In Borno state, the government is said to be doing everything possible to reduce the incidence of crimes. SADIQ ABUBAKAR reports that apart from the menace of Boko Haram, brothels and alcoholic joints are also being pulled down to avoid being a breeding ground for criminalities.
The recent but continuous demolition of hotels and alcoholic joints within Maiduguri city, the capital of Borno state, has generated lots of mourning among some sections of the society. Although, report has it that the action of the state government was in response to intelligence report that such outfits have become hideouts and dens of armed robbers, bandits, cultists, ritualists, prostitutes and kidnappers which pose a security threats to the emerging peace in the state.
Why the exercise?
The state commissioner for justice and Attorney General, Kaka Shehu Lawan, who is also the chairman of the high-powered demolition committee of brothels and alcoholic joints revealed that about 20 of such illegal joints and hotels were destroyed recently for violating extant state laws that banned their operations since last year.
He said, “Three major hotels were shut down for using their facilities to accommodate under-aged girls who were being drugged and sexually abused by adults. Some of the hotels were accused of promoting homosexual activities which is also outlawed by the government.
“Last year, the state government also carried out mass demolition of 47 illegal hotels, brothels and alcoholic joints which had become spots for all forms of criminalities and immoral acts.
“The state law prohibits the operation of all kinds of brothels and alcoholic joints except in military barracks and other ‘mammy’ markets within the paramilitary barracks,” Lawan said.
He explained further that, “Proprietors of the 47 pleasure joints had protested the demolition at a press conference asking for compensation.”
The immediate past administration had directed a special high-powered demolition committee headed by the Attorney General and commissioner for justice to list those that have certificate of occupancy over their lands for compensation.
Operators have no valid permission
The leader of the hotel owners, Amechi Onwudinjo, said they were unaware of the crimes and vices going on at their hotels and brothels.
When the government carried out the first demolition in June 2018, many of the hoteliers held a press conference to protest and asked for full compensation.
The government ignored them because most of them have no document to back up their demands and none of the hoteliers came out to publicly protest the latest round of demolitions up to the time of filing this report.
Unfortunately, about 70 % of the hoteliers and alcoholic joint owners could not forward their C of O or evidence of original and valid ownership of the land or property (buildings); rather they went to the press to hold press conferences calling in the state to reconsider its action and allow them to continue with their respective businesses as sources of living and employment to Borno indigenes. They also demanded for compensation of their demolished structures.
However, the Attorney General said after a year, the demolished alcoholic joints operators returned to the demolished structures and continued their trades while some of them have gone to the extent of rebuilding their demolished business premises and resumed their trades.
More reasons for the exercise
He said,” Reliable information at the disposal of the government also indicate that the resurfaced alcoholic joints and brothels are now serving as a hideouts of criminals, deserting soldiers, ritualists and places where school-aged teenagers are abused sexually by both military personnel and civilians,” Lawan said.
According to him, the existence and operation of these joints has forced concerned parents to raise alarm over the negative influence they have on their children, saying informed the second phase of the demolition exercise being carried out by the state government through the demolition committee across Maiduguri metropolis and its environs presently in order to cleanse the city of all kinds of crimes, homicides and prostitution, among others.
“There is a Borno House of Assembly legislation that prohibits the operation of alcoholic joints, brothel business and prostitution except in some designated areas where alcohol can be sold like the ‘military mess’ or the ‘mammy’ markets in para-military barracks,” Lawan said
“Government has realized that such brothels have overtime doubled as criminal hideouts and that was the reason they were banned.
“We received a security report on the activities of such brothels and the state Security Council sat on the matter before we decided to take that action of demolishing all the illegal alcohol joints.
“Even the popular Lake Chad Hotel located in the centre of Maiduguri, unknown to the government has been a den for homosexuals, child abusers, drug addicts as well as sales and smoking of Indian hemp. We learned that some unscrupulous elements have been using the hotel as a place for raping vulnerable girls and women.
“When we visited Lake Chad Hotel, we were shocked to find girls of school age of not more than 15 years of age smoking, being engaged in sodomy and drinking alcohol. We were even shocked to find some married women who were taken to the hotel by strange men. So, we had to seal the Lake Chad Hotel,” Kaka Shehu added.
The chairman of the demolition committee noted that another one, the Royal City Hotel, was demolished because the certificate granted to the father of the proprietor stated that the land was purely for a residential purpose. He said the son, who is now the owner, went ahead in flagrant violation of the certificate to convert the place to a commercial joint.
“Apart from that, the proprietor of the same hotel had the guts to annex a public road that has been constructed and tarred by government and made it part of his hotel, thereby blocking the passage.
“The owner of the hotel also erected some kind of tower upon which he mounted large speakers with which he used to blast sounds of music at night and constitute security risk and disturbance to the members of the community.
“We had it on a good authority that almost on a daily basis, people are being killed by bullet injuries due to sporadic gunshots by some drunken soldiers who usually patronise the place,” Lawan said.
The chairman said another reason the government destroyed some of the hotels was that they served as resorts for ritual and occultic activities.
“Some startling discoveries were made during the arrest of 25 men involved in cultism at a hotel called Bagari.
“While making the arrest of the cultist gangs, our local security personnel found them with some weird calabash, jars of red substance which they confessed to the police that it contained human blood that they all drink as part of their rituals.
“The security personnel also recovered two huge live tortoises that they also use for their rituals. At the time of their arrest, they were preparing to invite a senior cult group from a different part of Nigeria to come to Maiduguri to initiate some of their members into a major cult group.”
He said uniforms and shoes of school children were also recovered from the same hotel.