By Ernest Chinwo
Thousands of protesters defied Rivers State Government ban on all forms of protests and marched through some roads in Port Harcourt before camping at the State Government House gate.
The #EndSARS protesters also vowed not to leave the Government House gate until Governor Nyesom Wike comes out to address them.
The state government had in a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, said the protest was no longer meaningful following the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu.
The statement reads in part: “The Rivers State Government hereby wish to inform the general public that all forms of protests have been banned throughout the state. Therefore, all proposed protests under #EndSARS Campaign are hereby prohibited.”
The state government said it took the decision because the Inspector General of Police had already scrapped the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
“Therefore, there is no need for any form of protest against a Unit of the Police Force that no longer exists,” it said.
But the protesters went on with the campaign despite the presence of hundreds of fierce-looking security operatives comprising of the Nigeria Police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), that were stationed at strategic locations in the state capital.
The locations included the two main entrances into the Rivers State Government House; the Police headquarters, Moscow Road; Isaac Boro Park and Pleasure Park, which was to serve as takeoff point for the protesters.
Apparently because of the presence of the security operatives, the protesters started gathering opposite the Pleasure Park from 9:00am instead of the scheduled 7:00am and marched from there to the city centre, carrying placards some of which read: “#EndSARS”, “Justice For Sleek”, “End Police Brutality”, “We are tired of being Oppressed”, “Our lives matter”. They also chanted anti-Police songs as they marched along the road.
Obviously to prevent any attack on the State Police headquarters along Moscow Road, security operatives blocked the entire stretch of the road, restricting movement of people and vehicles into the road that houses the State House of Assembly and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Ernest Ikoli Press Centre.
The protesters, made up of mostly youths, settled at the main entrance to Government House along Azikiwe Road, causing traffic gridlock on the entire stretch of the road. Even the presence of security operatives stationed at the main entrances of the Government House and the barricade they set up could not deter the protesters.
Addressing journalists, Chairman of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) in the South-South zone, Karl Chinedu Uchegbu, said the protesters will not vacate the area except Wike addresses them.
Uchegbu said: “My brother, we are here and we are not going anywhere. We expect Governor Wike to come out and address us. If he chooses to wait till tomorrow before he addresses us, we will wait. But one thing is that the governor must address us.”