Obaseki overrules Benin palace, insists ban on Okaigheles stands

Obaseki overrules Benin palace, insists ban on Okaigheles stands

Sunday, June 9, 2024 6:31 pm

Governor Godwin Obaseki

Governor Godwin Obaseki

By Jethro Ibileke

The Edo State Government has overruled the Benin palace, insisting that the ban placed on Okaigheles (Youth Leaders) in Edo South communities stands.

Recall that Governor Godwin Obaseki had on Monday, 3 June, after a closed-door meeting with security Chiefs in the State, announced the ban on Okaigheles over alleged involvement in cult-related activities.

He noted that the decision was part of a renewed effort to tackle cultism in the State, adding that no fewer than 150 persons have been lost to cult-related activities and homicide in the last five months.

But, the Benin palace in a statement on Friday, 7 June, said that Okaigheles across the seven local government areas in the State have not been banned, noting that they represents a segment of the aged-long Benin traditional administrative structure.

According to the statement, the Obazelu of Benin, Chief Osaro Idah made the pronouncement while addressing protesting Edo South Okaigheles who sought the palace’s intervention.

Idah assured that “the Palace will dialogue with the government over the contentious issue”.

But, the state government in a statement Saturday evening by the Commissioner of Communication and Orientation, Chris Osa Nehikhare, insisted that the ban on Okaigheles remains in force, adding that the decision was taken in the best interest of public safety.

The statement reads:

“The Edo State Government hereby reaffirms its decision to ban the activities of Okaigheles and cultists in Edo South communities due to the alarming rise in cult-related activities and the resulting homicides in the region.

“This decision was made in the interest of public safety and to curb the growing violence that has plagued our communities.

“The Edo State Security Council data has shown that these two groups (Okaigheles and cultists) pose the most severe threat to the security and stability of the State, resulting in the decision of the Council to place a total ban on the criminal groups.

“While we respect the tradition and customs of our communities, it is important to note that the safety and security of our citizens must always come first. Chief Osaro Idah, Obazalu of Benin’s contradictory statement does not change the gravity of the situation at hand, and we stand by our decision to enforce this ban on Okaigheles to protect the lives of our people.

“The state government notes that statements like the one made by Chief Idah, emboldens these criminals to take up arms against ordinary Citizens, Military, Police and other constitutional security agencies.

“For example, on Friday, the 7th of June, 2024, some so-called youths opened fire on three men of the Nigerian Army attached to Okomu Oil Palm Plc., in Ovia South West Local Government Area, injuring them and throwing the community into pandemonium.

“In the coming weeks, Government will proceed on a full-scale operation to disarm these criminal elements and neutralize their threat against public peace.

“Government therefore warns in the strongest terms that it will not allow any individual or organization no matter now highly placed to undermine the efforts of the State Security Council to protect the lives and property of our people.

“We reiterate that the activities of cultists, Okaigheles and their sponsors remain banned in the State and we will spare no effort to ensure that those who flout the ban are made to face the full weight of the Law.”


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