Anti-SARS Protesters Storm Police Headquarters in Abuja

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•Procession in Lagos, Edo

Chiemelie Ezeobi in Lagos, Olawale Ajimotokan, Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City

The Convener of the #RevolutionNow Movement and presidential candidate for African Action Congress (AAC) in the 2019 general election, Mr. Omoyele Sowore; the co-conveners of Concerned Nigerians Group (CNG) and BringBackOurGirls (BBOG), Mr. Deji Adeyanju and Ms. Aisha Yesufu; and others, yesterday staged a protest at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, calling on the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, to immediately scrap the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

Celebrities and others in Lagos yesterday continued their second day of protests in their clamour to end the pernicious activities of SARS.
Also in Benin City, Edo State capital, vehicular and human movement was disrupted for several hours yesterday as youths in their hundreds trooped out in the streets to protest SARS activities.
The Abuja protesters lamented that SARS had constituted itself into a liability and was giving the Police a bad reputation through its unwholesome activities.

The high-point of the protest was the making of the inscription ‘#ENDSARS’ by the protesters with the blood of animal, on the Shehu Shagari Road, directly in front of the Police Headquarters.
Sowore, who addressed reporters during the protest that lasted well over two hours, called on the police authorities to bow to the popular clamour by scrapping the unit without further delay.
“This SARS is anti-people and should be disbanded. They have been killing young and promising Nigerians across the country and giving us flimsy excuses. This unit is notorious and should be scrapped. The police claimed they have banned SARS several times, but it has been wasting innocent and promising lives.

“They ask for a bribe and hold us hostage. The kidnappings by this unit are well documented over the world. We are saying no to any more banning. We want them to be dismantled, disbanded and every member of that unit that has been engaging in extra judicial killing or violation of human rights should be transparently brought to justice while compensation should be paid to the families of the victims,” Sowore said.

In her remarks, one of the conveners of the BBOG, Yesufu, said Nigerians were angry with the activities of the SARS.
She said the coalition of protesters was not at the IG’s office to seek favours but “to tell the IG to do his job because he has not been doing his job. Tell your people that there was a time when policemen were afraid of wearing police uniforms. You saw what happened at Computer Village where the citizens went after the SARS there.

“Tell your IG that he should not provoke us. He should not push us to the wall. We are dying in Nigeria. Tell the IG that we are angry.”
Addressing the protesters, the Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), Mr. Frank Mba, a deputy commissioner of police (DCP), said Adamu had embarked on measures to reform the outfit.
He said: “As at the time those interventions were made, we had no ideas that you are planning to even come out to protest and yet the IG proactively dished out certain instructions that SARS operatives and other members of the tactical units would not be allowed to be on the road.

“He made it clear that no police officer whether you are the SARS operatives or not will be allowed to come out patrolling the street or conducting stop and search in mufti. He made it very clear that no police officer would be allowed to unlawfully or indiscriminately check the phones or computers or other smart devices of Nigerians.

“He went on to make it very clear that not that the police will only be arrested but publicly paraded and prosecuted if found guilty, and even the Commissioner of Police in that state where those incidents happened would be vicariously liable.”

The Deputy Force Public Relations Officer and Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), Mr. Aremu Adeniran, had also assured the protesters that the protest message would be communicated to the IG while assuring them that the IG had already taken measures to reform SARS.
In Lagos, the protesters, who were led by popular musicians – Mr. Douglas Agu, a.k.a Runtown; and Mr. Folarin Falana, popularly known as Falz, son of human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), stormed the streets of Lagos Island.

Other celebrities include television favourite, Tomike Alayande; ex-Big Brother Nigerian housemates, Prince Enwerem and Elozonam Ogbolu (the Cliffhanger), and so many others.
Rejecting the reforms by the IG, the protesters posited that it has become a recurring decimal to promise reforms and not follow through.

Calling for total obliteration of the police anti-robbery squad, the protesters converged on the grounds of Lekki Toll Gate before they first moved to Zone 2 Police Command Headquarters in Onikan.
They afterwards marched to protest at Lagos State Government House but met the absence of the governor.
Not deterred, the team leads- Falz and Runtown vowed to return next week Tuesday if no considerable changes are made.
Also on the mainland, the protesters led by some popular influencers continued their second day of protests from Ikeja Under Bridge.

Also lending its voice to the clamour to end SARS, Amnesty International wrote on its Twitter handle: “SARS – a police unit created to protect Nigerians has instead become a danger to society, torturing its victims with complete impunity while fomenting a toxic climate of fear and corruption.
“Our research on SARS uncovered a pattern of ruthless human rights violations where victims are arrested and tortured until they either make a ‘confession’ or pay officers a bribe to be released.

“Amnesty International has received reports and collected testimonies that some police officers in SARS regularly demand bribes, steal and extort money from criminal suspects and their families.
“Because of the corruption in Nigerian police all Nigerian government’s previous attempts at stamping out torture have proven completely ineffective and clearly impossible.
“Apart from demanding bribes, SARS officers are accused of stealing or confiscating property from relatives of detained suspects.

“Families of detained suspects told Amnesty International that SARS officers stole their cars or withdrew all the money from their bank accounts. #EndSARSProtests.”
Vehicular and human movements were disrupted for several hours in Benin City, capital of Edo State as youths in their hundreds trooped out yesterday on the streets to protest SARS excesses.
The youths under the umbrella of National Association of Edo Students (NAEs), and a coalition of civil society organisations were among those who staged the protest at the King Square, popularly called Ring road and other adjourning streets like Akpakpava, Airport Road, Mission Road as well as Sapele Road.

On Wednesday, the same youths were at the palace of the Oba of Benin to register their grievances.
The protest yesterday, though peaceful, nearly went sour when the group arrived at the Edo State Headquarters of the state Police Command.
The protesters wanted to prevent a police van from entering the premises but the police vehicle ignored them and wanted to run into them.

The incident led to some of the protesters jumping into the side drains of the road and in the process sustained injuries
The protesters who wore all in black attires carried placards bearing inscriptions such as, “End SARS Before They End U;” “End SARS Brutality Now;” “We Are Not Criminals, We Are Nigerians;” “Say No To SARS;” No To Police Reforms,” amongst others, lamented that SARS treat Nigerian youths as if they are second class citizens in their own country.

Speaking to journalists on behalf of the youths, Mr. Okunbo Omokaro, a self-styled Head of Faculty of Peace Organisation, noted that if SARS must exist in the country they must operate within the ambit of the law that set them up.
Receiving the protesters, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Finance and Administration, Mr. Kanayo Valentine, said the grievances of the protesters would be addressed.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Chidi Nwabuzor, said the Edo State Command has already complied with the directive of the Inspector-General of Police.

He said: “We all feel your pains but I want to tell you that the errors of some unscrupulous policemen cannot be rubbed to other good ones. I must tell you that since the pronouncement of the restriction of routine patrol by the IG, the Edo State Police Command has fully complied with that directive and that is why today, you are not seeing any resemblance of SARS anywhere. We are in full compliance with that directive.”