Emotion has been running wild in social and conventional media platforms following the partial demolition of DATKEM Plaza, Ijebu-Ode, belonging to the wife of former governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State, Yeye Olufunke. Two issues have been involved in the unfounded insinuations surrounding the misinterpretation of the action of the Ogun State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development which ordered the demolition. One is that most commentators have only focused on the personalities involved in the imbroglio rather than the motive behind the exercise. The second point is the deliberate misinformation that has filled the airspace as a result of the desperate move by the purported owners of the building to attract public sympathy.

On one hand, one of the agents in charge of the construction work went to town casting dispersion on the state governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, accusing him of political vindictiveness. In another breadth, they berated the regulatory body for working against itself with the demolition exercise since it had a yet-to-be approved building plan for the property way back in 2009 when it was registered. Quoting the Approval Number: APN: CB/05/299/2009, a widely circulated press statement purportedly signed by DATKEM management said, “The midnight brigandage of the agents of government or persons believed to be working for certain persons of interest in, or carrying the Orders of the Ogun State Government under the Mr. Dapo Abiodun led-government, declaring the DATKEM Plaza, Ijebu Ode as an illegal structure without an approved plan” was absolutely untrue and contradictory.

“Since it has been established that the building has approval, we seek to know the specific “physical planning laws” and “building codes” that were violated. There were no specific structural defects referenced in all the communication between the builders and the state government,” they insisted. It didn’t stop at that. The management further claimed that, “efforts are being made to doctor the books and records of the urban and physical planning department to look for something they could use to justify the illegal action.”

These are deliberate misrepresentations of facts to whip up public sentiments against government officials on lawful duty and the innocent governor. First and foremost, it is noteworthy that item number seven of the statement admitted that “the developer wrote an appeal for unsealing of the building, and that a “quit notice with Serial No. 0030750 was served on 31st August 2023.”
Without a violation of the law, there would have been no need for sealing of the premises in the first instance.

It is, however, curious that the writer of the press release deliberately decided to remain silent on the specific issues of violation which necessitated the ‘stop orders’ issued by the concerned authority before the building was eventually pulled down for no reason other than the impunity of those who are supposed to know better.

Again, contrary to the standard rules of engagement as they relate to the provisions of the Ogun State Urban and Regional Planning and Development (OGURPD) Law 2022, Ogun State Planning and Development Permit Regulation 2022 and Ogun State Building Production Management Regulation 2022, the builder gave himself a clean bill of health, saying the construction complied with all standards and regulations even when it was obvious that some infractions had been committed. So, by saying that “there were no specific structural defects referenced in all the communication between the builders and the state government”, the management is merely trying to be economical with the truth.

Now, let’s go to the basis of this intriguing scenario and the deliberate distortion of facts. Some individuals with warped minds have been trying to confuse the unsuspecting members of the public by linking the demolition exercise with the perceived frosty relationship between OGD and Governor Abiodun. They deliberately chose to do so in order to cover up some of the contraventions that were observed in the course of constructing the edifice. But did anybody hear about it when the same individual seized the opportunity of the ascension of Governor Abiodun to power in 2019 to take possession of a property that had been sealed for eight years by his immediate successor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, despite different charges put on it by the EFCC? For those who care to know, that is the story of the Conference Hotel in Abeokuta. For the benefit of hindsight, that hotel was personally commissioned by Governor Abiodun alongside the former vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. The question is: why has the narrative suddenly changed? We need to know so that the public can decide where the truth lies.

Besides, the issue in contention has begun before the husband of the owner of the property signified interest in joining the All Progressives Congress (APC) late last year and the subsequent jostle for the exalted Ogun East Senatorial District seat. On that basis, the development is devoid of political colouration, but the developer deserves no pity for running foul of due process.
It smacks of impunity if the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development sends you a contravention order, sends you a seal order and you continue with the construction in violation of the safety of all of the citizenry in Ogun State.

We need to know also the reasons cited by the regulatory authorities for issuing the quit notice with Serial No. 0030750 which was served on 31st August, 2023. More importantly, we need to know what steps the developer took to rectify the contravention observed by the Ministry of Planning and the subsequent warnings that the construction did not conform to the plan granted, citing deviation from the airspaces and setback as a major structural defect. The public needs to know what the management meant by saying that the “so-called airspaces will matter only on high-fenced premises.” We need to know whether or not the yet-to-be approved plan included any additional building such as the one in the Generator House and the Electrical Panel room, which the authority noted had added to the density of the property. These are some of the issues the owners of DATKEM need to say to be able to objectively determine whether the partial demolition exercise carried out by the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development was in line with the laws of the state or for the protection of any vested interest either political or otherwise.

Even though there is no accurate data to determine the exact number of innocent people whose lives have been cut short as a result of the negligence of developers and property owners resulting in the incessant cases of collapsed buildings. Yet, this sad episode has remained a recurring decimal in our nation simply because those who are supposed to enforce the law either fail to do their job or those individuals found to be culpable for the carnage are seen to be above the law.

In Ogun State under the present administration, the body language of Governor Abiodun is very clear on the issue of impunity of any sort. And we must all appreciate him on that stand because the law is not a respecter of any person. In this case, available evidence showed that the regulatory authority had warned that the building lacked stage certification, which is usually issued at every stage of construction. To that effect, the agents and the owners were served the necessary notices, including abatement, contravention, stop work, and demolition between May and October 2022, but were ignored. Government officials were also said to have requested the structural engineer in charge of the building to avail the state government of the structural equilibrium of the building, they felt too big to respond.

In all of these, what the developer has done by ignoring some of the perceived contraventions is to show that the owner of the building is above the law. No responsible government will fold its arms watching any person or group of people, no matter how highly placed, violating the laws in such a reckless manner. That is the message the regulatory and the state government have sent to the public by the partial demolition of the building. We cannot wait for another disaster to happen while we watch the culture of impunity grow in Ogun State. Accident does not just happen; it happens due to the error of commission or omission.
“If you have built without approvals, the long arms of the law will soon be catching up with you. We will not tolerate lawlessness in this state. We are the investors’ destination of choice. We are number two in terms of being the industrial and economic capital of this country. We will not be defined by lawlessness and half-hazard when you just build anyhow. People should regularize their documents,” these are the words of the Governor. A word, they say, is enough for the wise.

Ogbonnikan wrote from Abeokuta, Ogun State capital