BENIN CITY : Vehicular movement was brought to an halt on Tuesday at the ever busy Oba Ovoranwmen Square and its adjoining roads in Benin City as groups of human rights activists protest against police extra-judicial killings and denial of rights to food, education, women empowerment and protection amongst others as part of activities to mark this year world human rights day.
The protest organized by Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission attracted participants from several works of life including legal practitioners, medical doctors, journalists, traders, photographers amongst others.
The protest started shortly after an enlightenment programme themed “Rights to Protest at Bishop Kelly Pastoral Centre with the protesters marching through AirPort road, round the Oba Ovoranwmen Square to the Edo State House of Assembly and thereafter through Sapele and Reservation Roads to the Edo State Government House and back to the Edo State Secretariat of the Nigerian Union of Journalists with the seven children and two wives of late Samuel Imiakop, the alleged victim of police recent extra-judicial killing in the state at the front leading the protest with tears rolling down their cheeks.
The Executive Director, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, Reverend David Ugolor said they staged the protest to call on authorities to address the perennial issues of police extra judicial killings in the state, cases of rape, the excluding of the masses in state and national budget preparation, and the need to set up panel of inquiry into the killing of the 42 years old Samuel Imiakop allegedly by the police on his way to farm at Uteh Community in the morning of November 24.
According to Ugolor, poverty is not just about money but it is also an act of not having the opportunity to ventilate ones voice and therefore called on the Nigeria Union of Journalists to prevail on media owners and managers to stop commercializing human rights issues with little or no recourse to the laws or theories guiding newsworthiness and selection most especially as it concerns developmental journalism.
Also speaking, the Head of Private and Property Law Department, University of Benin, Dr. Edoba Omoregie said all Nigerians should join hands with civil society organizations to ensure that their rights to food, free primary education, antenatal care, malaria and HIV/AIDS treatment, clean environment, women empowerment and protection amongst others are provided by governments at all levels.
Former chairman of the Edo State chapter of the Nigeria Medical Association, Dr. Philip Ugbodaga said any government unable to meet the welfare requirement of the people as stipulated in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has failed.
The Executive Director, Foundation for Good Governance and Social Change, Mr. Austin Osakwe said Nigerians should always be armed with facts and figures before confronting any authority in order to properly utilize their rights to protest.
The protesters displayed placards with inscriptions: “Police protect us, don’t kill us, Commissioner of Police should be redeployed, Our father is a farmer, not an armed robber, SSS should conduct investigation, Know Your rights, say no oppression,” amongst others.
Responding, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Edo State Governor, Mr. Stephen Idehenre who stood in for the governor said all their complains would be communicated to the governor.
Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly, Hon. Uyi Igbe said the House would look into the issue of the alleged extra judicial killing by the police.
Finally, the Chairman of the Edo State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Comrade Desmond Agbama said the challenges facing media practitioners in Nigeria currently is that nobody wants to be criticized, adding that the union would not relent in their efforts in partnering civil society organizations in seeking justice in the country.
By Osazuwa Akonedo Of ANEEJ