Ademola Babalola in Ibadan
Like a thief in the night, officials of the Oyo State Government made real the threat of the government to demolish the multimillion naira radio station, Fresh FM, owned by ace musician, Yinka Ayefele, for allegedly contravening town planning law of the state.
Notwithstanding the notice filed at the State High Court by Ayefele and despite the appeals made to Governor Abiola Ajimobi by a cross section of eminent Nigerians, Oyo state officials, backed by armed security agents, went ahead to carry out the partial demolition of the edifice which made the station to be off the air for about four hours.
Reports said the men arrived the station around 6am and fired several gunshots to scare staffers and passersby away as they commenced the demolition exercise which lasted for just few minutes.
Moments after the station went off the air, photos of the demolished structure went viral on social media and people trooped out to protest the development. By 7:30am, the road from Challenge and the tollgate bridge that connects Lagos to Challenge in Ibadan became impassable as the surging crowd filled the expressway, cursing the state government.
Many defied their church services to sympathise with Ayefele, a popular gospel singer. The station is situated on Lagos-Ibadan by-pass, Challenge.
The State Government had last week issued a three-day ultimatum to the station and threatened to demolish it. But the station owner had since approached the court. The case comes up on Monday.
Trucks and small vehicles heading towards Lagos and coming into the city of Ibadan were held up in the traffic that lasted for over 8-hours on Sunday while many going to their respective place of worship had to make U-Turn.
Many youths seized the opportunity to destroy some posters and billboards belonging to some gubernatorial aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to register their displeasure against the demolition of the station.
Director of Ayefele Nigeria Limited, David Ajiboye, who told reporters that the station had all the documents obtained from the state government for the establishment of the radio station on the plot it was built on, regretted that the station had lost a new equipment worth N28million to the demolition. Areas affected by the demolition include the roof of the building, reception, Ayefele’s main office, a section of the studio, canteen, the staircase, parking space, and office equipment like computers among others.
Ajiboye said the challenge-Lagos-Ibadan axis was approved by government as a business premises but was surprised that government could say it was not meant for radio station.
He said the government in its claims said the canteen and staircase in the building were not in the building plan.
The director of the station further said a commissioner in the government was behind the demolition saying he had approached the station to stop certain programmes.
He noted that the station had to reply the commissioner that it was only Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) that had the power to sanction a radio programme on air or close the station down the station.
He said the station was fair to all the political parties in the state as against the claim that the station was working for a certain political party.
When our correspondent arrived the station around 7:30am Sunday, the protesters, were raining curses on the people behind the demolition, while many sympathisers were wailing.
One of the protesters, Akeem Jabaru, told our correspondent that the government of the day proved that it had no respect for the rule of law.
He noted that the demolition was inhuman because over 200 widows were on the payroll of the station while 150 workers were receiving salaries from Ayefele monthly.
Another sympathiser, Lanre Babatunde, said going by his profession as a surveyor, he had observed that there were plots of land that were supposed to be demolished without getting to the station.
Politicians in the state also used the opportunity to vent their grievances against the government of the day as they condemned the action of the state government.
A gubernatorial hopeful of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Seyi Makinde; stalwarts of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Senator Femi Lanlehin and Chief Sarafadeen Alli; serving House of Reps member, Dapo Lam-Adesina; state lawmaker, Segun Olaleye; and former Deputy Governor, Alhaji Taofeek Arapaja, were some of the early callers at the station to sympathise with the owner.