From Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
A combined team of security personnel in Benin City numbering over 100 locked up on Monday members of coalition of civil society, students and youth groups protesting against the increment in cement and petroleum pump prices at the museum ground premises of Kings Square (Ring Road).
The armed security personnel comprising Nigeria Police, Department of Security Service, (DSS), Nigeria Security Civil Defence Corp, (NSCDC), local vigilantes shut the gate of the museum against the protesters.
The demonstrators converged at the national museum premises for the protest when the security personnel stormed the venue and locked the gates, preventing the group from embarking on the protest.
The shutting down of the gate also prevented staff of the museum and others who have businesses within the premises from carry out their daily business activities.
It was gathered that the action was to prevent the re-occurrence of the #EndSARS that was hijacked by hoodlums.
Addressing newsmen at the scene of the protest, Kelly Osunbor said they called for a peaceful protest to draw the attention of the government and those concerned to the plights of Nigerians that have further worsened by the recent hike in price of cement and petrol but were allegedly restricted by the Edo State Commissioner of Police, Philip Ogbadu.
‘We came here peacefully this morning, we mobilised all our members, coalition of civil society, students union, market women and even the Nigeria Bar Association is even with us,’ he said.
‘The CP of Edo State mobilised hundreds of policemen with all the sister agencies, they locked us, they arrested us, they put us here, restricted our movement to the street to protest peacefully and I called the CP, I enquired, your men said we should vacate this venue, he told me, get out of that venue or else he will force us out.
‘And I want to ask, is this the democracy that our ancestors fought for that was gotten with the blood of the Nigerian students in Lagos State University and other universities? This is democracy, we have freedom of our movement, we have the constitutional rights to talk.
‘The price of cement affects the police, it affects DSS, it affects the market women and it is only the politicians it does not affect and even though cement is one million, they can afford it,’ he said.
Osunbor further stated that with the recent hike in the prices of cement, there is every likelihood that an average Nigerian can’t boast of owning a house except the political class.
‘If cement is sold for N4,000, how much is the minimum wage? If a trip of sand is sold for N30,000, how much is the minimum wage? That means that the average income earner in Nigeria cannot dream of owning a house in his life time.
‘Politicians have enslaved us politically, now they want to also enslaved us economically.
‘In the history of Nigeria, market women used to own a house, it may not be a house that is in Okoyi or GRA, or in Etete here in Benin but the way it is now, an average income earner, market woman can never own a house,’ he said.
Also speaking, the national spokesperson for Nigerian Students and Youth Association, (NISAYA), Osemudamen Elvis Ogbidi, noted that it is unfortunate that Edo State has the raw materials for the production of cement yet still buys the finished product at a very exorbitant price.
‘In this same Edo State, we have cement factory and it has been converted to private individuals and that cement is being sold for N4,000.
‘Those of you who travel along Auchi-Lokoja-Abuja road, you will see a limestone tower that is built across at Okpella, these people are transporting our limestones for free, and yet they are selling this same cement at a very cost rate,’ Ogbidi said.
Precious Oruche, lamenting the current hikes and hardships being experienced by citizens, noted: ‘People are suffering, people cannot even pay their rents, We are tired of this country and the best thing that can happen to any youth now is to get other countries’ visas and leave this country.
‘Is it supposed to be so? We all wish to leave this country. We are tired of this country. We are no longer saying that you should not loot our money but don’t let us die in hunger. Revert and set up task force to regulate the prices of things,’ she said.