Commuters were stranded for several hours on Thursday as thousands of youth blocked the ever-busy Ugbowo axis of the Lagos-Benin highway in Benin City, Edo State protesting against the activities of the Nigeria Police Force.
The protesters, who were also demanding an end to the newly introduced SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) tactical unit by the police, questioned the ‘humongous’ salaries of political officeholders.
The carnival-like procession took over the entire highway and the flyover opposite the University of Benin with disc jockeys (DJs) blasting popular revolutionary songs of Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti, Idris Abdlukareem, and several other popular artistes.
Among the protesters were student union leaders of the University of Benin, who were seen coordinating the demonstration, while some stranded commuters also joined the protesters and pledged their support for comeprehensive police reforms.
Some police officers, who came to the scene of the protest, stayed away from the protesters who conducted themselves peacefully for the almost five hours it lasted
The resident of the students’ union government (SUG), University of Benin, Benjamin Egwu, called on the authorities to completely overhaul the Nigeria Police Force.
Mr Egwu said, “We are adding our voice to what has been happening across the country and we are demanding an end of SARS. We are saying end SARS and they are giving us SWAT. What we are saying is that we want police reforms.
“The government can do better; it should bring in more intellectuals into the police. More graduates and other intellectuals should come into the police, more persons will become interested. We were told Nigeria is the giant of Africa but now I can’t say our height. What we are saying is end SARS, end SWAT and give us reformed police.”
Also, Destiny Uanzekin, the public relations officer of the school’s SUG, said, “This is a new generation and the beginning of a new order. It won’t just end SARS now because our next point of call is the politicians.
“We are not just fighting just because we want the end of SARS neither are we fighting because we want the end of SWAT, we are fighting for a Nigeria that we believe in, we are fighting for a Nigeria that we trust is going to be happening very soon.
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“We are in the streets as youth because we know we have a higher stake in the Nigerian society, we are in the streets as youth because we know we have the right as legitimate citizens to air our views. This is not illegal, this protest is legal, what they have been doing to us is what is illegal. Killing our youths, killing our sisters and brothers extra-judicially is wrong.
“The salaries of the people that we vote into government to represent us are being overpaid, let them earn the same salary as civil servants.”
A traveller, who simply identified himself as Osarobo, said he could not help but join in the protest.
Mr Osarobo said he was consoled by the fact that the protest was for the right cause, hence, he joined the agitation.
“I may be stranded right now but I am not frustrated because this is an overdue cry to reform the police force and not just SARS. Let police be well paid and see whether POS won’t stop on highways.” Mr Osarobo added.