July 20, 2024

Burrow Pit Controversy: APC Condemns Edo Govt Use of Police, DSS to Harass Online Publisher


APC, Obaseki, Egbetokun

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By Reporter

The All Progressives Congress, APC, Campaign Council for the September 21, Governorship election in Edo State, has condemned the use of security agencies to harass and intimidate an Online Publisher, Sir Freeman by the State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, over the publication of a controversial story on the seizure of a burrow pit allegedly belonging to the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II.

Midwest Herald reports that the Edo State Government had in a statement issued by the Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Hon Chris Nehikhare, gave 24-hours ultimatum to the Publisher of an Online medium, infopower.ng to retract the controversial report or the State Government would have no option but to commence legal actions against the news website.

According to Chris, the Online platform reported that the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki purportedly seized burrow pits at Obagie N’ Evbosa in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area of the State, from the Benin monarch.

The commissioner who refuted the report, noted that it was an figment of the writer’s imagination in a desperate and futile attempt to hoodwink the people and tarnish the image of the governor and the very cordial relationship between the revered monarch and the governor.

“To put the records straight, the illegal activities at the burrow pit in Obagie N’ Evbosa, Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area of the State were discovered during the State Executive Council visit to CORAL City, which is being developed by the State Government to decongest Benin City.

“Before the Council’s visit to the area, the State Government had in a public announcement urged operators to restrict their mining activities to burrow pit sites approved by the Government.

The environmental degradation consequential to illegal mining are enormous and must be frowned at.

“The illegal activities of the operators at the site pose a serious threat to the lives and properties of residents of communities in the area.

“Inforpower.ng has 24-hours to retract the report or the State Government will have no option but to commence legal actions against the news website”,he said.

Reacting to the government’s statement, the All Progressives Congress Governorship Campaign Council, said it strongly condemn the actions taken by the State Government to harass the publisher of the online medium.

Prince Kassim Afegbua, Media Consultant to the Campaign Council, in a statement, opined that the reported threats of court orders, alongside the involvement of the Police and the Directorate of State Services, DSS, are unnecessary and constitute an attempt to intimidate and suppress the freedom of the press.

The Campaign Council, who commended the role of the media in bringing such issues to light, ensuring transparency and accountability in governance, noted that the use of security agencies to intimidate the publisher and threat of legal action are counter-productive and undermine the principles of democracy and free speech.

Afegbua added that authoritative sources confirmed that the pits, traditionally operated by the Palace of the Benin Monarch, were allocated by the Edo State Government to a private individual.

He noted that the publication does not only sparked significant concern among the people of Edo State, but has prompted the state government to reverse its allocation due to the public outcry

“The appropriate course of action for the government, if it believes it has been misrepresented, is to issue a rejoinder or formal response to clarify its stance.

“Resorting to intimidation tactics only serves to distract from the core issue under reference, and raises further questions about the government’s commitment to transparency and accountability.

“It is pertinent to note that this incident is not an isolated one but part of a broader pattern of anti-people and anti-Palace policies executed by the current Edo State administration.

“The APC Campaign Council calls on the Edo State Government to uphold the principles of good governance, transparency, and accountability.

“We urge the government to respect the role of the media in society and to desist from actions that are direct and deliberate attempts to stifle free expression”,he stated.

He, however, urged the DSS in the state not to be a tool in the hands of Edo state Government to witch-hunt and harass innocent citizens on trumped up accusations.

He also called on the Edo State Police Command not get itself involved in taking compromised position on issues such as the one under reference.

“This high level intimidation, harassment and threat must stop, and DSS must live within the bounds of law and order.

“In conclusion, we reiterate our condemnation of the harassment of the media and call on the Edo State Government to engage in constructive dialogue rather than resorting to intimidation.

“We stand firm in our commitment to holding the government accountable and ensuring that the rights and interests of the people of Edo State are protected”,he added.”

Despite the condemnation of the action taken by Edo State government, the publisher was invited by the State Security Service in Benin City and was accompanied by a battery of lawyers and pro-free press stakeholders and was immediately asked to go.

Midwest Herald recalls that Edo State Government is renowned for hoarding information on its activities, using the pretence of paperless and e-governance to cover the unprecedented allegations of corruption confronting the administration.

Read Also: Edo State Examination Scandal: Govt. Cancels Paper Amidst Leaked Question Papers

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