By Abdulkareem Haruna
The General Manager of the Borno state Urban Planning and Development Board, Kaka Malam Umar, on Friday, Aug. 26 cleared the air on why his organisation moved to seal the office of a political party that is in opposition to the state-ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The board was on Thursday reported having sealed off the state secretariat of the New Nigeria People Party (NNPP) – an action that led to the deployment of armed police officers to condone the entire premises of the newly established office sites at the junction of Khaddamari along, Abbaganari- custom road in Maiduguri. The action had stirred a wild condemnation with angry commentators calling out the state government and the board for being high-handed.
Responding to the development at his office in Maiduguri, the general manager countered that their action, as a board, was in line with the reinvigorated urban Borno planning laws, and; and not politically motivated.
The GM argued that basic rules and guidelines were followed in the sealing of the NNPP office in Maiduguri.
“The NNPP officials converted a residential property to an office without permission and in breach of the urban planning guidelines and we wrote a letter to them on August 23 asking them to reverse the said property to its original intended purpose,” he said.
The GM said when a person or group of individuals commit an infraction, the board m normally informs the individual to comply, “or we revoke their right to owning such property and then copy relevant authorities about the development.”
Mr Umar said the leadership of NNPP had approached the board asking for permission to open an office and also erect about 1000 billboards across the state.
“We told them to go and get the property and revert to the board for a go-ahead if the location for the office would not violate the tow planning laws. But to our surprise, they never revert to us, instead, we noticed that they opened an office in a residential area.
“We wrote to them that they have violated Sections 43 and 45 of the Urban Planning law No. 1; Vol. 7, 2001. We, therefore, requested them to revert to the original purpose intended.”
The GM said his board has no hands in the deployment of police officers to seal the place stressing that they only copy their recommendations to the relevant stakeholders as the law requires.
Governor not involved
The GM said unlike the rumours being spread in the news and on social media, the board’s action against the NNPP has nothing to do with the state governor.
“ I am surprised to hear people calling the name of the governor in this matter. Honestly we simply did our jobs as required. Please people should not bring the governor into this matter. The governor has never ordered me to seal any property.”
The seasoned town planner had also reacted to the accusations that his board had been selected in executing its laws because most of the political party offices are located in residential areas as such other party offices too must be picketed for fairness.
Mr Kaka said since his assumption of office as the board’s GM he had decided to correct all the wrongs being tolerated by drawing a line between what happened in the past and where he was to carry on.
“I am not here to talk about the past, rather I’ll focus on what is before me. And that is the standard, globally”.
Governor Zulum says Board’s Action Wrong Times
Meanwhile, the Borno state government has issued a statement to distance self from what happened to NNPP even as he acknowledged the reforms that has been going under the new leadership of the board.
The full speech👇
“The good people of Borno State are well aware that in the last three years, the Borno State Urban Development Board has been carrying out series of reforms which included sealing of some buildings operated by individuals, corporate bodies like Banks and even some government institutions which issues contravened laws relating to non compliance with Maiduguri’s town planning procedures.
The Governor became aware that the board sealed an office operated by the NNPP.
Although the board claimed to have acted in the same regard in acting against other offices, by sealing the NNPP’s headquarters for wrongful conversion of residential area for office purposes, Governor Zulum regards the board’s action as that of wrong timing.
Zulum believes that no matter the justification, the board’s decision is bound to be given political interpretation and which could heat the polity and cause needless distractions.
For that reason, Governor Zulum had already directed that the board should suspend its own rule on this particular instance bordering on the NNPP.
The Governor believes that reversing the decision is in the overall public interest for peace.
Governor Zulum believes that all political parties should be free to lawfully operate and citizens should be free to associate with political parties of their choices without hindrances.
Zulum also advised authorities dealing with issues that could involve political parties to consider the need to invite stakeholders of all existing parties for consultations and to jointly agree on conduct that should align with existing state laws and without undermining the freedom and independence of all political parties to operate in Borno State”