Tuesday, November 22, 2016 3:50 pm
The usually peaceful human and vehicular movement at Ring Road, in Benin, Edo State capital was on Tuesday morning disrupted by a confrontation between members of civil society organisations and pro-government protesters who engaged themselves in a free for all.
The bone of contention was the recent amendment made to the 2007 Pension Rights of the Governor and Deputy Governor law, by the State House of Assembly, which provided of N300 million worth of houses as pension benefits for the immediate past Governor of the State, Adams Oshiomhole, and his Deputy, Dr. Pius Odubu.
The anti-government protesters who were dressed in black and had converged at the museum grounds as early 8 am, later marched towards the Anthony Enahoro House of Assembly ?Complex to express their rejection of the new amendment to the pension benefits, and the call for its reversal.
But no sooner had members of the group reached the Assembly complex than they were engaged by another group of protesters, who were apparently in support of the lawmakers’ resolution and prvented them (CSOs) from gaining access to the major entrance of the Assembly complex.
Within the twinkle of an eye, the pro-government protesters suddenly surged violently towards the protesting CSOs at the speed of light and chased their members away from the area.
Security operatives who were stationed at the Assembly premises watched helplessly while the fracas lasted.
One of the anti-N300 million pension rights members was said to have passed out while fleeing, but was later revived, while several others also sustained injuries from the attack? which lasted for about an hour.
A vehicle conveying sound equipment used by members of the CSOs during the protest was vandalised.
The resultant melee left passersby scampering for safety for fear of being mistaken for members of the civil society organisations.
Speaking on the attack on their members, the spokesperson for the civil society groups, Osazee Edigin, claimed that his members were attacked by thugs sponsored by the government.
“They mobilised thugs to attack us. We are trying to revive a guy who fainted. The thugs have taken over Ring Road. They were mobilised by government officials,” Osazee said.
The State Government has however denied sponsoring thugs to attack members of the protesting civil society groups.
The Government made the denial in a press statement issued and signed by Mr. John Mayaki, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Godwin Obaseki.
The statement reads thus:
“The attention of Edo State Government has been drawn to a malicious report as regards the sponsoring of thugs to attack some persons who embarked on a protest march against the Mansion Bill which was recently passed by the State House of Assembly.
“Suffice to say that this government is too decent and responsible to engage in anti-democratic means of sponsoring hoodlums to attack citizens which we swore to protect. This administration is too decent and focused on delivering democratic dividends to the people and will not condescend so low by resorting to violence.
“We recognize the rights and freedom of citizens to express their opinion on public issues and would not do anything to infringe on that. We believe in popular participation, engagement and in the tenets of democracy.
“There is no iota of truth in the report as government will not in any way attempt to gag the people’s freedom of expression, association and movement as enshrined in the Constitution.”