Some members of the civil society organisations in Benin-city, the Edo State capital, yesterday protested against plan by the state government to make it compulsory for residents of the state to take anti-COVID-19 vaccine before accessing large gathering in the state.

The state Governor, Godwin Obaseki, at a briefing last week, stated that for residents in the state to access large gatherings like churches, mosques, banks, wedding or burial receptions among others, they must present vaccination certificate from the second week of September.

Obaseki had stated that the third wave of the COVID-19 is causing devastating effects across the country, hence the need to introduce stiffer measures to reduce the effect.

But yesterday, some civil society groups defiled the early morning downpour in the state to protest against the state government planned compulsory inoculation.

The protesters, who marched through the streets of Benin-city with placards with various inscription such as ‘Obaseki Can’t Force Us to Take COVID-19 vaccines’; ‘I Have the Right to Go to Mosque’; ‘We Have Right to Decide’, among others, said the plan by the government is tantamount to trampling on the fundamental rights of the citizens.

The protesters under the aegis of Equity Initiatives, while addressing journalists at the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Secretariat in Benin-city, asked the governor to face infrastructural decay and insecurity in the state.

Convener and spokesperson for the groups, Chris Iyama, said: “We are here to express our displeasure over the government move to force Edo people to take COVID-19 vaccines. This is against our fundamental human right.

“You cannot force someone to eat what he or she doesn’t want. Are we in banana republic? We own the state not the government.”

Also, the interim state chairman, Edo Civil Society, Bishop Osadolor Anthony Ochei, said it is the right of the citizens to decide whether to be vaccinated or not.

According to him, “If the state government has failed, we cannot fail ourselves. The government has the right to make policies but this policy is not law.”

The protesters had earlier taken their protest to the state Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and the state Government House.

“This is purely the handwork of crises merchants and mischief makers who want to create panic and fear in the minds of Anambra people and residents alike. The Command, with other sister security agencies, are working in synergy to ensure that the security situation in Anambra State is intact.”

Meanwhile, a resident of Awka, a civil servant, who begged not to be named, said the attack was true, but was not recent. “It happened three months ago, and the operative that was killed is a colleague of my neighbour, and was buried last month,” the source said.

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