Edo State High court sitting in Benin City has granted bail to six protesters (male and women) tagged ‘ritualists’ have been granted bail on ‘political ground’.
The protesters recently embarked on a street protest in Benin City over alleged demolition of their houses in Ago-Emokpae also known as Okeoroma village on orders of the State government.
They were recently arrested, paraded, charged with promotion of communal war and other offences and remanded in prison custody by the court for two weeks.
Human Rights lawyers, Douglass Ogbankwa and Jefferson Uwoghiren, journalist who turned lawyer, defended the accused persons on Wednesday.
Recall that some of the suspects dressed in a traditional regalia. They were accused of performing rituals at the State government Secretariat.
Spokesman of the Nigeria Police Command in Edo State, SP Chidi Nwanbuzor, paraded the arrested suspects at the State headquarters.
He told newsmen that police operatives swooped on the suspects following intelligence report that they had gone to perform at the Secretariat, and arrested the suspects.
Nwabuzor revealed that the suspects are from Ago-Emokpae village popularly called ‘Oke-Oroma’ viallage where the state government had demolished houses built on government land.
According to him, the suspects had spilled the blood of animals at the gate of the State secretariat in Benin City, for ritual purpose.
“The suspects paraded themselves in the name of protest to the state secretariat along Sapele spilled animals blood at the gate in forms of rituals against the State government for the policy implemented against land grabbing in the area”, Nwabuzor said.
The police spokesman noted that the blood animal was also spilled on a paper containing governor Godwin Obaseki’s name, the State Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General among others.
He also told journalists that the activities of the people demonstrating without informing the state police Commissioner about their plan to demonstrate is against the law and could cause breach of peace.
One of the protesters, Wilson Imasuen, denied spilling animal blood at the gate of the Secretariat.
He said they are indigenes of Oke-Oroma village whose houses were demolished on orders of the state government weeks ago.
He alleged that they obtained a formal permission from the police and other security agents before embarking on the peaceful protest.
“I don’t know anything about the killing of fowl, we were surprised when police and vigilante swoop on at the Museum ground hours after the protest has ended. We were protesting the demolition of our house”
On his part, Mr Collins Ojo told journalists that the protesters comprised persons of various faith and thus cannot stop anyone from exercising his or her faith.
“Right there while we were protesting, there were Muslims, christians, some traditionalists. I can’t stop any traditional persons from expressing himself as a traditionalist. I saw Christians praying, I saw Muslim praying too during the protest”
“Everybody was doing their thing. What happened is that, immediately I turned my back, I saw that some persons have already slaughtered fowl inside the native pot”, Ojo said.
Earlier, the State government, had said it repossessed over 1200 hectares of land in Irhirhi-Obazagbon-Ogheghe Areas that were allegedly encroached on by ‘land grabbers’ to pave the way for the proposed new town in the area.
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