Senator Bukola Saraki
Former Kwara State governor, Senator Bukola Saraki, rose Monday to defend his wife, Toyin, against allegations that she was involved with the purported sale of the Ilorin Amusement Park.
A national daily not (THISDAY) had recently linked Saraki’s wife to the controversy surrounding the alleged sale of the park, which used to be known as the Old Ilorin Eid Praying Ground.
She was reported to have been listed in a suit instituted by some elders of Ilorin community as one of the defendants.
Governor AbdulFattah Ahmed had recently hinted that his administration was willing to partner any private developer, who could transform the Park into an income-yielding property as part of efforts at improving its status.
But a statement issued by Saraki’s media aide, Akintoba Fatigun, yesterday to journalists in Ilorin, denied the involvement of Saraki’s wife with any purported sale of the Park, arguing instead that while in office, Saraki used her status to improve upon the lot of the Park and restored its glory.
The statement reads: “In response to a recent article titled: ‘Ilorin Elder Sues State Government’, in which Mrs. Toyin Saraki’s name is wrongfully named as being involved as a defendant in the detailed law suit, the office of Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, would like to state categorically that there is no merit to the article’s claim.
“Reasons as to why Mrs. Toyin Saraki's name has been included are unclear, but the record is available to anyone willing to know that there was never a transfer or acquisition of the said land by Mrs. Toyin Saraki or anyone associated with her.
“It should also be noted that in 2004, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, beautified and renovated the existing structures at the Ilorin Amusement Park as part of her personal philanthropic gesture towards the community, restoring and upgrading the landscape and existing facilities and donating a modern playground installation for the use of the town's children as a community development and environment intervention of Alaafia Kwara, an initiative she started as first lady and still continues to champion.
“This restored the original function of the area, which had hitherto fallen into shocking disrepair and disrepute under pre-2003 administrations as a den for drug addicts, armed robbers, commercial sex workers and others. The then first lady also arranged and paid for the transfer and proper care of wild animals (a large crocodile, several snakes, camels and a baboon) to the University of Ilorin Zoological Department and Gardens retaining only the donkey at the park.
“All these interventions were undertaken with the full knowledge and approval of the relevant state government ministries who expressed their gratitude. The finished product was officially presented to the Kwara State Government through the state Ministry of Women Affairs under whose remit the park then fell in 2005. At the time of Mrs Saraki's intervention for improvement, the Ilorin Amusement Park, bore a boldly inscribed plaque commemorating its commissioning as an amusement park in 1974 by the then military governor, General Gorge Innih of blessed memory.
“This personal philanthropic gesture by Mrs. Toyin Saraki, was made in all sincerity, similar to other gestures and donations made to other state government owned, run, and managed facilities such as the Children’s Specialist Hospital Centre Igboro, where she constructed an isolation ward, an in-patients playroom, a nurses station and a pipe-borne water supply system, generator and ambulance, or the Children’s Reception Centre, Gaa Akanbi, which she renovated in similar manner for the improved care of orphans and vulnerable children, and the Kwara State School For Special Needs where she constructed a kitchen and donated a school bus, braille machines and materials and conducted a Special Educational Needs.
"Training The Trainers" Workshop, to name but a few of her personal endowment towards the welfare and wellbeing of Kwara Indigenes.
“For any group to thus attempt to weave the good name or personage of either Senator Bukola Saraki, or that of Mrs Toyin Saraki, into any supposed alienation of ownership or use of any property or lands is simply a mischievous and ill-advised exercise in futility as all the beneficiary sites of philanthropic gestures remained consistently under their respective ownership and management of the appropriately assigned ministries at all times.
“We would like to use this opportunity to remind Kwarans and Nigerians at large to be weary of information from individuals and organisations who will come forward with hollow accusations,” the statement added.