Academic Staff Union of Universities, University of Benin chapter, and students on Tuesday protested the demolition of some buildings owned by the institution, including one which sheltered its immediate past Vice Chancellor, Professor Osayuki Oshodin and others officials, , by agents of the Edo State Government.
Several buildings located in the old GRA, allegedly given to the University by the government of the defunct Midwestern region under the military administration of Samuel Ogbemudia, were pulled down.
Commuters plying the Benin-Lagos Road had a hectic time as the university’s protesting students blocked the road for over two hours. They allegedly held government vehicles hostage especially the state-owned buses.
The Edo Bureau Chief of Daily Independent newspaper, Francis Onoiribholo, was allegedly beaten up by those demolishing the buildings, his camera, recorder and mobile phone was also collected from him.
Narrating his ordeal, the immediate past Vice Chancellor of UNIBEN, Prof. Oshodin who was speechless as he watched bulldozers demolished his official residence, condemned the demolition and described it as illegal and unfortunate.
He said the management of the institution had since appealed against the Benin High Court judgment that awarded the contentious houses to the state government.
Oshodin alleged that some of the affected staff include Christie Omoifo of the Faculty of Science Education, the Deputy Bursar, Osuya Obianenve of UNIBEN, and Peter Hugo, the current Vice Chancellor of Western Delta University, Oghara, Delta state, who was said to have been seconded to the institution from UNIBEN.
Oshodin further said that the demolition was personally supervised by Governor Adams Oshiomhole, aided by the state Police Command.
The former VC alleged that the state government didn’t give them any quit notice, adding that if they had been notified, even verbally that they were coming to destroy the buildings, they would have packed out.
The chairman ASUU, UNIBEN chapter, Dr Anthony Monye-Emina and Kashetu Ilevbare, a former ASUU chairman who led the protesting ASUU members, said it was regrettable that despite an appeal pending at the Court of Appeal :”The state government went ahead to destroy the university properties, making our staff and lecturers homeless.”
The protesters who later drove in convoy to the Edo State secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ alleged that they were attacked by suspected hoodlums who prevented them from gaining access to a demolished property to salvage some of the properties belonging to staff.
On his part, Ilevbare said about five of the staff sustained various degree of injuries, three vehicles belonging to the university had their windscreen smashed while personal property of some of the staff were stolen from them.
In his reaction the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Henry Idahagbon, said the government did not demolish UNIBEN properties, just as he denied hiring thugs to beat up anyone.
Idahagbon said the government did no wrong in enforcing the Court judgment, faulted claims by ASUU members and the University authorities on an alleged stay of execution of implementation of the 16 December, 2014 Court judgment. “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-page judgement delivered on 16 December, 2014, wherein 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,” Idahagbon said.
Justice E.O. Ahamioge had on 16 December in his judgment, ruled in favour of the state government, when he declared: “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.”