Obaseki Draws Battleline with Oba of Benin, Insists on Ban of Youth Leaders

Edo State Government has drawn the battle line with Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, insisting  there will be no going back on the ban on Okaigheles (youth leaders) in Benin Kingdom’s seven local government areas of Edo South.

The Commissioner for Communication and Orientation in Edo, Chris Nehikhare, in a statement, explained the ban on the activities of Okaigheles and cultists was to curb violence in Edo communities.

Obaseki, on June 3, informed over 150 residents of Edo State had been lost to cult-related activities and homicide in less than six months (from January 2024). 

He banned the activities of Okaigheles in Edo South senatorial district’s seven LGAs of Oredo, Ikpoba-Okha, Egor, Ovia North East, Ovia South Eest, Orhionmwon, and Uhunmwonde.

Obaseki, while speaking with Government House reporters in Benin, after a closed-door meeting with security chiefs in Edo state, disclosed that his ban on Okaigheles was part of the renewed efforts to tackle cultism in Edo.

The palace of Oba of Benin, on Friday, however, maintained that the activities of the youth leaders had not been banned in Benin kingdom, while insisting that the Okaigheles represented a segment of the aged-long Benin traditional administrative structure.

The Obazelu of Benin, Chief Osaro Idah, spoke while addressing the protesting Edo South Okaigheles, who sought the palace’s intervention.

Idah assured that the palace of of the first-class monarch would dialogue with Edo State Government on the contentious issue and charged the Okaigheles to maintain peace and order in their domains.

But Edo Commissioner said: “The Edo State Security Council’s 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 the residents must always come first. Chief Osaro Idah, the Obazalu of Benin’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 and property of our people.

“The Edo State government notes that statements like the ones made by Chief Idah would embolden the criminals to take up arms against ordinary residents, military personnel, policemen, and other constitutional security agencies.

“On Friday, June 7, 2024, some so-called youths opened fire on three men of the Nigerian Army, attached to Okomu Oil Palm Plc., in Ovia Southwest Local Government Area of Edo State, injuring them and throwing the community into pandemonium. In the coming weeks, Edo State government will proceed on a full-scale operation to disarm the criminal elements and neutralise their threats against public peace.” 

He vowed the State would not allow any individual or organisation, no matter how highly placed, to undermine the efforts of the security council to protect the lives and property of the residents.

Nehikhare declared that the activities of cultists, Okaigheles and their unnamed sponsors remained banned in Edo, vowing government would spare no effort to ensure that the people who would flout the ban were made to face the full weight of the law.

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