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The owner of the Kaduna restaurant which was destroyed over an alleged sex party has spoken up in this The PUNCH interview.
Aisha Yakubu speaks to GODWIN ISENYO about the demolition of her Asher Queens and Kings Restaurant by the Kaduna State Government over alleged plan to host a ‘sex party’ in the facility
Your restaurant, Asher Queens and Kings, was demolished by the Kaduna State Government over an alleged plan to host a “sex party”. What is your reaction to this?
It is shocking. It is devastating because I never thought of using a place such as my restaurant for such an ungodly venture like ‘sex party.’ For God’s sake, I have children and I am a married woman. So, when they said ‘sex party’, I was thinking it was a different thing since I never envisaged such a thing. I was really heartbroken on hearing this. Since this thing happened, I have not been able to sleep. It’s still like I am dreaming and I need someone to just tap me and wake me up and say, ‘Look, it’s all a dream ooo,’ and that I need to wake up. I really wish someone will wake me up and tell me this.
What is your response to the allegation that the facility is being used to promote immorality in the state?
It is not true. My place is Asher Queens and Kings Restaurant and it is just a storey building. There are no rooms; no guest rooms to say one wants to do what is contrary to what I was doing there before the demolition. So, I am surprised when they were saying it’s a guest inn and hotel. It is not true. The place is a business place. I had been operating in that place for close to eight years. I started very small but with zeal and perseverance, I moved on. I kept pushing after I took over from my mother.
Tell us what you know about the ‘sex party’ in the facility before it was pulled down.
I don’t know anything about the sex party. The only thing that I know is that after our arrest…in fact, it was only yesterday (Tuesday) that I set my eyes on the Marvellous Apkan that posted on the social media that there was going to be a ‘sex party’. When we met face-to-face yesterday, he went on his knees begging me to forgive him. At first, I wanted to say that he doesn’t know our address, just as we had stated at the police station but I was shocked when he told us that he chatted with one policeman and he gave him the address of my place and I asked him why. He then went down on his knees, saying it was not meant to happen.
But you stated earlier that the flier circulated by the organisers did not have the address of your facility as the venue of the ‘sex party’?
Yes. That was the question that we asked them when we got to the police station but the police claimed they chatted with the person (organiser) one-on-one. It was then I demanded to know the person they chatted with but they refused to show us the person. It was at that point that I insisted that we must call the telephone number on the flier.
Were you served any prior notice before the demolition of your facility?
There was no such thing. I just left the place (restaurant) to pump water when someone called me that I should check my restaurant to see what was happening and my response was that there was nothing happening and I told the person that I just left the restaurant to pump water. But the person insisted that I check, which I did. It was when I came to the roadside that I saw vans, military trucks, police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Civilian Joint Task Force and members of KASTELEA (Kaduna State Traffic and Environmental Law Enforcement Agency). The operation caused a lot of gridlock. I was just wondering how they would just come without a notice. Seeing this from afar, I broke down where I was because I couldn’t go there. Even my sister-in-law that went there was molested. They threatened to break her head with a stick.
Apart from your one-month-old pregnancy that you said you lost, can you itemise other things that you lost to the demolition?
The lost pregnancy was really painful. All my things were there. I couldn’t even remove a pin because it was not something that was planned and nobody gave me a notice to enable me to remove anything. So, everything that I had there went down.
In one of your statements, you claimed you paid N100,000 to the police to bail your friend and workers; and that you paid another N20,000 for them to track down the owner of the telephone number on the ‘sex party’ flier. Can you speak more on this?
When I was seeking to bail my workers from the police station, the police first demanded N200,000 and I told them that I didn’t have such amount. I told them that I had N5,000 on me then. But they threatened that the workers would spend another night in the cell if I failed to produce that money. I begged Mr Felix but he refused. It was at that point that people rallied round me and I got the N100,000 that I gave them. People really supported me, I mean, Nigerians that heard about my plight. I owed them a lot of gratitude. Because I didn’t plan for it, I had no money at that time but people around contributed money for me. It was from the money that I paid the police and the workers were released from the cell. When we came back the following day, the same Mr Felix threatened to arrest me, saying I was the main person that they were supposed to arrest. I was just staring at him. Then one policewoman at the station asked me why I was starring at Mr Felix like that. Before I could say anything, he took me before the Divisional Police Officer and said, ‘This is the main suspect in the case’. And I asked why he was trying to implicate me. I asked him if I had offended him before to warrant all the treatment meted out to me by him. He them asked me to write a statement that I was the main person they needed. That was when the DPO said I must produce the Marvelous Akpan, otherwise I would be detained. On that note, I decided to give them money to track down the guy. I had to beg them with N15,000 but they insisted that it must be N20,000, which I paid. That was how they allowed us to go on that day, thinking that the whole thing was over. Because they said the only way they could leave me was when they get the guy whose telephone numbers appeared on the flier.
What happened after they tracked down the owner of the telephone numbers?
When they tracked down the guy, they called and informed me about the development and I asked my husband to go and see the person because I was really down that time. My husband went there and when he came back, he said the person said we were innocent and that the whole thing was a prank. The policeman who came to collect the balance of the N20,000 – because I first gave them N15,000 – also told me the same thing.
What is the name of the policeman that collected the balance?
I don’t know his name but it was Mr Felix that sent him to come for the balance, because I told them that once they tracked down the person (Marvellous Akpan), I would give them the (N5,000) balance.
The Kaduna State Urban Planning Development Agency officials that pulled down your property claimed they acted according to the law on property development in the state. Do you agree with this?
What does the law say about demolition of property? Let’s understand what the law says. (Did it say) That they should just come and demolish an innocent person’s property? Whatever the reason, they have no justification to do what they did.
The Director-General of KASUPDA also said your restaurant violated COVID-19 protocols and that the building had no permit.
My landlord is still there, he will talk on the building permit. However, as regards COVID-19 protocol violation, I don’t think that I violated any law because the place can’t even take up to 20 to 30 guests at a time. The only person, who wanted to make use of the place to promote his brand, only booked (space) for 15 guests. They had not even started before they came for the arrest. Mr Felix is the cause of all these problems. That was why when he was lying at the police station, I was just looking at him in shock. He kept saying things that were not true at all. For instance, he said he saw between 150 and 200 guests in the place and all that. It is not true. I was almost asking him, ‘Oga, why you dey lie?’ They are just trying to change the narrative; there was no COVID-19 regulation or protocols that we violated.
Did the customer you said booked a space for 15 people tell you the kind of event he was planning to hold?
I think the guy is a fashion designer. He wanted to gather his customers to say ‘thank you’ to them for their patronage. That was what he told me before I gave the place out to him. He even repeated the same thing in court on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.
As things stand now, what is your next line of action?
We are still working on that.
But in your statement to the press, you said you were going to take a legal action against the state. Have you shelved the idea?
I haven’t by the grace of God. I really appreciate the world at large for the support I got when I cried out. Nigerians really stood by me.
What kind of redress are you seeking?
The government should just explain why they did what they did and let justice prevail at the end of the day. They can’t just come on December 27, 2020 to make arrest and by 31 December, they demolished the property, just like that! We need an explanation on that and let them pay for my losses.
With their action, there was job loss. I am an employer of labour. The least paid worker in that place earns N15,000 per month. They have been thrown out of work by the action of the authorities. Virtually everybody in that street fetches water from our borehole free of charge everyday but now with the demolition, this set of persons have been cut off from enjoying this amenity. The workers out of job are sitting at home now. They were paraded (as criminals) while they are innocent. They don’t know anything about the ‘sex party’. So, you can see the consequences of the action of the authorities.