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Protests for, against Oshiomhole in Benin

From Bisi Olaniyi, Benin

Two groups protested on Monday in Benin, the Edo State capital. One was in favour of All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole. The other was against the one-time governor.

The pro-Oshiohmole protest was staged by members of the Idiogbe Solomon-led Edo State Coalition of Civil Society Organisations for Good Governance and Internal Democracy.

It ended with a news conference at the Press Centre of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Government Reservation Area (GRA), Benin.

The coalition berated Governor Godwin Obaseki for declaring war against his benefactor (Oshiomhole), describing him as an ingrate.

The group said: “On May 14, 2020, Nigerians woke up to the usual boisterous expression of Obaseki, as the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Construction of the Edo Specialist Hospital, Benin City and Supply of Equipment that he inaugurated, submitted its report, which could not find Comrade Oshiomhole guilty of any form of aggrandizement, but indicted him of mobilizing the contractor to site with 75 per cent of the contract sum. The offense of Comrade Oshiomhole is that he exceeded the 25 per cent monitisation fee for contractors.

“Obaseki, in his desperation, failed to tell Nigerians that the decision to pay the contractor 75 per cent was taken by the State Executive Council and he (Obaseki) was a part of the decision, as the then Chairman of the Economic Team. The decision of the executive council was to fast-track delivery of the project. Probing of the Edo Specialist Hospital is diversionary, vindictive, unjust, unnecessary and callous.

“The judicial commission of inquiry set up by Edo governor lacks merit, as he has his biological brother in the panel, in Obaseki’s desperation to indict Comrade Oshiomhole. Sitting of the commission of inquiry is ultra vires, as the matter is subjudice.”

The coalition also called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other funding agencies to stop granting loans to the Obaseki administration, in order not to endanger the future of the state and its people.

It also decried the insecurity in Edo, declaring that Obaseki’s government had failed to rise to the responsibility of protection of lives and property of residents of the state, and to properly constitute Edo House of Assembly, as well as to show sincerity in the fight against COVID-19.

The group also condemned Obaseki’s administration’s decision to force Oshiomhole’s ally, Tony Kabaka, to pay N18 million, as the cost of the recent demolition of his highbrow hotel in Benin.

It said: “We decry the claim by Edo government that N18 million was spent on the demolition of the hotel of Comrade Tony Adun, aka Kabaka. The claim that Obaseki’s government spent N18 million on the demolition of the property shows the criminal dimension of governance in Edo State.

“To claim N18 million for an activity of about N200,000 reveals why Edo State has become financially crippled. We reject the Edo governor’s demand of N18 million. The victim cannot pay for an exercise that was carried out in disregard of legal processes.

“For Edo governor to undermine the court and arbitrarily destroy the property of Tony Adun smacks of executive recklessness, oppression, and dictatorship. We call on the victim to seek proper redress. Obaseki must realize that his second term agenda does not rest on his capacity to intimidate and harass perceived opponents.”

The group urged Obaseki’s administration to forthwith desist from harassing decent Edo residents through spurious allegations and claims.

Members of the anti-Oshiomhole group, the Alliance for Collective Progress (ACP), who were armed with placards with various inscriptions, yesterday stormed the Benin zonal office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), calling for immediate arrest and prosecution of the national chairman of APC over Edo specialist hospital project.

The pro-Obaseki protesters also alleged that Oshiomhole’s administration failed to procure key equipment needed for smooth operation at the multi-billion naira hospital that he built and was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The anti-Oshiomhole group, through its spokesperson,  Nehemiah Omogiate, expressed shock that all the persons involved in the allegedly shoddy deals in the supply of the hospital’s equipment were walking freely, stressing that they must also be arrested and prosecuted.

ACP said: “We want to register our grievances over the multi-billion naira Edo Specialist Hospital project, which four years ago, the past administration claimed it paid for the equipment. As we are speaking, the equipment has not been supplied and the person Oshiomhole’s administration paid the money is walking freely.

“A judicial commission of inquiry was set up, which submitted its report last Thursday and indicted Oshiomhole, but up till now, the EFCC is yet to act. We are here to ask operatives of the anti-graft agency to do their job. Nobody is above the law.”

The judicial commission of inquiry into the construction of the Edo Specialist Hospital and supply of equipment for the hospital indicted the Oshiomhole’s administration for breach of the state’s Public Procurement Law.

Chairman of the commission, Justice James Oyomire (rtd.), who presented the commission’s findings to Obaseki, at Government House, Benin last Thursday, stated that the award of the contract for the construction of the hospital was fraught with breaches of the state’s procurement laws

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