From Tony Osauzo, Benin
Edo State House Assembly recent amendment to the 2007 Pension Rights of the Governor and Deputy Governor Law, yesterday, sparked off trouble in Benin between civil society groups and pro-government protesters.
In amending the law last week, the House of Assembly had made a provision of houses worth N200 million and N100 million for the former governor Adams Oshiomhole and his deputy, Pius Odubu respectively.
Confrontation broke out between members of the civil society organisations and pro-government protesters over the new provision.
The anti-government protesters, under the Edo Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), had converged on the museum ground in Benin as early as 8:00am and later marched towards the Anthony Enahoro House of Assembly Complex to express their rejection of the new pension benefits.
But no sooner had members of the group reached the assembly complex than they were accosted by another group of protesters, who were apparently in support of the lawmakers’ resolution. They prevented CSOs from gaining access to the major entrance of the building.
The pro-government protesters chased the protesting CSOs members away from the arena, under the watchful eyes of security operatives who had taken position at strategic locations within the assembly premises.
In the ensuing confusion, one of the civil society protesters reportedly slumped, even as several others also sustained injuries from the attack which lasted about an hour, while a vehicle conveying some speakers used by the CSOs during the protest was vandalised.
Spokesperson of the civil society groups, Osazee Edigin alleged that those who attacked his members were thugs sponsored by government.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and civil society organisations condemned the action.
However, the government has denied sponsoring thugs to attack the protesters.
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House, Dr. Justin Okonoboh has defended the amendment.
He maintained that the new provision was justifiable as there was an existing law on pension benefits for former governors and deputies.
Meanwhile, Edo State Government has denied sponsoring thugs to attack protesting members of the civil society groups.
“The attention of Edo State Government has been drawn to a malicious report as regards the sponsoring of thugs to attack some persons who embarked on a protest march against the Mansion Bill which was recently passed by the House of Assembly.
“Suffice to say that this government is too decent and responsible to engage in anti-democratic means of sponsoring hoodlums to attack citizens who we swore to protect. This administration is too decent and focused on delivering democratic dividends to the people and will not condescend so low by resorting to violence.
”We recognise the rights and freedom of citizens to express their opinion on public issues and would not do anything to infringe on that. We believe in popular participation, engagement and in the tenets of democracy.
“There is no iota of truth in the report as government will not, in any way, attempt to gag the people’s freedom of expression, association and movement as enshrined in the constitution,” the government said in a statement signed by Mr. John Mayaki, press secretary to Governor Godwin Obaseki.