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False! Demolition of buildings in Asaba not targeted at Igbos 

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Claim: An X user posted a video of an ongoing demolition of buildings in Asaba, Delta State Capital, claiming that the demolition exercise was targeted at the people of Igbo extraction.

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Recently, state governments across Nigeria have embarked on mass demolitions of buildings identified as illegal structures, often erected without proper approval on waterways, road construction corridors, or government-acquired lands. 

Lagos State, for instance, faced public outcry over demolitions (here, and here), with allegations of insufficient notice preceding the actions. Similar demolitions have occurred in Ebonyi and Enugu.

In Delta State, buildings were demolished on land reportedly reserved for developing a state-owned institution, Dennis Osadebay University, Anwai-Asaba. According to the state government, the demolitions followed the expiration of notices issued to illegal property owners to vacate the land.

However, a claim emerged suggesting that the demolition targeted people of Igbo extraction residing in Asaba, the state capital. On May 14, 2024, an X user, AMÖDÁ (@AmodaOgunlere) posted:

“Delta state is demolishing ibo people’s property. Why is there no online outrage from Ohaneze???? God will fight for us keh”

As of May 15, 2024, the post had garnered over 55,000 views, 260 likes, and 130 reposts. While some comments accepted the claim, others questioned its credibility.

False! Demolition of buildings in Asaba not targeted at Igbos 

A collage of the post and reactions in the comment section.

Verification

DUBAWA conducted on-the-spot assessments and interviews with affected individuals to determine the demographics of those impacted by the demolitions. While some Igbo individuals were affected, other property owners were from diverse ethnic backgrounds. 

One of the demolished house owners identified himself as an Urhobo. Another disclosed that she and her family had relocated from Edo State–their state of origin–to reside in Asaba following the completion of their building, which was among those demolished.  

Analysis of the video posted by the X user did not capture victims claiming they were targeted because they were Igbo. Historical research established that Asaba’s population is predominantly Igbo based on language, culture, and proximity to Onitsha. Thus, the claim of ethnic targeting lacks a substantial basis.

No reliable source from the state government affirmed the claim that the demolition was targeted at the Igbos. Mr Frank Omare, Chairman of the Taskforce responsible for the Land Recovery Initiative of the Delta State Government denied, when interviewed by DUBAWA after a press briefing on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, any ethnic preference or marginalisation in carrying out the demolitions.

“The demolition is not targeted at any individual or persons but to recover land belonging to Dennis Osadebay University… The sources of blackmail from left, right, and centre; Nigerians should know that our Governor, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori is not oppressing anybody…”

To confirm the consistency of his stance, DUBAWA further conducted a keyword search on the governor’s comments before the assertion was made. As published on the state government’s website, he had stated that the government was not selective. 

He said, “Even if you are a Commissioner in the state if you build on Government land, we will not allow you because we are not selective.”

A keyword search also pointed to a YouTube video stating the reason for the demolition. On Feb 27, 2024, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Kingsley Emu posted on his X handle, during the inauguration of the task force, highlighting their role as aimed at “Land recovery and demolition of illegal structures on government land on behalf of His Excellency the Governor of Delta State, @RtHonSheriff.” It is not a planned activity to target Igbo developers. 

Conclusion

The evidence gathered through on-the-spot assessments, video analysis, historical context, and interviews with the parties involved shows that the allegation is false. In addition, the statements by government officials responsible for the demolition did not indicate ethnic bias. The assertion lacks credible evidence and misrepresents the situation.

The researcher produced this fact-check per the DUBAWA 2024 Kwame KariKari Fellowship, in partnership with Bridge Radio 98.7FM, Asaba, to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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