Olufemi Atoyebi and Peter Dada
The Oyo State Government on Sunday demolished the Music House which housed Fresh FM, a radio station, as well as music studios that belong to artiste, Yinka Ayefele, drawing protest from fans and stakeholders in the entertainment industry.
The demolition was carried out despite a court injunction restraining the government from embarking on the exercise.
The government had last week served a demolition notice on the building owner, explaining that the building contravened physical planning law, adding that the demolition would be carried out after three days of receiving the notice.
According to Ayefele, the building, located in the Challenge area of Ibadan, is valued at over N800m.
The order expired on Wednesday, but while many waited for the government’s next action, the Director of Yinka Ayefele Nigeria Limited, Mr David Ajiboye, told journalists on Thursday that Ayefele had obtained a court injunction, restraining the government from carrying out the demolition.
He had also stated that all relevant documents were obtained before the construction of the building.
However, the state government moved its bulldozer to the scene around 5.30am on Sunday, demolishing a part of the building and putting a halt to programme transmission.
The station went off air around 6.30 am.
The government action drew thousands of sympathisers to the area; many of them were in tears.
The front view of the building overlooking the Ibadan end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, including the fence was demolished.
One of our correspondents, who visited the scene, observed that some equipment in some affected offices had fallen to the ground.
After security men and the demolition team left the scene, fans of Ayefele and the radio station staged a protest against the government’s action.
The protesters blocked a section of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, causing a gridlock, while hundreds of vehicles were forced to seek alternative routes.
The protesters, who remained at the scene for hours, threw objects at vehicles with stickers of the All Progressives Congress or anyone suspected to be a member of the APC government in the state.
A convoy travelling towards Lagos State was waylaid by the protesters. It was delayed for several minutes as the crowd demanded that the occupant of one of the vehicles, a Sport Utility Vehicle, Escalade, wind down the glass and identify himself. It took several gunshots from the police in the convoy to disperse the protesters.
Among sympathisers at the scene were prominent broadcasters in the state and politicians, who condemned the government action.
A governorship aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party, Seyi Makinde, pleaded for calm while calling on Ayefele and staff of the radio station to remain strong.
He said, “I have to personally visit the station to confirm the incident because I believe that no government under civilian rule could contemplate not to talk of actually demolishing a popular radio station under a flimsy excuse. My visit is beyond politics, as the sad development endangers freedom of speech which is the rock upon which true democracy is built.”
When the station returned on air from an alternative studio outside the building, Ayefele called on sympathisers to be calm, saying that the state Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Toye Arulogun, was the one behind the demolition.
Efforts by PUNCH Metro to get the commissioner’s response were not successful, as his mobile telephone was switched off. A text message sent to the phone was not responded to.
Meanwhile, the Freelance and Independent Broadcasters Association of Nigeria has condemned the demolition, describing it as a way of gagging the media by the government ahead 2019 election.
The National President of the association, Mr Desmond Nwachukwu, in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the association, Mr Bisi Ajiboye, on Sunday in Akure, Ondo State, said the action of the Oyo State Government was an “executive recklessness, lawlessness and condemnable.”
Nwachukwu said, “Since the matter is before a court of competent jurisdiction, the Oyo State Government should have acted with caution. This is a media house that has about 200 employees and other independent people that are earning their living in the organisation; and a government is planning to throw them away. This is absurd.
“ We solidarise with Yinka Ayefele, the management and staff of Fresh FM, and by extension our members that are earning their living at the radio station.”
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