Edo Govt, Oba Bicker Over Ban On Okaigheles

Date:

FROM IKHILI EBALU, BENIN CITY 

Edo State government and the Benin Palace have disagreed on the ban placed on Okaigheles (youth leaders) in Edo South communities.

Governor Godwin Obaseki had on Monday, June 3, after a closed-door meeting with security chiefs, announced the ban on Okaigheles over alleged involvement in cult-related activities.

He noted that the decision was part of the renewed efforts to tackle cultism, adding that no fewer than 150 people have been lost to cult-related activities and homicide in the last five months.

But the Benin palace in a statement on Friday, June 7, said the Okaigheles across the seven local government areas had not been banned, noting that they represent a segment of the age-long Benin traditional administrative structure.

According to the statement, the Obazelu of Benin, Chief Osaro Idah made the pronouncement while addressing protesting Edo South Okaigheles who sought the palace’s intervention. Idah assured that “the palace will dialogue with government over the contentious issue”.

But, the state government in a statement at the weekend signed by the Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Osa Nehikhare, insisted that the ban on Okaigheles remain in force, adding that the decision was taken in the best interest of public safety.

The statement reads: “Edo State government hereby reaffirms its decision to ban the activities of Okaigheles and cultists in Edo South communities due to the alarming rise in cult-related activities and the resulting homicide in the region.

“This decision was made in the interest of public safety and to curb the growing violence that has plagued our communities.

“Edo State Security Council data has shown that these two groups (Okaigheles and cultists) pose the most severe threat to the security and stability of the state, resulting in the decision of the Council to place a total ban on the criminal groups.

“While we respect the tradition and customs of our communities, it is important to note that the safety and security of citizens must always come first. Chief Idah’s contradictory statement does not change the gravity of the situation at hand and we stand by our decision to enforce this ban on Okaigheles to protect the lives of our people.”

It said the state government notes that statements like the one made by Chief Idaho emboldens these criminals to take up arms against ordinary citizens, military, police and other constitutional security agencies.

“For example, on Friday, June 7, some so-called youths opened fire on three men of the Nigerian Army attached to Okomu Oil Palm in Ovia South West Local Government Area, injuring them and throwing the community into pandemonium.”

He said in the coming weeks, government will proceed on a full-scale operation to disarm these criminal elements and neutralise their threat against public peace.

“Government, therefore, warns that it will not allow any individual or organisation no matter now highly placed to undermine the efforts of the State Security Council to protect the lives and property of our people.”

He warned that the activities of cultists, Okaigheles and their sponsors remain banned and we will spare no effort to ensure that those who flout the ban are made to face the full weight of the law.

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