…Reject govt ban on use of school premises, roads for ceremonies
…We must protect our infrastructure and bring back sanity—Obaseki
BY SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
Fresh tension is brewing between the Governor Godwin Obaseki led administration and the people of the state following the ban by the state government on the use of all premises of public schools, roads and other public places for social events.
Announcing the ban in a statement signed by the Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Hon. Paul Ohonbamu, the government explained that the measure was to protect public infrastructure from being vandalized and warned that any “violation of this decision of government will be dealt with in accordance with extant laws”. The statement therefore urged all agencies of government to enforce compliance.
The announcement last week marred some burial plans and weddings already scheduled to hold in some of the public schools by the residents of the state who argued that the policy was targeted against the poor masses of the state who may be unable to afford holding such ceremonies in event centers and hotels.
The Benin Youth Congress (BYC), an umbrella body of Benin Youths, the Action Democratic Party (ADP) and the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) condemned the decision saying it would further pauperise the people of the state in the prevailing recession.
The BYC in a statement signed by Osadolor Okonzuwa, said “this is a wicked policy and an affront on the customs of Edo people. The decision came too sudden for those who have made elaborate plans for marriages and burial of loved ones. Partying in houses, schools are age long customs, the governor could have made arrangements to check the resultant traffic abuses rather than total ban. This new directive is an affront on our culture and antithetical to our cultural advancement.
This policy is anti-poor, and a gross disservice to the mass of electorates who favored his candidature and this will be resisted by the people. The saddest part is that youths who survive by installation of canopies and chairs will be out of business since event centres have fixed chairs and table” The youths therefore appealed to Governor Obaseki to rescind the decision in the interest of the poor masses of the state.
On its part, the ADP through its state chairman, Mr Gabriel Oloruntoba said that “this idea of trying to oppress the common man is unfair. We are in support of banning events on public roads, but not schools because most people cannot afford the charges at event centers. The ban will add to the pains of the people who are already over burdened with economic and social problems”.
Also reacting, state chairman of CNPP, Mr Roy Oribhabor, said “the CNPP views this development as very harsh because when you say immediate ban what now happens to those who have paid to organize their events in these schools. Government should come up with policies with human face and we insist that we should hold a public hearing on this matter before a decision will be made”.
In another reaction, a 75 year-old man in Oza Street, Sakpoba road Benin City, Pa Osemwegie Julius, said the ban was against the tradition and culture of the people of Benin. He said, “from time immemorial, our people bury their loved ones in their homes and if you look at Oza Street and Igun street for instance, there is no way anybody can conduct a burial there without blocking the street because the street is narrow and such burials are not what you take to event centers, that is if you can even afford it. Governor Obaseki’s father stayed in Evewiewien Street off Iyaro, there is no way anybody can conduct a burial there without blocking the road because it is also a tiny street. The same situation with Owina Street off Sakpoba Road, where the compound of the governor’s maternal grandfather is located. Most of these areas are traditional streets and if you expect people to take their parties to event centers, it is not possible.
I understand the government intends to stop the inconveniences suffered by road users but again God has blessed us with the best road network in Nigeria. We have been managing this situation for years, even when roads are blocked our people always have alternative routes.
All government could have done was to regulate it by timing the events rather than banning people from using their homes for ceremonies because that is the import of the decision. A lot of our people cannot afford two meals a day and now you are saying we should go to event centers for ceremonies, this is anti-people and I can tell you if this decision is not reversed our people will vote out this APC government in the next election. This decision will not affect the rich but the poor in our traditional Benin society”.
However, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Basic Education, Dr. Joan Osa Oviawe explained that the ban by the Edo State Government on the use of premises of public schools for social activities would check vandalism of government infrastructure.
Dr. Oviawe said the ban would create an effective line of communication and strengthen the harmonious relationship between schools and communities where they are located. “With such a measure in place, communities will take over ownership of the infrastructure as critical stakeholders and put the problem of vandalism behind them”, he said.