Tuesday, November, 15, 2011 at about 7:00am, Delta state government under the leadership of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan gave an order to demolish a popular drinking spot, GIDDY’S PLACE in the heart of Asaba, owned by the former state chairman of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), Mr. Gideon Nwaomu. Our Correspondent, takes a look at the motives behind the demolition.
For the owner of Giddy’s place, Mr. Gideon Nwaomu, Tuesday, November, 15, 2011 will forever remain a black Tuesday not to be forgotten like every other day as his only means of livelihood known as GIDDY’S PLACE, established some decades ago was brought down under his nose by the state Task Force on Flood Control and Removal of Illegal Structures following an instruction said to have been given by the state governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.
On that fateful day as early as 7:00am, the task force led by its chairman and commissioner of Environment, Mr. Frank Omare in company of his Land and Survey counterpart, Mr. Patrick Ferife, commissioner for Bureau for special duties, Mr. Tony Nwaka and Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chike Ogeah had barricade the Giddys road and drafted two bulldozers to the premises and to the shocker of sympathizers, passersby and friends of GIDDYS PLACE who besieged the environment, the structures were brought down amidst stern-looking soldiers and men of the Joint Task Force (JTF).
As the property worth millions of naira along Anwai road were been brought down, in spite of the global recognition as a climate change agent by the state, trees were felled as the exercise turned a feast of crying, wailing and raining of curses on the Delta state government by sympathizers. In what looks like victimization, Journalists including our Correspondent were banned from covering the demolition. The owner of Giddys Place was not speared as he was severely manhandled by the security as well as confiscating his digital camera even as his valuables thrown out under the instructions of the Environment commissioner, Omare.
In tears, Nwaomu who witnessed his business of over twelve years brought down like pack of cards, told reporters that the drinking and relaxation spot used to be the home for members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as well as the former governor of the state, Chief James Ibori and the incumbent governor, Uduaghan who used to patronize the place until recently the proprietor pitched his tent with the governorship candidate of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) candidate, Chief Great Ogboru.
While Nwaomu told journalists he had the necessary documents as the legal occupant of the land, Commissioner for Environment, who led the demolition squad through one of his aides, said the exercise was not a press issue, fuelling speculations that the action was meant to politically victimize Mr. Nwaomu. Unconfirmed reports have said, that Uduaghan personally told his commissioners to ensure that the Giddy’s place was brought down or face sack.
Nwaomu, a well known businessman and show business promoter was before now a political associate of Governor Uduaghan before pitching his tent with Ogboru, arch rival of Uduaghan in controlling political soul of Delta state. Nwaomu is known to be a very reputable, hard working and upright businessman in the state who made a lot of friends in the business circle hospitality.
Continuing with his ordeal, Nwaomu stated that “It’s a long story, it started sometime in 2010 before the annulment of the 2007 governorship election. When we saw that things were not going well in our state, we started a group called Action for Democratic Change. We started campaigning about seeing infrastructures on ground and not on television screen, pages of newspapers and billboards. We started reaching out to people to tell them about their rights in politics. In between this time, I got involved in a pragramme in Minaj Broadcast International (MBI) called Political Diary and I was able to air my view which attracted more people into our group because of our objectives. After the election was annulled I was invited back to MBI and I told the world that our election was inconclusive because people were still on queue to vote when results were announced. At the end of the day, Chief Ogboru came to see the traditional rulers in Asaba at the Asagba palace and got to know about our campaign for good governance. He came here and the moment he got here, Dr. Uduaghan called to say that I was hosting Ogboru at GIDDY’S. I told him that the place was a public place and that anybody could come and unwind. I told him that Ogboru came to see my group which I tried to introduce to him but he did not take us seriously. That is how I incurred his wrath and since then he has been after me. GIDDY’S has been asked to pay a tax of N7.2 million and I asked who audited my account.”
According to Nwaomu “They came here and demanded for my Certificate of Occupancy, C of O, named Mr. Felix Izeh, number DTSR 1034, Ref No LA/ A /1738/11, dated October 7, 1997, signed by P. E. Ebitomno (Mrs.) originated from the Military Administrator’s Office, Director of Lands and Survey. Similarly, the Deed of Re-assignment between Izeh (assigner) and Mr. Gideon Nwaomu (assignee), prepared by D. O. Nwanokwai, a legal practitioner, is here with me and after perusing it, they said I was using the place meant for residential as commercial. I responded immediately by getting an architect to draw what is here and I went o apply for change of use which has not been granted. I notice that they were bent on pulling down this place, so I called my lawyer and we went to court. We were in court on September 18 and the government was represented. In fact they asked for adjournment and the case was adjourned to November 18. But yesterday, the commissioners for Lands, Environment, Special Duties and Information came to tell me to remove my valuables that they had directive to bring the place down. They would have done it by 4am but they could not get bulldozers. This morning they came and started the demolition. I tried to take photographs but they ordered the police to beat me up and seize my camera. I want to say that the government in the last six years have been putting GIDDY’S PLACE on the internet as a tourism resort. I want to state here that this government that is telling us about green revolution, climate change, look how many trees they have brought down. A governor that is campaigning about climate change is putting generator everywhere, this is the only project that is going on in the state. I will go back to court to seek redress. This is political victimization.”
On his part Nwaomu’s counsel, Mr. Cyprian Ashibogwu, described the action of government as “arbitrariness of the highest order” stressing that the government has flouted due process as the matter was pending before a competent court of law.
In separate reactions, the state Government through the Commissioner of Information, Mr. Chike Ogeah informed journalists that the exercise was done in accordance with the law. They defended their action, stressing that the demolished building was not meant for business but residential saying that, they have issued many letters and notice to the owner of Giddy’s place but he refused to comply, which necessitated the demolishing exercise.
According to Ogeah “And apparently, security reports that have been reaching the government suggest that that place is a meeting place for criminals and all sorts of nefarious activities take place there. That is number one. I think when that place was approved for any kind of building, it was supposed to be for some form of residential and now it has been converted to commercial use. Secondly which is also very important is that you notice that because of this big television screen we put out, you see our people sit in the middle of the roundabout watching television and that is very dangerous to them, we have situations of lots of accidents, people have been killed there. That is why government also looked at that space there and realizes that we could convert it into a park. The big deep gulley that was there, a lot of money was pumped into san filling it to reclaim the gulley. The idea is to make into a park and that television screen would be turned around and people can sit down and view it. And like we said when we go ahead to get the kind of interactive software we need to get in there, then we can do that and government can use that to reach the people. And off course, this falls under the clause of what government calls overriding public interest. So by the time you look at all these issues you will understand why it has to be done.”
Also reacting, the commissioner of power and energy, Mr. Charles Emetulu stated that “In this country, people easily cross the line of privilege and convert it to right, it is not proper. When el-Rufai came and started demolishing structures in Abuja, people said it’s not proper but when got there after about 12 months, they exclaimed that the place was now looking good. It was for residential building and he has been told severally, ultimatum was issued and it has since elapsed. Let us not be emotional about this, if it is right, it is right, if it is not right, it is not. This is not political as people would think. It has nothing to do with politics or where Ogboru drinks when he comes to Asaba. GIDDY’S had enough time to relocate but he chose not to.”
Reacting to the demolition, state chairman of Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), Chief Tony Ezeagwu condemned in strong term the government action adding that “The Delta state government action after the perceived “Victory” at the election tribunal has suddenly become an albatross to the good people of Delta state and political opponents, an action capable of polarizing the state further. Let the government tell the World why it demolished Giddy’s Place, a highly referenced natural relaxation centre and a beacon of tourism in Asaba Delta state, well located within the parameters of the laws of the state, known to have hosted high profile events such as the famous Star trek of Nigerian Breweries Plc among others. We join all progressives the World over in condemning the reprehensible destruction of Giddy’s place which has served even the perpetrators directly or indirectly in the past since commencement of business in 1996. Why would any right thinking government destroy a tourism spot listed as one of the tourism attractions of the state or a case of political vendetta against DDP and Mr. Gideon Nwaomu, DPP stalwart and CEO of Giddy’s place who has been vocal in the demand for accountability and good governance in Delta state. The world would want to know.”
Lamenting what she called mere political victimization and wickedness, one Rosemary Mordi, Coordinator, Friends of Giddy’s, who said that the relaxation place has brought peaceful co-existence, promotes interaction and community development, insisted that “The area provides a great opportunity of convergence to get information and discuss business in the state as well as providing employment to the unemployed youths in Asaba and its environs.”
A former Commissioner for Economic Planning under Ibori, Clement Ofuani, had described Giddy’s place as a place where people come back to their root, ambiance, design, freedom and preserves reservation and natural environment no matter how flamboyant the person is, the diversity is essential.
Some Government officials who pleaded anonymity told this reporter that “It’s a big pity that Uduaghan is doing this because of political differences. This GIDDYS PLACE was the place in 2007 where a political forum for Uduaghan’s governorship ambition called ‘UGSM’ was given birth to. So since all this time the giddys place was not illegal. It is a known fact that the Udughan doesn’t forgive easily. If you doubt me just go and do your own investigations and you will be shocked what you will find out I bet you.” While cross section of Deltans spoken to condemn the Uduaghan’s action even as they rained curses on government.
A member of the PDP who pleaded not to have his name on print reacted this way “Uduaghan has no respect for rule of law; He is good at flouting court orders. The governor had some time early this year flouted a judgment delivered by Justice G.B. Briki-Okolosi of the state high court in a case between the state PDP chairman, Peter Nwoboshi, Innocent Ezewezie and Peoples Democracy Party (Claimants) & Christopher Okafor, Accord Party, Oshimili North Local Government Council and Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (Defendants). The case which has suit No. A/9/2011 and judgment was delivered in favour of Uduaghan’s party (PDP) but he flouted the judgment to favour the Accord Party against his party. Delta state government strives in what we called Executive lawlessness.” the source noted.
Some businessmen and politicians in Delta accused the governor of not respecting the sanctity of business community as his action of political persecution may drive away investors from Delta, because nobody can invest his hard earned money where there are no security and respect for the rule of law. According to all available information, the people in Delta state put the demolishing exercise carried by the state government as political victimization and persecution of known opponents of Governor Uduaghan as Nwaomu is believed to be one of the deciding factors of political popularity of Ogboru in the area.
While some pundits are accusing the Police and Government of connivance to persecute political opponents, it is in the mind of other oppositions that they are tired with the present situation in the state where the opposition are persecuted.
It was further revealed that several Ogboru’s supporters and political associates have suffered similar fate across the state in recent times where their property have suffered one demolition or the demolition.
Hundreds of sympathizers are visiting Nwaomu for sympathy; among them include some Uduaghan’s government officials that are not happy with the exercise and some supporters, politicians, traditional title holders, business associates and some organizations.
It would be recalled that a similar political victimization incident almost took place sometime in June, 2011 as the state government marked for demolition the multi-Million naira TIVO-Super market belonging to strong supporter of Ogboru and former Commissioner for Finance in Delta State, Love Ojakovo, under James Onanefe Ibori. But the early intervention of a Warri based lawyer and frontline activist, Mr. Omemiroro Ogedegbe who vowed to use all his legal contacts to stop this open political radicalism being shown against a fellow Deltan for no just cause prevented the exercise.
In what looks like relief, Just on Tuesday, November, 22, 2011 the legal battle between the Delta state government and Mr. Gideon Nwaomu, proprietor Giddy’s Place got an injunction order from the state High Court, IV, the order issued by Justice G.B. Briki-Okolosi restrained the government and commissioner of police from carrying out any further action on the said land pending the determination of the suit filed by Nwaomu.
Nwaomu, through his counsels, Mr. Luke. O. Aghanenu, Mr. E.A. Ogana, Mr. C.M. Ashibuogwu had in a suit NO A/204/2011 dragged the state government, Commissioner of Lands and Survey, Commissioner of Police and Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice (Defendants/Respondents) to court, praying it for an order of interim injunction restraining the Defendants/Respondents, their privies, agents, servants, workers, and whoever deriving powers from them from carrying out any act that will be detrimental to the property where the claimant/applicant resides and carries on business known as GIDDY’S PLACE pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice already filed.
Addressing Journalists shortly after the ruling, counsels to the clamant, Mr. Luke. O. Aghanenu and Mr. E.A. Ogana described the ruling as inspiring, courageous and interest of justice adding that the action of the state government when the matter was already pending in court was Executive recklessness of the highest order.
As His Lordship, Justice Okolosi adjourned the celebrated matter to January, 12, 2012, Deltans and indeed the whole world are watching with keen interest and praying for justice to take its course since the court remain the last hope of the oppressed.