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THE NATION (May 23, 2005)

PEACEMAKERS AS SUSPECTS
Leaders of a movement that prides itself of combating cultism and violent activities
in tertiary institutions are charged to court in Benin

By Bimbo Kessington

Mike Uyi, president-general, Global Peace Movement, GPM, was in Benin, Edo State, to meet with officials of the state government. The meeting was in pursuance of a proposal to combating the problem of cultism in tertiary institutions in the state. But unknown to him, the police had laid an ambush for him. From there he was arrested along with Sam Okereke, national co-ordinator of the movement. By Monday, last week, they were arraigned before a magistrates’ court in Benin on a five-count charge. The two men were subsequently remanded in prison, while hearing in the case was adjourned till May 17, 2005.

A release by GPM condemned the arrest and detention of the men. But Moke Oghiadome, deputy governor of the state, said the movement approached the government to help eradicate cult and violent activities in the state and also demanded N4 million for its services. He said, “before a group tells you that it wants to help, you have to screen it” But the GPM was said to have refused to subject itself for screening.

Before his meeting with the state government, Uyi had had similar meeting with officials of the University of Benin, UNIBEN. At that meeting the State Security Service, SSS, arrested him. According to him, the police declined to prosecute him because, “they had no evidence against me.” But recently, the security forces turned their searchlight on the movement after a bloody cult activity in Benin. Then Uyi was away overseas. As soon as he returned to Nigeria, he visited the corporate headquarters of TELL magazine in Lagos along with officials of his movement. Uyi was protesting a report, on cult activities in Benin, by the magazine in which his name was mentioned.

He vehemently refuted any involvement with the break out of cult clashes, which had ravaged institutions of higher learning in the state in recent times. During that visit, he also denied making any overtures through phone calls to the Edo State governor and the vice chancellor, VC, of UNIBEN, demanding for N10 million to help eradicate the menace of cultism from higher institutions in the state.

According to Uyi, it was the VC that had invited him, through a phone call on May 31, 2004 at about 3pm. “ He told me that he got a call from a student of the University of Ibadan, UI, and that the same person gave him my number (claiming) that I was in UI in 1999 to carry out a cult eradication programme”. He revealed that at the meeting with the VC on June 3, 2004, the VC, on behalf of the UNIBEN, gave the organization N20,000 for perceived expenses which the organization might have incurred. He also disclosed that the organization does not collect grants from external bodies but rather gets its funding from dues paid by members.

The GPM leader who said the objective of his group’s activity was not to make money, “ We usually call the university authorities to warn them of an imminent cult attack but usually the authorities call our bluff only for these clashes to take place. We usually know about these attacks aforetime because we have renounced cultism as our source of information.” He may have to present proofs of his exploits to convince the court that the security men made the wrong arrest.

Additional report by ADEKUNBI ERO

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