The crisis rocking the Edo State House of Assembly yesterday escalated into violence as some political thugs allegedly sponsored by the state government unleashed mayhem on 16 lawmakers-elect loyal to the immediate past governor of the state, Adams Oshiomhole. The thugs also visited massive destruction on the Golden Tulip Hotel, Etete, in Benin City, where the lawmakers-elect had held a press conference less than 15 minutes earlier to explain their exclusion from the inauguration of the seventh Assembly which took place on Monday.
The governor, Godwin Obaseki, had parted ways with his erstwhile political godfather over the former’s alleged alienation of party faithful who worked for his election in favour of his friends in Lagos, Abuja, and other places. The crisis, however, deepened as the show of political strength over who takes control of the legislature took a dangerous twist following the clandestine inauguration of the seventh Assembly by the governor. One of those allegedly beaten into stupor at the former Excalibur Hotel was Oshiomhole’s younger brother, Seidu Oshiomhole, who was reportedly stripped naked, and his phones, laptop, and other personal effects seized by the thugs. Victor Tiger Edoror, a former speaker in the sixth Assembly, and Oshiomhole’s preferred candidate for speakership position in the seventh Assembly, also received the beating of his life in the hands of the miscreants said to have been led by a notorious thug, Shaba.
A video clip of the ugly incident showed how the miscreants, in their large numbers, invaded the three-star hotel and wrecked destruction on it as they went from room to room in search of their victims. One of the vocal law-makers-elect, Chris Okaeben was lucky to escape the wrath of the goons who didn’t see him while the attack was on as one of them was heard in the video shouting “go see Okaeben; we for beat Okaeben. Shit” as they were being rescued by the police. The intervention of the police was said to have put the situation under control. Narrating their ordeal to the magazine, Washington Osifo, spokesman of the group, said since the issue of the governor not sending proclamation to the clerk started, Edoror had been staying in the hotel so, sometimes, the group of 19 members-elect would go there to review the situation. According to Osifo, “So, today, we had a press conference there at about three o’clock. And shortly after we left the press conference at the basement and the press crew left, we now went upstairs to the fourth floor to Edoror’s room. While we were there, three minutes after, we got a report from somebody who called and said look, they are coming to invade the hotel and it is because of you people. Who are they? He said they are thugs. Based on the information, we were looking for how to leave the place. Then we noticed that people were already chanting songs of war coming into the hotel from the gate, and they numbered over 200; so many of them. They came in several buses. The most worrisome aspect of it is that the governor’s Chief Security Officer, CSO, followed them; he was the one who led them and some of them were brandishing guns – pump action guns; Shaba was brandishing his gun, and others were carrying cut-to-size. And the CSO was with them in company of other policemen. Marcus Onovo, the man representing Ekpoma, he came with them, the man in charge of Operation Wabazigan, meaning ‘Stop Bad Thing’, a special police crime prevention team working in synergy other security outfits to respond to security threats in the state was there. Then Muktari who is in charge of this volunteer whatever also came with them. They said we were holding press conference; they broke the door of the hall downstairs, we were not there. They started breaking doors, room to room. They really destroyed that hotel today.”
According to him, “eventually, they got to the fourth floor and met some of our people there, but I was in a separate room. They started beating them, dragged them to the basement until police men now came because we sent SOS to the police commissioner who now sent his men before they now whisked us away from there. There was sporadic shooting by the thugs, intense shootings”. From the video clip, staccato of booming guns could be heard s as people ran helter-skelter in the ensuing pandemonium. It was like a war situation as the boys ran berserk and overwhelmed the hotel. With their successful rescue by the police, the now shaken and traumatized members-elect thought the worst was over. Osifo said “when the police whisked us away from there, we were thankful to God only for the police to detain us. We were there from six o’clock till around nine in the night. We said we want to go, they said you people cannot go. They said we had a call from the permanent secretary, Government House that the governor said we should keep you, people, because you have case to answer for unlawful assembly. We said unlawful assembly, over what? So the police were now asking, what were you people doing in that place. Why did you go there? We were amazed. We said hotel when you were the one who came to rescue us? You are saying this? So, we were making noise. Later, they now told the permanent secretary, if you say the governor said so, that we should detain them, then arraign them tomorrow and remand them the same tomorrow, what you have to do, just write us to tell us that this is exactly what the governor had directed. In the process of that when many people came, they now granted us bail on self-recognition”.
CorroboratingOsifo’s account of the incident, Henry Idahagbon, former Attorney-General andcommissioner for justice in the Oshiomhole administration, alleged that thepolice folded their arms as the assault on the law-makers-elect was going on.The magazine learnt that before the intervention of the police, anothersave-our-soul, SOS message had been sent to the Brigade Commander of theNigerian Army, through a chieftain of the party who is a retired top-rankingofficer. It was also learnt that the police in Abuja were contacted for theirintervention before help came. Explaining that nine lawmakers-electwere taken to the police headquarters, Idahagbon regretted that “they werebeing treated as criminals”. It became a case of the victims becoming thesuspects. The former commissioner and APC stalwart told the magazine that“people had been begging the guy in possession of the younger Oshiomhole’sphones to release them, but he said he would not.”
Confirming the incident, the state police public relations officer, Chidi Nwanbuzor, however, denied knowledge of brutal assault on the embattled legislators-elect. He also confirmed that they were detained. Nwanbuzor explained to the magazine that “the police received a report of some attack at that hotel like you just said, following the inauguration of the seventh Edo State House of Assembly and the police moved in there because our constitution says that police should protect lives and property of the people”. Exonerating the police of complicity in the attack, Nwanbuzor explained that the police were there to save the lives of people and property “and after which the police invited some persons so as to hear from them and they have since been released”. The police spokesman claimed ignorance of the assault on some of the lawmakers-elect and the former governor’s brother, stating that “that is not to our knowledge”. He said investigation into what happened continues. Meanwhile, the battered lawmakers-elect are said to be receiving treatment in different hospitals.