Monday, November 9, 2015 5:53 pm
By Jethro Ibileke.
Thousands of members of coalition of civil society groups in Edo State, under the aegis of Joint Action Force (JAF), on Monday, staged a massive but peaceful protest in Benin, against policies of the state government.
Among the protesters were aggrieved house owners, market women, students and disengaged staff of Edo Youth Empowerment Scheme (Edo YES).
The protest which began from the Human Rights House, located at Ikpoba Slope, along Akpakpava Road, grounded all forms of commercial activities, human and vehicular movements in major parts the city.
The protesters marched through major streets and took over the entire city centre (Ring Road), causing unprecedented traffic grid lock on major streets.
They took their protest to the premises of the Edo State House of Assembly, Kings Square, Sapele Road, Reservation Road, the Dennis Osadabey Government House, where they were received by the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Patrick Obahiagbon.
The Joint Action Force denounced alleged government’s insensitivity to the economic plight of the people of the state with its anti-people policies, adding that governance will be meaningless to the people if government’s policies are to their detriment.
Among their grievances were the recent increase of tuition fees at the state-owned Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma; the deplorable state of roads especially those in the Benin metropolis; the resuscitation of Edo Line Transport Company and other ailing industries in the state. Other demands were the revamping of Edo State Pharmaceutical Company; Bendel Brewery; Ethiope Publishing Company; Ehor Fruit Juice Factory; Uromi Cassavita plant.
Chris Okaeben, who addressed the protesters at the State House of Assembly on behalf of the Speaker of the House, assured them that the House would look into their demands with a view to addressing them.
The protesters however prevented Patrick Obahiagbon, Chief of Staff to Governor Oshiomhole from addressing them at the Government House, insisting that they will listen to no one but Governor Oshiomhole himself.
In a related development, thousands of members of Edo Youth Empowerment Scheme (Edo YES) Monday took to the Streets of Benin in protest, calling for their re-instatement and confirmation of appointments given to them by Governor Adams Oshiomhole.
The President of the protesters, Mr. Victor Idonije, who addressed journalists at the NUJ Press Centre in Benin, said over 10, 000 of their members who were dissolved by the government are now living in deplorable conditions.
He disclosed that the Scheme had contributed immensely to the State work force said since its advent in August, 2009 to May 2015 when it was dissolved.
According to him, “We have lost about eight members to death, as many of us can no longer pay our rents.
“Fifteen per cent of the members were both husband and wives; ten per cent were nursing mothers, while five per cent were pregnant women. The singular action taken by the state government in June 2015, had not only created hardship on members but also gravely affected their various families,” he said.