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‘Sorry, mosque demolition in Rivers is fake news’

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By Egufe Yafugborhi

 Before Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, embarked on a fact-finding visit to Trans Amadi, Port Harcourt, where officials of the state government demolished a foundation for alleged non-compliance with urban development laws, the impression was that a mosque had been demolished.

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The rumour had spread like wildfire, especially on the social media, with many accusing Wike of ordering the alleged demolition. Even the Muslim community in Rivers was among those who accused the state government.

However, checks at the demolition site and inquiries from residents revealed that no mosque was demolished but a foundation.

It was learned at the site that a similar exercise had been carried out during the administration of former ex-Governor Rotimi Amaechi.

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Chairman of the Muslim community, Alhaji Abdullahi Tabaco, told Sunday Vanguard that what was demolished was a building under construction.

He said the exercise was carried out on August 20, 2019.

“We bought four plots of land from one Chief Amadi in 2008 and approval was given for the construction in 2009. In 2010, we started putting up pillars and fencing of the land,” he added.

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Continuing, he said: “While the foundation of the mosque was laid in 2010, the first demolition was carried out by former Governor Amaechi on February 5, 2010, and this resulted in litigation between Chief Amadi and Rivers State Government.”

The Muslim leader claimed that, on November 2, 2017, a judgement was delivered in favour of Amadi, adding that the state government did not file an appeal.

He noted that the failure to appeal the ruling necessitated the resumed construction of the building in 2018.

However, when the governor visited the site at Biambo Street, off School Road by Mami Market Junction, he explained that approval was not given for the construction of any structure at the place.

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He said: “I received calls from several prominent Nigerians on the fake news being circulated online. You can see there was no mosque here. It is most unfortunate that fickle-minded persons claimed that a mosque was demolished when no mosque existed here.

“The story was concocted by mischief makers to score cheap points. They came to erect an illegal structure. There was no approval from the state for any structure to be erected here. Persons who started the foundation had already dragged the state to court over the disputed land.

“The government gave them notice not to do anything on the land. But they went ahead with the illegal foundation and the relevant agency stopped them. Why would we want to bring down any mosque, when there are other mosques across the state? What is the special interest in this one?”

While dismissing claims by the property owners that there was a court judgment in favour of Amadi, Wike said the state government won the case.

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“Rivers State government won the case. What they attempted to do was to start the illegal construction to tie the hands of the state government,” he added.

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