by Cletus Ukpong,
Nigeria’s Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo’s meeting on Monday with the Edo State government and the oil producing communities in the state was temporarily disrupted by some protesters.
The protesters, who carried placards with various inscriptions, broke into the venue of the meeting at the Samuel Ogbemudia College (formerly the New Era College), Benin City, and demanded a fair treatment for the oil producing communities in the state.
There was commotion in the hall immediately the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Usani, finished making his presentation, as the protesters pushed their way forward into the hall and continued waving their placards.
About nine speakers, including the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, had already made their presentations before then.
“Enough of the marginalisation of the host communities,” said the inscription on one of the placards.
The state governor, Godwin Obaseki, and his deputy, Philip Shuaibu, stood up from their seats and moved into the crowd to talk to the youth. The protesters, however, insisted they be allowed to speak their mind to Mr. Osinbajo.
A voice blaring out from the public address system in the hall kept on telling the rowdy crowd, “Everybody should sit down…. Everybody go back to your seat. Go back to your seat.”
The commotion continued for about 10 minutes.
When the protesters were eventually given the opportunity to speak, they demanded that the acting president must visit the oil producing communities in order to have a firsthand knowledge of what the people were going through.
“If you go (to the oil producing communities) and see things you will pity us,” one of the protesters said to Mr. Osinbajo.
He told Mr. Osinbajo that when they saw three helicopters hovering around the Benin airport in the morning they thought that the acting president was going to visit the oil producing communities.
He said they felt disappointed and angry when they were later told that Mr. Osinbajo won’t be visiting the communities because of insecurity.
“If you know that our place is not secured (for you to visit), leave our oil alone,” the representative of the agitators told the acting president.
Another protester told the acting president, “Edo people are peace-loving, but that doesn’t mean that we are cowards.
“We are not feeling the impact of the NDDC and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. We have been marginalised in the amnesty programme (of the federal government).”
Governor Obaseki, in his address, told the acting president that the state has had its fair share of deprivation in the Niger Delta.
“Our youths are very restive,” Mr. Obaseki said.
Throughout the commotion, the acting president appeared unperturbed where he sat at the table with other dignitaries.
“I am now going to begin my own demonstration,” Mr. Osinbajo said jokingly when it was time for his response.
“Our plan is to visit all the oil producing communities in the state. There is no issue of insecurity,” Mr. Osinbajo said, adding that there wasn’t enough time to immediately carry on with the visit.
Mr. Osinbajo told the people that he and Mr. Obaseki have agreed that they must find time to visit the communities.
He explained the “new vision” of President Muhammadu Buhari for the people of the Niger Delta.
“The new vision will define the future,” he said. “The provision of social amenities by the government is the right of every community.”