•Look elsewhere for blame, not me, ex-governor fires back
Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
The Edo State government has accused the immediate past National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governor of the state, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole of masterminding the protests that broke out yesterday morning in Benin City, which claimed three lives and a number of banks destroyed.
But in a swift reaction, the former governor of Edo State distanced himself from the riots and asked the state government to look elsewhere to blame for “its abysmal performance in the state.”
The protesters expressed their anger over the scarcity of the new naira notes occasioned by the redesigning of the N1,000, N500 and N200 denominations of the nation’s currency.
The state government, which described the riots as “systematic and targeted at Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) controlled states,” called on security agencies to “invite Oshiomhole, interrogate him and arrest him to account for his movements within Benin city in the last couple of days.”
Addressing a press conference, Edo State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Mr. Chris Nehikhare, said the state government, after appraising the situation, “discovered that there is more than meets the eyes”.
“Today, we had the unfortunate incident of the protest in Edo State, particularly in Benin City as a result of the new naira redesigning policy. We have gone round the town and we have discovered that there is more than meets the eyes.
“We are by this press conference calling on all security agencies to call Adams Oshiomhole for questioning, arrest him and make him account for his movements in the last couple of days in Benin City.
“We have reasons to believe that Oshiomhole instigated the riots. There is a video, which has gone viral, where Oshiomhole is seen instigating his lions and tigers to riot, destroy and attack government property.
“Today’s riot is thought to be as a result of the naira redesigning. It is the same party responsible for the policy, that is the one instigating people to protest and in doing that PDP billboards are destroyed. One of the billboards destroyed is a 50-feet gantry.
“Oshiomhole has unleashed his lions and tigers because his party is about to face an imminent defeat at the coming general elections”, Nehikhare, who was flanked at the press conference by Crusoe Osagie, Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Media Projects, said.
Nehikhare, while calling on the citizens of the state to remain calm, said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had assured the state government that it had enough money to be given to point of sales (PoS) operators in the state for circulation, adding that, that could only be achieved in an atmosphere of peace.
“Edo people should remain calm and know that they are the ones we are protecting. It is strange that when the APC federal government forced universities to close down for eight months, the APC governors did not talk.
“When the fuel scarcity became biting, the APC governors did not talk. But when the naira redesigning policy, initiated by the same APC government is now affecting the APC governors, they suddenly woke up to talk.
“The only way the APC governors can make an impact in the coming election is to give them the opportunity to buy votes.
“We are already engaging the CBN seriously and by tomorrow (today), they assured us that the market will be filled with the new naira notes. We therefore wish to warn those behind the riots to note that if they should continue, the security agencies will deal with them”, Nehikhare warned.
When reminded that there were riots in Oyo and Delta States over the same issue, Nehikhare responded by saying that it was not coincidental that the protests took place in PDP-controlled states, saying: “It is a systematic protest organised by the APC in all PDP states. This is an APC policy and it does not make sense that PDP will go and destroy PDP infrastructures.”
“The APC federal government is lame duck and is being attacked daily by APC governors over APC policies. I will not be surprised if by tomorrow, there is riot in Kaduna or Kogi state to give it a resemblance of balance. Nigerians should wait for February 25 to chase the bald heads out of the town and replace the APC government with a party that cares about the people, the PDP”, he said.
Reacting to the allegation of instigation, Oshiomhole through his media aide, Victor Oshioke, said there was no way he would instigate the people to take up arms against the policies of an APC-led federal government.
“As we speak now, Comrade is in Port Harcourt for the APC presidential campaign rally. Yesterday (Tuesday), he was in Imo State. Comrade did not instigate anything. Edo State Government should go and face its failure and why the people are about to reject it. Who did the Comrade instigate?
“The Obaseki government is just using Oshiomole’s name as face saving for its failure in all ramifications. The problem is that Edo people are about to compare the Oshiomhole government of over eight years ago with that of Obaseki and the government is panicking.
“It is the fear of that comparison that is making the government say what it is saying. Obaseki and Philip Shaibu have failed woefully and they are intimidated by the large crowd that follows Comrade Oshiomhole anytime he is in Benin.
“Which video are they talking about? The Comrade asked APC members to go to the streets and campaign for the party and its candidates and by that, the opponent will be intimidated. Is that instigation? If they have any evidence that Comrade instigated anybody, let them bring it forward. Otherwise, let the Edo state Government go and face where they have failed and the verdict of the people at the coming elections”, Oshioke said.