By Simeon OSAJIE
Three persons were allegedly feared dead today, Wednesday 16 in Benin City, Edo State capital following the unprompted protest that engulfed several parts of Benin City over the rejection of the scarcity of new redesigned naira notes and the rejection of old notes by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), traders and others in the state.
The protesters blocked ever busy Ring Road, Akpakpava Road, Ramat Park, Five Junction by Urubi, Ugbowo road, Ekewan road and the adjoining streets in Benin City. The protests caused heavy traffic gridlock as the angry protesters made burn fires on the roads and attacked First Bank, GT Bank, UBA, Eco Bank, Zenith Bank, Access Bank and others all in Benin City.
It however took the intervention of the military personnel who in troops drove across the state capital to salvage the situation.
The protesters, despite the presence of the security personnel, regrouped and became more violent leading to the alleged killings of three persons by security operatives.
Speaking to The9jaTREND at the scene of the protest, one of the protesters, Godwin Osemwingie, said he was so frustrated when he went out to buy things with his old naira notes but was told by the seller that the old naira notes were no longer acceptable in the country.
According to Osemwingie, “The problem right now is that we went to bank to deposit my old naira notes, they said they are not accepting it and even the bus drivers are also rejecting it.
“You cannot buy anything. I just went to the Bank, look at the money (displaying the old naira noted before our correspondent), this is Nigeria money and they are rejecting it. How do they want us to survive? We can’t buy and we can’t sell.
“Even the CBN has rejected the old money from us, why? That is why we are protesting.
“Look, all these money in my hands are now wasted. We can’t even board vehicle now. We need our old money back. I am going to Upper Sakponba and I want to trek to the place now, no money.”
Another respondent, Osasere Enadaghe, said he just went to change his 50 Euro with the assurance that the old and new naira notes can co-exist but was disappointed when the old naira notes were rejected.
“What I see in this place now is very typical for us. We are passing through difficult times. We don’t know where we are going or where we are coming from.
“I am just coming from Upper Sakponba this morning to change my money and before changing it, they told me that they collect both the old and the new money.
“So, I went to the market to buy things but I was told that they cannot collect the old naira notes.
“I just changed fifth Euro this morning and I was given N30,000 old naira notes and the money is just a waste in my hand. What am I going to do with the money now?”, he asked rhetorically.
For Precious Oruche, she went to the CBN along Akpakpava Road to deposit her old naira notes but she and others were driven out by security agents attached to the bank.
“It is frustrating. We did not see new money and we didn’t see old money. The little ones we have, you said deadline and now that we want to return it, the CBN said no way.
“It seems that the government has bent on frustrating Nigerians on a daily basis. Okay, I want to buy pure water, we I make a transfer of N10 to the seller and if the person accepts, what about the internet issues?
“People you see protesting, they really don’t want it but they are frustrated, Nigerians are frustrated, they have to stop.
“So it is the poor masses that are suffering it. We are calling on the Nigerian government to make a fast U-turn before things go out of control.
“The CBN is no longer accepting the old naira notes. We have been here since morning.
“They gave us forms to fill and later use the security personnel attached to the bank to ask us to leave. That is why the people got angry”, Oruche said.
In a telephone call put across to Edo State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the State Police Command, SP Chidi Nwabuzor by The9jaTREND for comment on the alleged number of deaths from the protest, he said it was too premature for him to speak on the subject matter.