Laleye Dipo in Minna
Two people were said to have died as the Niger State Government embarked on the demolition of illegal structures at the old barracks in Suleja town of Niger.
One of those whose structure was demolished, Mr. Timothy Sulaiman, said one of those who died, a woman, lost her life at the Suleja General Hospital.
The police did not confirm the story while the General Manager of the state Urban Development Board (NUDB), Hajia Habiba Ahmed, the organisation that carried out the demolition exercise denied the claim.
â€œLet them show us the corpses of those that died or their graves,â€ Ahmed declared.
Several structures belonging to traders erected on the old barracks land, were pulled down as the police, men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps provided security cover for the officials.
According to a source, the demolition of the structures followed the expiration of the ultimatum given to the occupants to vacate the land in their own interest.
There were wailings as the bulldozers pulled down the buildings.
After about two hours of operation by the NUDB officials, the old barracks had become a plain land even as some of the former inhabitants were left to salvage what they could out of their property.
The state government yesterday, however, defended the demolition, describing the â€œoccupants as illegal tenantsâ€.
The Commissioner for Information, Mr. Jonathan Vatsa, told journalists at the venue of the demolished site yesterday that the state government had â€œmagnanimouslyâ€ paid certain amount of money as compensation through the military authorities to those who might be affected by the exercise shortly after the official handover of the land.
â€œAs far as we are concerned, those you see there are illegal tenants because the issue of who owned the land was settled a longtime ago between the state government and the military and that is why the military is involved in this exercise. Who are the so called tenants paying rent to,â€ Vatsa queried.
Some of those affected had threatened to take legal action against the state government.