The partial demolition of Datkem Plaza, a 5-storey shopping complex owned by the family of the former governor of Ogun state, Gbenga Daniel, has raised much dust in the state. Although the government of Prince Dapo Abiodun has gone to great length to state the facts behind the demolition and how it is about law, order and public safety, the former governor and his associates have been relentless in presenting the matter as an act of political vendetta.
The demolition which occurred last Sunday, brings to the fore the soured relationship between the two leaders; more importantly, it goes to show the imprudence of the former governor who now represents Ogun Central in the Nigerian Senate. For a man who had a running battle with his successor in office, Ibikunle Amosun, over a similar issue of unapproved construction, Daniel may well be thinking of himself as one VIP that is above the law.
Senator Gbenga Daniel
His Project Manager, Engr Olusegun Lawal, made light weather of the matter when he said the complex has no single structural defect and that the Ogun State government’s complaints about the building only bothered on mundane issues like lack of enough parking space, inadequate muster point and inadequate airspace. The general impression he created is that the government acted arbitrarily, with only three days notice before the demolition.
Going by facts that have since come to the fore, however, Lawal’s disclosure is obviously far from the truth: when the state government moved to forcefully stop further development of Datkem Plaza in Ijebu-Ode last Sunday, it was after 12 months of notices and orders that were ignored.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Engr. Olayiwola Abiodun, put the matter in clearer perspective. A building of that magnitude without a full government approval and without an approved stage certification – typically provided at each stage of development – is obviously an illegal structure. And demolition took place after more than a whole year during which the developer was served abatement, contravention, stop work and demolition notices between May and October 2022, all of which were ignored.
It is the height of impunity if indeed DATKEM had submitted an application for an office building in 2009 with registration number CB/05/299/2009 and had gone ahead to deviate from the stated parameters by constructing instead, a building that did not conform with the plan granted. At a time the public is concerned about the frequent incidents of building collapse which have claimed hundreds of lives and caused incalculable damages over the years, the building was allegedly modified and enlarged with an additional storey building at the back, without authorization.
The question is: why does Distinguished Senator Gbenga Daniel believe he is above the law? At a time many buildings whose construction and approval processes circumvent due process have collapsed, there is no excuse for government at any level to turn a blind eye to such flagrant abuses. Earlier in the year, the Building Collapse Prevention Guild indicated that over 271 buildings collapsed in the last 10 years alone, claiming as many as 531 lives as the menace of crumbling structures continues to plague Nigeria’s building industry. Senator Daniel who is an engineer himself, should know the consequences of such impunity. Why then would his company ignore legitimate orders meant to safeguard the public who invariably suffer the devastating effects of building collapses and other acts that accompany non-compliance with building and urban development regulations?
Every right thinking person who has witnessed the effects of building collapse and the cost it imposes on the government and the people must commend the Ogun State government for the proactive action which is in line with the laws of the state. No responsible government that accounts to its citizens will fold its arms and watch a developer treat its legitimate orders pertaining to building codes with such brazen contempt.
The allegation that Governor Abiodun – rather than acting to prevent an unsavoury development and save lives – is on a political witch-hunt, raises other issues of their own. Daniel must have become so self-conceited that he has forgotten so soon that it was the same Dapo Abiodun who extricated him from a similar web during the tenure of Governor Ibikunle Amosun. Another property in Abeokuta, the state capital, belonging to him had got entangled in an alleged non-approval and was sealed by the state government. It had remained sealed and marked for demolition but was only spared following the direct intervention of Abiodun.
Immediately he assumed duty in 2019 as Ogun State governor, Abiodun not only allowed Daniel to move back to site, he facilitated the completion of that project despite different court actions against it and despite charges by the EFCC hanging around the project. Today, the property is the popular Conference Hotel in Abeokuta which Abiodun himself graciously commissioned alongside the former vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
It is anybody’s guess why a former governor and a serving Senator would always be found on the other side of the law, especially when his personal or family projects, like Datkem Plaza, are concerned. To now accuse the governor who previously saved his property from demolition of victimization and political vendetta is uncharitable, to say the least.