The protest against police brutality continues nationwide as one person was killed in Ogbomoso in Oyo state.
THISDAY gathered that the protest which began peacefully by several interest groups against the excesses of officials of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) snowballed into violence in Oyo State as a police officer reportedly shot dead the unidentified protester.
The protesters were rallying peacefully in Ogbomosho to join the demand for the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad unit of the police when the incident happened.
According to eyewitnesses, the protesters were met with stiff opposition from the police, who fired gunshots in a bid to disperse them.
Two protesters were hit by bullets. A student died on the spot while another is on danger list in a hospital.
In Lagos state where the protesters had been addressed by the state government, the protest continued in several parts of the state.
In Agege area of Lagos, women numbering over a hundred marched around, singing a chorus in Yoruba. The women were pleading for an end to the killing of their children. They asked the government to ensure the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Their protest comes on the heels of a 72-hour protest staged by youths in Lagos. The youths who began their protest on Wednesday, stayed up late into the early hours of Saturday protesting that the police unit be scrapped totally.
In recent times, the activities of the police unit have come under scrutiny and several members of the squad have been found guilty of using their position to trample on the rights of citizens, especially the youths.
The #EndSARS protest got support from entertainers and other celebrities as a group of young people including Mr. Debo Adebayo, a comedian popularly known as Mr. Macaroni, stormed the premises of the Lagos Assembly, asking that the lawmakers pass legislation that will see to the disbandment of the SARS unit in the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
Meanwhile, the Lagos State government has advised youths protesting alleged brutality by operatives of SARS – an operational outfit in the Police Force – to be civil, as they demonstrated in the State to express their grievances.
Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, on Friday, said the demonstrators’ outrage and grievance were in order and within their rights as citizens. But the Deputy Governor advised them to eschew violence and not to be unruly as their concerns would be pushed to the police authorities for action.
Hamzat, who urged the protesters to leave the roads, said the State Government would not condone brutality and violation of citizens’ rights by security operatives, pointing out that the position of the State on the matter had already been communicated to the appropriate quarters by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
The Deputy Governor said the State Government would continue to engage the police leadership and the Federal Government to address the issues raised by the citizens and bring about needed change in police operations.
He said: “The tenet of the police operation is to protect the citizens. Security operatives don’t have the right to trample on the rights of law-abiding citizens, because of their unfamiliar looks, or because they are carrying laptops or iPhones. It is wrong for any police officer to expressly accuse or pronounce someone, irrespective of age, guilty because they have dreads or ride luxury vehicles.
“As a Government, we support evidence-based investigations and actions driven by intelligence. The procedure of arrest and prosecution must be followed through. We are equally aggrieved like every other law-abiding Nigerian. If a young man or woman who is legitimately doing his or her job is attacked or maimed by police officers for no reason, we will never support that. We condemn police brutality in whatever guise and we will continue to engage their leadership for change.”
Dr. Hamzat advised some of the demonstrators, who were chanting “dissolution of the police”, stressing that it would be counterproductive to pull down the entire operation of the police because of the infractions committed by a few bad eggs in the system.
He told the protesters that SARS was a special operational outfit in the police, adding that there were processes to be followed in calling for change in its operations.
Dr. Hamzat said: “We fully understand the reasons for your anger but this demonstration must also carried out in line with the law. If we employ violence or destruction to drive home our grievances, we will also be hurting ourselves. The protest must be orderly, so that those concerned will get the salient point of the message.
“You can’t block the road, disrupt free flow of traffic and prevent other people from embarking on their lawful duties, especially the emergency responders. As citizens, it is within your rights to express your grievances but let us exercise caution and eschew violence. The authorities have heard your voice and I hope we all leave the roads with the understanding that drastic changes will be effected.”
As the Deputy Governor left the scene at 1:15pm, the protesters continued to sing anti-police songs, calling for disbandment of SARS. But, Dr. Hamzat instructed security operatives at the scene not to harass or exchange words with them.
Meanwhile as the protests spread to Ogun state, the Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, weekend, warned the anti-SARS demonstrators in the state to desist from acts capable of breaching public peace and security and destruction of property.
Abiodun said that “It is gratifying that President Buhari, as the Commander-in-Chief, has given appropriate directives to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) on this issue and IGP has taken some immediate steps in this direction.”
In a statement issued in Abeokuta on Saturday by Kunle Somorin, his Chief Press Secretary, the Governor expressed displeasure at vandalisation of police formations, public property and molestation of innocent citizens as witnessed in the last few days of the protest.
“Whilst we respect the rights of citizens to ventilate their views on any matter of concern and not condoning the excesses of SARS, such views should be expressed in manners that do not undermine law and order or security and safety of lives and property.
“We cannot condone illegalities and lawlessness in an attempt to call attention another issue”, the Governor said.
“Ogun State Government is closely monitoring developments in this regards and enjoins parents and guardians to prevail on their children and wards to refrain from any act that may pitch them against the law,” the statement continued.
“The youths are, in particular, the focus of the Building Our Future Together Agenda of our Administration. Therefore, their safety and security are topmost priorities, the same way we have responsibility for safety and welfare of all residents and citizens of Ogun State”, the statement added.