As resistance continues to mount over Edo State government’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for citizens, civil society organizations and students’ unions on Monday paralysed activities in Benin City, the state capital to protest the order. The protesters handed down a 48-hours ultimatum to the governor, Godwin Obaseki to withdraw the order or face total shut-down of the economy.
Recall that Governor Obaseki had on September 9, 2021 insisted on compulsory vaccination for all residents otherwise they would not be allowed into public places like the government house, state secretariat, churches, mosques and banks. And in spite of a controversial restraining order by a court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, August 31, the government went ahead with the September 15 effective implementation date.
With effect from that date, residents were required to produce their COVID-19 vaccination cards before they are allowed into public places.
However, kicking against the directive, the protesters, who grounded vehicular movement in the metropolis displayed placards bearing such inscriptions as: ‘We need security in Edo, Not vaccine’; ‘We will resist any form of executive rascality’; ‘Hunger is killing us, not COVID-19’; ‘Obaseki, obey court order’; ‘My body is my right’; ‘Share COVID-19 palliative’, among others.
Positing that Monday’s protest was just a warning, the aggrieved protesters threatened to completely shut down the government house, government agencies/parastatals, and corporate organisations that are enforcing ‘no vaccine, no entry’ policy.
Speaking at the secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Edo State Council, Curtis Ogbebor, coordinator, Freedom Ambassador Organisation, said they were out to express their displeasure over the compulsory vaccination in the state. He said there were other pressing issues such as security that the Governor should give priority to and not COVID-19 vaccination.
“We are giving the Governor 48 hours to withdraw the compulsory vaccination or we shut down the economy of the state if he continues with his compulsory vaccination enforcement. We have come out today to send a warning and advice for him to urgently withdraw that enforcement order. Forty-eight hours after, if he refuses to withdraw that order, we will mobilize to shut down the economy of the state. We cannot fold our arms and watch the act of illegality foisted on our state.
“There are issues of urgent concern like security which is enshrined in the Constitution that the governor is under the law to secure the lives and properties of its citizenry. But as we speak, the governor is not concerned about the security and welfare of the people.
“As we speak, no street light is working in Edo State; Benin – Auchi Road is not safe to travel on because of bandits, herdsmen. The governor receives N9bn annually as security vote, but as we speak, the police stations that were razed during the EndSARS, no one has been built. The local security apparatus that was put in place, many Edo youths are ready to sacrifice their lives to secure Edo people but the governor has refused to fund them”. Ogbebor charged the state government to focus more on infrastructure development rather than enforcing COVID-19 vaccination on the people.
Speaking on behalf of students in Edo State, Osamudiamen Ogbidi, National Publicity Officer, Nigeria Student, and Youth Association, said students in the state reject the forceful COVID-19 vaccination. While noting that the protest was just a warning and that students would be mobilized to shut down the state, he urged all other youths in the state to reject the compulsory vaccination.
To the banks implementing the policy, Ogbidi said “We are aware that banks too are making it compulsory for their staff to be vaccinated and that they are about to enforce ‘no Vaccine, no entry policy. And we are sending a warning to them that if they try it, we are going to shut down the banks”.