â€¢ Police unit arm wing of APC, says Rivers Govt
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The leadership and members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State yesterday staged a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt in support of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The party also stated its support for reform of the unit as ordered by the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris.
But in swift reaction, Rivers State Government through the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Hon. Emma Okah, said the pro-SARS protest by the opposition party has proven that the tactical unit of the Nigerian Police has become the arm wing of the APC.
The protesters, led by the state Chairman of the APC, Dr. Davies Ikanya, marched through the major streets of Port Harcourt, carrying placards and banners declaring their support for the continued existence of SARS operatives in the state, before arriving the Police headquarters, Moscow Road, Port Harcourt, where they presented a letter to the state Police Commissioner, Zaki Ahmed.
Some of the inscriptions on the placard read, â€œSARS is fighting the enemies to save Rivers peopleâ€, â€œ To end SARS is to increase beheadingâ€, â€œWithout SARS, criminals will cripple Rivers State,â€ â€œSupport SARS Commander for a better Rivers Stateâ€ among others.
Speaking while presenting their letter of protest to the Commissioner of Police, the Chairman of APC in the state, Ikanya, said the party was concerned about calls by Governor Nyesom Wike and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the scrapping of SARS.
Ikanya said, â€œAs a party, the APC is concerned by the call by Wike and the PDP for the scrapping of SARS. In 2015, over 300 of our members were killed. From 2015 till now, we have lost more than 400 of our members. In one day alone in ONELGA, we lost over 30 people. My Ward Chairman, Ward 4 in ONELGA was killed, his pregnant wife was killed. At the same time, his son was killed, his daughter was killed Just in their house in one day.
â€œNow, they know that the 2019 election is around the corner and they know they cannot win Rivers State in a free and fair election, now, they want the Police to go; they want the security agencies to go.â€
Also speaking, governorship candidate of Labour Party (LP) in the 2015 election and now a chieftain of the APC in the state, Prince Tonye Princewill, said although there might be some bad eggs in SARS, that should not lead to a call for the scrapping of the entire unit.
Princewill said: â€œWhether it is in America; whether it is in Germany, there are always bad eggs. Will you take because of few bad eggs in SARS and call for the scrapping of the entire Police Force? Does that make sense? It does not make sense. The Inspector-General of police has said there will be reform in SARS and we are here to declare our support for the reform. But what we are saying is that SARS must stay.â€
Responding, the Commissioner of Police, Zaki Ahmed, said between January and now, operatives of SARS have arrested over 1,000 suspected armed robbers in the state and recovered over 100 stolen vehicles as well as arms and ammunition, including AK-47 rifles and Pump Action rifles.
He said, â€œSARS as a body have been doing a good job. If we review their performance from January to date, we will see that more than 1,000 suspected armed robbers have been arrested. Out of this, about 500 of them are being prosecuted in the courts of law. If you look at recoveries made by SARS, you will realise that they have recovered over 100 stolen vehicles. They have also recovered assorted arms; AK-47 rifles, pump-action rifles, pistols and locally made guns.â€
But reacting to the protest, Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Emma Okah, said the protest by members of the APC in the state in favour of SARS was unfortunate and very sad commentary in the state.
He stated that the protest by the APC confirms the fears of the state government that operatives of SARS, in recent times are not doing their jobs professionally.