Pockets of miscreants are reportedly making spirited efforts to seize the peaceful protests embarked upon by civil society groups in Benin, Edo State, Monday.
The grouse of the peaceful protesters are arbitrary increases in the price of petroleum products, especially petrol, which has plagued the country in the past weeks and now commonly sells at N500 per litre, above the official pump price of N165 per litre in and around Benin.
Peaceful protests were embarked upon by civil society groups which appealed to the Edo State Government Monday, January 30, to use its good offices to intercede with the Federal Government and its agencies who have jurisdiction over petroleum product protocols, processes and prices.
The protesting civil society groups included the Faculty of Peace Organisation and the Edo State Civil Society Organisation.
The rogue miscreants who hijacked the protests were mostly armed with metal rods, sticks and stones. They sang and danced wildly, set up bonfires with heaps of disused tires and molested passersby.
They operated in waves, mainly along Sapele Road and Ugbowo areas of Benin and were dispersed by security agents who were armed with rifles and teargas, only to regroup and disperse again as security arrived.
A wave of protests had erupted Monday morning in Benin City, over the uncontrolled hikes in the pump price of petrol, with some of the leaders of the blowout coming out to warn that they are struggling to calm tempers on account of appeals by respected leaders in the state.
Since the petrol scarcity in the country intensified a few days ago, the product now goes for as high as N500 per litre in most filling stations in Benin City, while the major marketers who sell for an average of N300 per litre are often attended by long queues and quickly run out of stock.
The protest coordinators say they are looking to engage with some of those leaders in government today, especially Governor Godwin Obaseki, and appeal to them to use their good offices to get the appropriate authorities at the federal level to bring relief from arbitrary and unofficial petrol price hikes which are throttling all and sundry.
One of the protest coordinators seen at Government House Benin this morning gave his name as Kelly Osunbor Omokaro.
He said, “ I am . I am one of the leaders and coordinators of the protest. By the grace of God, I was just elected as the Street Speaker of the Edo House of Assembly.Comrade Kelly Osunbor Omokaro, president and founder of Faculty Of Peace Organisation Worldwide
“It is no longer news that from September last year to this moment I am talking to you now, that Nigerians have been subjected to unwarranted scarcity of petroleum products. We were thinking that the scarcity would come and go as usual. But we see that it has come to stay and is now permanent.
“Only mega marketers are selling fuel at the government approved price now in Edo State.
“Go to Lagos, Conoil is still selling, NIPCO is still selling, MRS is still selling at the government approved price.
But when it comes to Edo State, our products are being diverted to independent marketers. That’s why our situation is even worse. We know there is a shortage of petroleum products in Nigeria. But the kind of prices and the pain that Edo state is being subjected to because of the manipulative tendency of the major marketers is unbearable.
“That is why our situation is even worse. We know that there is a shortage of petroleum products in Nigeria, we know. But the kind of prices and the pain Edo State is being subjected to because of the manipulative tendency of the major oil marketers is not right.
“The intercourse between the major marketers and the independent marketers has affected and made our own case worse. That’s why we are calling on the Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly and the Governor of Edo State. We are going to meet our governor right now to tell them that enough is enough.
“We have had it enough. We cannot begin to buy fuel for N700 to N1,000. God has blessed us with fuel. We cannot take it again. Enough is enough. That’s why we are doing what we are doing today. Yesterday night a lot of people have called us. This protest was supposed to be more massive and bigger than this. Because some persons sent fake information that we want to block most of the major roads in Benin. That was not from us. “We are coordinated. We have phases. Our signature is on our own communique. Because of that we had to demobilse most of our members and come out with a small percentage today on the street, like a warning protest. But like we told the Speaker and what we are going to tell the governor, they must compel the major marketers to begin to dispense fuel for N185. They should do this within 24 hours.
“It will be a risk on my part that people want to protest and you are telling them that they shouldn’t come out to protest because we want to protect lives and property. We want peace. But when you now come out and stand in the gap between the people and tell them not to come out and protest, they may think that maybe you are collecting something from government that is why you are trying to manipulate things.
“So some of us took the risk today. We appealed to many people. I didn’t sleep up till 4.00 am talking to people, saying look guys let this be peaceful because my father is here my mom is here.”