Agene AKHERE, Benin
Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), UNIBEN chapter, students union and other stakeholders, Tuesday took to major streets of Benin City, the Edo State capital, protesting the demolition of properties given to the University by the then government of Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia.
The Edo State Government Monday rolled out bulldozers and caterpillars to demolish properties given to the university including the official residence of the immediate past Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof.Osayuki Oshodin.
However, tension was heightened at the demolition site as the Bureau Chief of Daily Independent, Mr Francis Onoiribholo, who was at the site to cover the exercise, was beaten up by those demolishing the bungalows scattered around the GRA axis.
Elder fondly called by his colleagues had his camera, recorder and hand set collected from him.
The situation was more pitiful for the immediate past VC of UNIBEN, Prof. Oshodin, who watched helplessly as bulldozers demolish his official residence on GRA Benin City.
The protesters blocked the Benin-Lagos Road for several hours, chanting anti government slogan while condemning the action of the state government.
The chairman Academic Staff Union of Universities (UNBEN), Dr Anthony Monye-Emina, who led the protest, regretted that despite the suit pending at the Appeal Court, “the state government went ahead to destroy the university properties, making our staff and lecturers homeless”.
But in a swift reaction, the state Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of the state, Barr.Henry Idahagbon, asserted that “we did not demolish UNIBEN properties, we only took possession of Edo State Government properties based on a court judgment of December 16th, 2014”.
However, Justice E.O. Ahamioge had on the 16th December in his judgment, ruled in favour of the state government, declaring: “I, accordingly direct the first claimant, and persons claiming by, or through her to vacate the 16 properties stated in the schedule hereunder and give up possession forthwith to the Defendants”.
Idahagbon, who reacted to the protest by the university, stated that “first of all, there was no stay of execution and clearly we did not engage in any demolition of property. What we did was to take possession of government property after judgement was validly given by a competent court of jurisdiction. It is a 65 age judgement delivered on the 16th December 2014 where in the Judge asked UNIBEN to deliver forthwith possession to the Edo state government.
“UNIBEN took government to court. They canvassed five issues and they lost each and every issue they canvassed. They said the government of Midwestern Nigeria gave them the documents. But no documents whatsoever show that the land was transferred to them. They have appealed, there was no copy of stay of execution. An Appeal does not act as stay of execution. They are just making noise”.