you a demolition order, you still did not respond. You begin to sneak into the building at night, you begin to work there. You begin to attempt to grease palms so that they can overlook your contraventions. But, of course, a day of reckoning will always come.”

The governor claimed that buildings are destroyed every day in the state without anyone noticing, and he also said that if his property breaks any rules, it should be dismantled.

With response to the charge of retaliation, the governor recalled his involvement with a different property owned by the putative owner of DATKEM.

He said: “Let me take you down memory lane. The purported owner of this property, when I assumed office in 2019, had a property in Abeokuta. It was meant to be a hotel. My predecessor had sealed that property for eight years. He had issued a stop order. He was going to demolish that building, but for my intervention. I pleaded with him. That building remained under lock and key until I resumed office. The first day I was sworn in was the very day the owner moved into that property for the first time in eight years. And today, the property is called Conference Hotel in Abeokuta.

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“How do you now begin to accuse the same me that facilitated the completion of that project despite different court actions that were brought then, despite different charges by the EFCC that were hanging around the project. I actually commissioned that project alongside the former vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. You are now trying to use media, trying to attract unnecessary sympathy, playing the underdog that I, Dapo Abiodun, demolished a property that first I didn’t know it was yours; your name is not on that property. You never came forward to say this property is yours.

“You expect that someone, who is a serving senator, a former governor of this state, would show a level of more responsibility. I have said it that I, Dapo Abiodun, if I have a building that violates the building code, bring it down.

He however warned residents who are building without approval’s adding that the law of the state will eventually catch up with them.

“And by this, I am sending a strong warning to all of us across the state. There are many of you who have buildings without approvals. There are many of you who don’t even have C of O. If you have built without approvals, the long arm of the law will soon be catching up with you. We will not tolerate lawlessness in this state. We will not be defined by lawlessness and half hazard development when you just build anyhow.”

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