ON Friday, May 19, Kaduna state governor Nasir el-Rufai said he would continue to demolish buildings and sack workers till the last minute of his administration.
“Any bad thing we find, we will remove so that the next governor does not need to do it again. Watch out till the eleventh hour when we shall quit office; we will continue to sack bad persons and remove bad things,” el-Rufai said.
In the days following the statement, el-Rufai has been making good his threat of demolishing houses in several areas of the state.
On Monday, May 22, some buildings in the state belonging to Shi’ites, who are members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) led by El-Zakzaky, were demolished by operatives of the Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Authority (KASUPDA).
The demolished buildings included Islamic schools, a hospital and private buildings, according to Shi’ite leaders during a press briefing held after the demolition.
The exercise attracted severe criticisms from the Shi’ite community and gave rise to fears of possible unrest in the state.
Demolition is not a new development in Kaduna state under the El-Rufai administration.
In 2021, hundreds of houses were demolished in Zaria as the Kaduna state authorities began a major demolition exercise.
During his time as the minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), about 800,000 residents were evicted from their homes due to demolition exercises ordered by el-Rufai between 2003 and 2007.
However, the Shi’ites claimed during the press briefing that they were the target of the recent exercise, which they described as vindictive, adding that the only reason given for pulling down their structures was that they were members of a proscribed group.
One of the group’s leaders, Yunusa Lawal, who spoke during the briefing, said there had been no notice from the government ahead of the demolition, and a leaked memo from the KASUPDA suggested that a total of 48 houses belonging to the IMN would be pulled down.
“We were never served any notice to know the reason for the demolition, so we don’t even know the location of the remaining 42 structures they plan to demolish. The only reason we saw in the leaked memo is that we are a proscribed movement, but we are saying we are a religious community; we cannot be banned.
“El-Rufai is pushing us to the wall. We are law-abiding citizens but there is a limit to everything. We cannot fold our arms. We must talk. We are bona fide citizens of Nigeria, even though el-Rufai is not a better citizen than us. He is bastardising everything but we will continue to be law-abiding citizens,” Lawal said.
Another group of people affected by the last-minute demolition exercise are residents of the Gbagyi villa community in Kaduna.
Regardless of the uproar from the Shi’ite community, demolition continued across Kaduna and on May 26, barely three days to el-Rufai’s exit from office, at least 20 houses in Gbagyi villa were pulled down by the KASUPDA.
According to a report, protesting youths seeking to resist the demolition were shot at by security agencies attached to the demolition team, with many sustaining injuries.
One resident of Gbagyi villa, identified as Sarah, reportedly slumped and died upon hearing of the demolition.
El-Rufai had attempted to demolish the Gbagyi Villa in the past, though he was restricted by a court order.
A resident identified as Haruna said el-Rufai nullified all building approvals obtained prior to the court case.
“Following the court judgment in favour of the Gbagyi Villa community, el-Rufai asked us to fill a form for regularisation at the cost of N20,000, and majority had done that.
“Again, just about 10 days ago, KASUPDA brought a letter that el-Rufai had ordered that all buildings approvals obtained before the court case are null and void, asking us to start processing new building approvals and new building plans with dates not earlier than May 2023,” Haruna was quoted as saying.
He also noted that the government gave residents 60 days to secure the approval, adding that the time given for the process had not yet elapsed.
“It is not yet 60 days based on the notice KASUPDA gave us, and we didn’t even say we are not ready to abide by the obnoxious policy, just to allow peace to reign.
“They are the people that are not even ready with the forms needed; yet this afternoon, the same Kaduna State government through the KASUPDA invaded Gbagyi Villa and started demolishing our houses,” Haruna said.
For Haruna, Lawal, and many other residents of the state, loss of property and homelessness is a parting memory by which el-Rufai will be remembered.