The Edo State Government has initiated a firm stance against the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, by refusing to revoke the ban on Okaigheles (youth leaders) in the seven local government areas of Edo South.

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Chris Nehikhare, the Commissioner for Communication and Orientation in Edo, articulated that the prohibition on the activities of Okaigheles and cultists aims to mitigate violence in Edo communities.

Governor Obaseki, on June 3, disclosed that over 150 Edo State residents had fallen victim to cult-related violence and homicides within the first half of 2024. Consequently, he imposed a ban on Okaigheles in the seven local government areas of the Edo South senatorial district: Oredo, Ikpoba-Okha, Egor, Ovia North East, Ovia South West, Orhionmwon, and Uhunmwonde.

Following a meeting with security chiefs in Edo, Obaseki told reporters that the ban was part of a broader strategy to combat cultism in the state.

However, the palace of the Oba of Benin, on Friday, declared that the activities of the youth leaders had not been prohibited in the Benin kingdom, asserting that Okaigheles are an integral part of the longstanding Benin traditional administrative framework.

Chief Osaro Idah, the Obazelu of Benin, addressed the protesting Okaigheles of Edo South, who had sought the palace’s intervention. Idah assured them that the palace would engage in dialogue with the Edo State Government regarding the contentious issue and urged the Okaigheles to maintain peace in their domains.

In response, the Edo Commissioner stated, “The Edo State Security Council’s data indicate that Okaigheles and cultists pose the most significant threat to the state’s security and stability. This has led to the council’s decision to impose a total ban on these groups.”

“While we honor the traditions and customs of our communities, the safety and security of residents must always take precedence. Chief Osaro Idah’s statements do not diminish the severity of the situation, and we remain committed to enforcing this ban to safeguard lives and property.”

The government warned that statements like those from Chief Idah might encourage criminals to act against residents and security forces. Nehikhare noted that on June 7, 2024, armed youths attacked three Nigerian Army personnel in Ovia Southwest Local Government Area, causing chaos.

The Edo State Government announced plans for a comprehensive operation to disarm criminal elements and neutralize threats to public peace. The government emphasized its resolve to prevent any individual or organization from undermining security efforts, vowing to hold accountable those who defy the ban on cultists, Okaigheles, and their sponsors.




Victoria Ibiama