Human Right activist and former Attorney General and commissioner for Justice in Edo State, Dr. Osagie Obayuwana on Monday accused members of the Public Works Volunteers (PUWOV) established by the state government, of disrupting a peaceful march he led to protest worsening insecurity in the country. Obayuwana, who called for the disbandment of the body, said the PUWOV claimed the protest was targeted at the state governor, Godwin Obaseki.
Scores of placard-carrying protesters denouncing the spate of insecurity in the country and growing poverty had hit the streets of Benin to register their dissatisfaction with the situation.
Narrating their ordeal when he addressed newsmen at the Nigeria Union of Journalists, (NUJ) press centre, Obayuwana said “We gathered at New Benin Market; we were to move to this place. There is an agency of the state government called PUWOV; they are volunteers on matters of public works. They attacked us, destroyed our banners, took away our laptop with which we were playing music and smashed it. They say we are against the government of Obaseki. How can that be?”
Explaining the reason for the protest march, Obayuwana said it was a nationwide mobilization 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 this yesterday, over 200 students have been 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 owes to all of us”.
Canvassing the abolition of all anti-poor policies, Obayuwana said “We demand for state police and even city police; we condemn the killing of policemen and destruction of government facilities”. The protesters also condemned the sack of workers by the Kaduna State government and the planned increase in the price of petroleum products.
But reacting to the alleged disruption of the protest by PUWOV, its coordinator, Mutari Osagie, denied the claim. Osagie however stated that in as much as the state government recognizes staging a protest as everyone’s legitimate right, such must be done in such a way as not to undermine security of the state.
According to him, what the PUWOV did was simply to request the protesters to go to the secretariat of the NUJ and thereafter government house, to register their protest.
Osagie insisted that “There was no property of the protesters that was destroyed by my officers today and neither were 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”.