By Simon Ebegbulem
BENIN â€” ACTIVITIES were crippled, yesterday, at Egor Local Government Council secretariat of Edo State as youths who were protesting the flood that affected over 100 buildings in their area held the chairman of the council, Mr. Crosby Eribo, hostage for two hours.
The drama started at about 8:30a.m. when the chairman arrived the council to address the protesters. But they blocked the entrance and insisted that he must join them to inspect the areas affected by the flood.
Eribo obliged after he told them that the road contract which was causing the flood problem in their areas was â€œdubiouslyâ€ awarded by his predecessor, Mr. Ehi Egharevba, for N90 million and that the contractor abandoned the job.
He explained that the former council chairman collected half of the money before he was sacked by the court. He then joined the youths and elders to inspect the areas.
The peaceful protest, however, became violent when the chairman, after trekking for two hours, appealed to the youths and the elders to follow him to his office to find a solution to the flooding problem. The youths refused and locked up the council gate.
They insisted that the chairman must remain with them until he gave a definite date for the commencement of work in those areas.
The Divisional Police Officer, DPO, attached to Textile Mill Police Station, Mr. Ezenwa Nwokene, also appealed to the youths to free the council boss to go to his office.
They suddenly became violent and the police reinforced and started shooting in the air to disperse the angry youths.
Some of the youths engaged the Policemen physically. They were arrested and taken to the State Police Command.
Confession, Eribo’s story
Some of the youths confessed that a top official inÂ Edo State Petroleum Monitoring Committee sponsored them to cause confusion in the council.
However, Mr Eribo, who was rescued by the policemen narrated his ordeal to newsmen, saying â€œthat road, Igbinosa Street, connects to about seven other streets and these are the affected areas. It is about two kilometres long.
â€œThe problem was that I came to take over from a dubious government that was here for three months and awarded a contract without due process. The contract was awarded for over N90 million and some money was taken from the contractor.
â€œThe contractor himself is in trouble because he could no longer finish the job. But I said okay, for the benefit of our people, we will continue the job. A proper survey on how to divert water was not done because of the hurried manner they awarded the job.
â€œWe have done other roads and they were designed properly. But nothing was done in this one. I call that road, road of fraud.â€
He explained further that â€œwhen the protest became violent, we now realised that it was being sponsored by somebody. Protest is one of the dividends of Oshiomholeâ€™s government. So I did not complain; I explained to them that
I was going to follow them round to inspect the areas that were affected by flood.
â€œWe got there and we spent about two hours inspecting and thinking on how to resolve the issue. The youths, the elders and the women all joined me.Â In fact, I was very impressed with the peaceful manner they carried the protest.
â€œWe came up with different ideas. We also invited the engineers in charge of the contract to see how we can come and fix the situation once and for all.
â€œWhile we were doing that, the same youths went and blocked the council secretariat just because one of my opponents told them to go and destabilise the council because of my aspirations for 2011.
â€œIt is a free world.â€
They blocked the road and vowed that they will not allow me enter my office. The youths that went with me had to fight back and told them to leave me that I have been moving round all the affected areas in the past two hours, so I should be allowed to enter my office.
â€œBut they refused until the DPO in Textile Mill Road Division appealed to them to allow me enter my office, but they refused and that was when the police started shooting in the air to dispel the crowd.
â€œIt is a sponsored crowd and some of the people have been arrested. This is government that believes in the rule of law. This is a barbaric behaviour and I will advise our youths to stop being used.â€