By Amarachi Omabe
For fear of the unknown, several private schools in Benin City, Edo state capital did not open yesterday as civil society groups had a peaceful demonstration in several parts of the city protesting scarcity of premium motor spirit popularly called petrol and exorbitant prices the fuel stations that had were selling the per litre.
Some schools sent text messages to parents as early as 6:30 am telling them that school would not open as they could determine the level the planned protest would take while others who did not send messages sent back the pupils and their guardians.
But there was heavy security presence in all the flash points as early as 6 am yesterday as armed policemen, armoured vehicles, members of the Edo State Vigilante Group, members of the Public Works Volunteers (PUWOV) took over the areas such Rung Road, Ugbowo near the University of Benin main gate, parts of Sapele Road and other areas.
Noticeable among the protest groups were the Edo State Civil Society Organizations (EDOCSO) and the Faculty of Peace Organization (FPO).
One of the leaders of EDOCSO, Leftist Omobude Agho said the recent hike in the petroleum pump price is anti-people and Nigerians can no longer endure the present hardship.
He said “Fuel has become N700 and minimum wage is N30,000. Bag of rice is over N50,000 and the minimum wage is still N30,000.
“Before, we say we will resist them but now, we will fight them. Anywhere you see black marketers, pursue them, and don’t pity them that they are poor. Anybody that is wicked whether poor or rich, is wicked.
“Anywhere we catch a black marketers, we will seize the fuel, we will convert it and if you don’t have anything to do with the fuel, throw them away.
Also, one of the protest coordinators FOP at Government House Benin Osunbor Omokaro “Only maga 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 the Edo state is being subjected to because of the manipulative tendency of the major marketers is unbearable.”
Addressing the protesters at the Edo State House of Assembly, Speaker of the House, Rt Hin Marcus Onobun said he would relay the complaints of the protesters to the executive arm of government especially on their query that the state government has not deemed it fit to set up a task force to check the anomalies in the petroleum distribution chain.