Some employees of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Edo State, on Tuesday protested against the alleged demolition of their official quarters by the state government.
The workers, numbering 25, alleged that the demolition was carried out on Monday night on the orders of the state Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, without prior notice.
They also accused the government of disrespecting the court over the disputed property, located on Edo Osagie Avenue in the General Residential Area, Benin, which they said was pending in court.
It was learnt that no fewer than 16 apartments, including that of a former Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Osayuki Oshodin, were demolished.
It was gathered that the 16 bungalows were given to UNIBEN by a former military governor of the Old Bendel State, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, in 1970, sequel to the establishment of the institution, then known as Midwest Institute of Technology.
It was also learnt that the South-South Bureau Chief of the Daily Independent Newspapers, Mr. Francis Onoiribholo, who was present during the demolition was allegedly beaten up by some persons for taking photographs.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities had, on December 23, raised concern over the alleged harassment of some of its members by suspected thugs over the disputed property.
It explained in a statement signed by the ASUU UNIBEN Chairman, Mr. Anthony Monye-Emina, that the university had filed an appeal on December 17, 2014, against a court judgment issued on the disputed parcels of land, which was occupied by some of its members.
Monye-Emina on Tuesday accused Oshiomhole of ”taking the law into his hands” by ordering the demolition, even when the institution had secured a stay of execution order on the case, which would have been heard in court this month.
He explained that the institution had secured a police escort on December 21, to enable one of the workers to pick up his property from the building had been pulled down with his property inside.
He said the union got information on Monday that the onslaught had continued on other buildings under litigation.
“The university got a stay of execution order. Two days after the court ruling, they sent thugs to forcefully eject one of our members and beat him and his family up.”
The ASUU UNIBEN chair, who argued that the said building had earlier been given to the university by a former military governor of the state, also lamented that the government had rendered the affected members of staff homeless.
“He (Oshiomhole) wants to take back the property. We feel that this is taking the law into his hand and that is why we are on the streets to let the world know about the threat to life and property that is being perpetrated by the chief security officer of the state,” he said.
The protest took a dramatic turn when some hoodlums attacked some of the protesters along the Airport Road, Benin.
Monye-Emina told correspondents that two vehicles belonging to the union were vandalised.
It was also learnt that some students of the university went on rampage at the Ugbowo area of the Benin-Ore Expressway, where the main campus of the institution is located, in solidarity with the protesting workers.
The students were also said to have seized one of the inter-city buses, Comrade Bus, operated by the state government, to express their grievances.
When contacted, the Students Union Government President of the university, Mr. Imafidon Ikhide, said, “Yes, the bus was seized because our property was destroyed by the governor. They destroyed the buildings of the members of staff at GRA.”
The Attorney-General of the state and Commissioner for Justice, Henry Idahagbon, noted that the university had no proof of a stay of execution order.
According to him, Justice E.O. Ahamioge of the State High Court, in his judgment on December 16, 2014, ruled in favour of the state government and ordered the university to vacate the 16 buildings and give up possession forthwith to the defendants (state government).
“We did not demolish UNIBEN property; we only took possession of Edo State Government property based on a court judgment of December 16, 2014.
“UNIBEN took government to court. They canvassed five issues and they lost every issue they raised. They said the government of Midwestern Nigeria gave them the property, but no documents whatsoever show that the land was transferred to them.
“They appealed, but there was no copy of a stay of execution.
“An appeal does not act as a stay of execution.”
The Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Joseph Edoigiawerie, said that the command had not been officially informed.
Edoigiare said, “I am not aware of anything. We have not been officially informed.”
This item originally appeared on Punch News