By Vincent Ujumadu, Demola Akinyemi, Daud Olatunji, Joseph Erunke & Esther Onyegbulam
THOUSANDS of Nigerians in different parts of the country yesterday took to major streets to protest for and against calls to scrap the Special Anti-Robbery Squad , SARs, in Nigerian Police.
While protesters in Rivers State, under the platform of the Grassroots Development Initiative, called for the outright scraping of the squad, hinging their position on the killings, kidnappings and what they described as electoral fraud perpetrated by the unit in the state, their counterparts in Anambra , Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja , kicked against the call.
Grassroot Developement Initiative Members led by Rivers State PDP Spokeperson, Mr Samuel Nwanosike at the Police Command Headquaters in Rivers State to Protest against the Police Special Anti-robbery Squad [SARS] Monday in Port Harcourt. Photo: Nwankpa ChijiokeHowever in Lagos, placard-carrying protesters were both for and against the call.
Rivers demand immediate sack and prosecution of Akin Fakorede
In Rivers State, the protesters marched through the streets of Port Harcourt , singing anti-SARS songs. Some of the placards read: “Sack Akin Fakorede now”, Stop killings by SARs”, President Buhari call SARs to order”, End the killings by SARS “ and “End SARs brutality Now”.
President-General of Grassroots Development Initiative, GDI, Mr Bright Amaehwule, berated the Special Anti-Robbery Squad for turning themselves into a tool used by some politicians to perpetrate crime against Nigerians.
Speaking at the PDP headquarters, Amaehwule, alleged that the pro-SARS rally held recently in Port Harcourt was sponsored.
He, therefore, called for the immediate sack and prosecution of the Rivers SARs commander, Akin Fakorede, who he alleged was captured on tape committing electoral fraud.
He said that Akin Fakorede and his operatives must be made to account for their crime against Rivers people.
In Kwara State, scores of youths took to major precincts, such as Stadium, Taiwo, Muritala Mohammed Way,Maraba,Unity and Challenge, throwing their weight behind the call for the scrapping of SARS.
They appealed to the federal government and the National Assembly to act fast on the issue, before its operatives wreaked more havoc on innocent and defenseless Nigerians.
The protesters also marched to the state council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, along Offa road,Ilorin, where they called on journalists across the country to assist them on the demand for the scrapping of SARS.
They stated that the conduct and operations of SARS had sent several Nigerians to their early graves, adding also that operatives of the squad were the most corrupt in the Police Force .
Spokesperson of the protesters, Mr. Yomi Akande, said that activities of SARS had affected the country’s human rights record.
Speaking on the protest, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Lawan Ado, said the police command would not condone any act of anti-human conduct from SARS operatives in the state.
Pro-SARS rally paralises Abuja
In the Abuja, the rally organised by a coalition of civil society organization, under the aegis of Concerned Men and Women Association of Nigeria with membership drawn from the Police Community Relations Committee, The Emminent Persons Forum and market men and women among others, was held at the Eagle square .
The rally, which had over 1000 participants in attendance, started at about 10:am with a procession, after which the participants were led by their leaders to the Force Headquarters to meet with the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, with a view to tabling their mission statement.
With placards bearing inscriptions such as “allow SARS be”, “reorganization and reform of SARS is the only solution”, Nigerians, let us support the reform of SARS” among others, the protesters said they were in support of the operation of the police anti-robbery unit, saying scrapping the unit would boost the morale of armed robbers in their trade.
National Coordinator of the Concerned Men and Women of Nigeria, Hajia Hadiza Ishaku, said the organization deemed it fit to stage the solidarity in support of the anti-robbery unit of the Nigeria Police so that people all over the world would know that those calling for its scrapping were a few individuals.
While handing over a letter of support to the police boss, through his representative, Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of operations, Habila Joshak, Ishaku noted that policing was a complex job the world over.
Ishaku said: “The recent campaign in the social media calling for the scrapping of the Special Anti-robbery Squad, SARS, a unit of the Nigeria Police Force, is not in the best interest of Nigerians, especially for armed robbery and kidnap victims and their families.
“We call on all Nigerians to support the reform of SARS as announced by the Inspector General of Police to make it better under the Federal SARS arrangement and a Commissioner of Police already appointed by the IGP to head SARS to be allowed to work to make F-SARS more effective and efficient.
Ogun stakeholders kick against call for scrapping
In Ogun State, a coalition of Civil Society groups, comprising, National Association of Nigerian Students and Community for defence of Human Rights as well as Police Community Relations Committee, Vigilante Service of Ogun State among others, kicked against the call for scrapping of SARS .
Addressing newsmen after the rally, both NANS and CDHR unanimously agreed that there were bad eggs in the Federal Special Anti-Robbery squad but argued that the squad needed reformation, and not total scrap.
The National Secretary, CDHR, Comrade Yinka Folarin credited the FSARS in Ogun state for the peace and serenity he said indigenes enjoyed.
He said : “ the squad is a good example of what a police formation should be.”What we are saying is that there should be a holistic reorganization and restructuring which is not by ranking.The SARS in Ogun state have subjected themselves to sleepless night to make sure that our eyes are open.”
Anambra youths too
In Anambra State, a peaceful protest was staged against the call for the scarp of SARS .The youths, under the aegis of Concerned Anambra Citizens and Non indigenes, drawn from various local government areas in the state, converged at the gate of the SARS office, Awkuzu , in Oyi local government area of the state displaying placards which read ‘ Removal of SARS, an invitation to kidnapping, robbery”; ‘ We want crime free Christmas and new year”; and “Let SARS be”, among others.
The convener, Mr. Emeka Okafor, who is also the Special Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano on political matters, said their protest was to drive home the likely consequences of scrapping the unit.
He attributed the relative peace existing in the state to the active and aggressive operations of that arm of the police force, insisting that any attempt to scrap the unit would amount to return of all forms of crimes and criminality in the state.
The governor’s aide who later handed over the letter addressed to the Inspector General of Police by the group to the state Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Owolabi, appealed to the IGP to use his good office to ensure that SARS remained in the state.
He said refusal to heed to their call might compel the group to carry the protest to the police headquarters in Abuja.
Responding, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Chris Owolabi commended the group for a peaceful conduct, promising that the message would be delivered appropriately.
Group kicks against end SARS in Lagos
A civil society group under the umbrella of Sariki Mai Kanuri of Lagos State, also staged a rally at the National Stadium against the campaign to end SARS. Like their other counterparts in other states, members of the group displayed placards which read “Support the Inspector General of Police reorganization of SARS, Say no to armed robbers and kidnappers, Encourage SARS to end violence when you end SARS you welcome armed robbers, Investors needs a crime free environment, Encourage SARS to do their job”.
Speaking on behlaf of the Hausa, Kanuri, Igbo, Yoruba and others notable tribes in Lagos, Alhaji Baba Talba said : “ let everyone follow the normal procedures if their rights are violated instead of clamouring to end SARS. SARS has been contributing to the development of Lagos State and Nigeria as a whole in fighting crimes. We don’t want them to be wiped off”.
However, another group converged at the Gani Fawehinmi part, Ojota to canvass for the scarp of the squad.