A nationwide peaceful protest by the coalition of Civil Society Organisations was on Monday disrupted in Benin by agents of the Edo State Government-owned Public Works Volunteers (PUWOV).
The protesters who addressed members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Benin, alleged that they were attacked based on the allegation that the protest was against the administration of Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Spokesman of the group, Osagie Obayuwana, a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Edo State called for the disbandment of the PUWOV.
He said that the protesters had gathered at the New Benin Market area of the City where they intended to march from to the town when men of PUWOV swooped on them.
Obayuwana alledged that a laptop from where they were playing music for the road show was destroyed alongside some of their banners.
According to him, “We gathered at New Benin Market, where we were to move to this place (NUJ secretariat) when agency of the state government called PUWOV attacked us.
“They destroyed our banners, took out our laptop with which we were playing music and smashed it; they say we were against the government of Obaseki, how can that be?”
Carrying several placards with inscriptions as ‘government secure the people’; ‘security for all is a right’; ‘Nigeria belongs to all of us‘; ‘abolish poverty to have security’; ‘Nigerians fight for your rights’, etc, the CSOs said they were out to register their protest against insecurity and poverty in the country.
Speaking further on reason for the protest, Obayuwana said it was a nationwide mobilisation against insecurity and mass poverty in the country.
“Our coming out today is to say that the Nigerian people can no longer keep quiet, at no time in the history of our country has the insecurity situation ever been as terrible as it is today.
“You can’t travel from town to town, even within your village, you can’t go from your house to your farm; children in schools have been objects of kidnap.
“Seventeen governors have called on the president to speak to the nation; even yesterday (Sunday), over 200 students were kidnapped in an Islamic school in Niger State; enough is enough.
“From our own assessment of the situation, we have seen that there is a direct relationship between insecurity and poverty.
“Where there is no justice, there cannot be peace and we are saying that the security of life is a fundamental right that all of us are entitled to, and it is also a duty that the government owned to all of us.
“They should abolish all anti-poor policies; we demand for state police and even city police, we condemn the killing of policemen and destruction of government facilities.”
He also condemned the sack of workers by the Kaduna State government and the planned increase in the price of petroleum products.
Meanwhile, the coordinator of PUWOV, Mutari Osagie, debunked the claim that the protest was disrupted his men.
He noted that inasmuch as the state government encourages everyone to protest as part of their legitimate right, it must be done in such a way as not to undermine security of the state.
He said that what the POWOV did was simply to request the protesters to go to secretariate of the NUJ and thereafter Government house to register their grievances.
“There was no property of the protesters that was destroyed by my officers today and neither are we preventing anybody from protesting.
“However, if we must protest, let’s do it in such a way as not to put the fragile security in the country and Edo in jeopardy,” he stated.