THE demolition of Fresh FM 105.9 Ibadan, a radio station owned by gospel musician, Yinka Ayefele has been widely reported in the news.
A dominant representation in the news is that the Oyo State government destroyed a section of the building housing Fresh FM because of the station ’s critical report of the administration of Governor Abiola Ajimobi. The other is that the building of the radio station in its present location deviated from the approved plan, and therefore contravenes the urban and physical planning laws of the state.
The central question, therefore, is whether the demolition of Fresh FM is politically motivated or driven by public interest.
A statement issued on Sunday by Yinka Ayefele identified the Oyo State Commission for Information, Mr. Toye Arulogun as the instigator of the demolition.
“Special thanks to Toyin (sic) Arulogun for he was the one who suggested the demolition.”
Mr. Arulogun though has denied his involvement. In an interview he granted on Sunday, the commissioner said the decision to pull down the structure was taken by the state government on the advice of the Oyo State town planning authorities.
But this statement was contradicted by the lawyer to the Oyo State government, Mr. Yomi Alliyu when he appeared before Justice Iyabo Yerima of the State High Court, the following day.
According to the lawyer, the Oyo State government has expressed shock about the demolition and has prepared to institute a panel of inquiry to unravel the identity of those who pulled down the building.
“My clients are men of honour that respect rule of law and constituted authority and will have no reason to demolish the said property,” he told the court.
But, if the government had not ordered the demolition as Mr Aliyu claimed, who could have? That is the question many concerned citizens of the state have raised before the government eventually owned up to the action.
At the press conference organised by the state government yesterday, the authorities said the building violated the originally approved building plan because it is “structurally defective (and) poses danger or constitutes a nuisance to the occupier or the general public.”
The government also said demolition notices were sent to the management of the radio station but “they failed to respond”.
Various reminders, according to the Special Adviser, Physical Planning and Development Control, Waheed Gbadamosi, were sent on the 19th May 2017, 14th June 2017, 29th June 2018 and 18th August 2018.
Ayefele has dismissed the claims that he received letters four times.
“Tell him to reproduce the letters. We respond to all letters here and we keep our records. This is the demolition notice they served on us. They gave us three days. What manner of man will go on air and tell lies?.”
Ayefele publicist, David Ajiboye also has insisted that the demolition of the station was politically motivated. He told Punch that that Governor Ajimobi indeed once said that people had told him to demolish the building because Ayefele was not in his camp.
Ajiboye quoted the governor saying in October 2016 when he visited Fresh FM :
“I want to use this opportunity to thank God for the ability to be here because when we contested the first time and won, a lot of people came to meet me to destroy the music house because Ayefele is not for us and he is always using songs to insult us. But I didn’t see any reason why I should demolish it because I felt if Ayefele is not for us now, he may be for us later. I am happy today that Ayefele is beside me now and I pray that the business will keep flourishing and this is the best studio I have seen in Oyo State.”
Curious observer like Professor Chidi Odinkalu, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission wondered why would, “for ten years the Oyo State collected premises permit, tenement rate and other taxes on the structure it now calls illegal?”
Others have also found the incident of the demolition curious especially when considering that the station has been accused of defamation caused by the Political Circuit, a programme aired on the Fresh FM on June 30.
The presenter allegedly identified Governor Amosun as a shareholder of the new Central Abattoir at Amosun village, Ibadan. A letter purportedly written by Ajimobi’s lawyer demanded an apology and a sum of N500 million as damages, which the station has not responded to.
Though it is hard to conclude that the Oyo State government’s decision to pull down Fresh FM 105.9 radio station is politically motivated, the timing and the circumstance lend credence to that claim.