For several hours in Benin City on Thursday, vehicular and human movement was stalled following protests by hundreds of youth against the Speclal Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Ngerian Police Force.
The protesters which included members of the National Association of Edo Students, and a coalition of civil society organisations, marched along major streets in the Edo State capital.
The youth, male and female, protested along the popular Ring Road, and adjoining roads including, Akpakpava Road, Airport Road, Sakpoba Road, Benin/Sapele Road, among others.
The protesters, who wore black attires, carried placards bearing inscriptions such as, ‘End SARS before they end us’, ‘End SARS brutality now’, ‘We are not criminals, we are Nigerians’, ‘No to SARS, no to police reforms’, among others.
However, the hitherto peaceful protest turned sour when some of the protesting youths went to the state command of the Nigeria Police to present their matter.
PREMIUM TIMES observed that trouble started when some of the protesters tried to prevent a police van from entering the premises, but the police vehicle ignored them and attempted to run over them.
This led to some of the protesters jumping into the side drains of the road and in the process sustaining injuries.
One of the protesters, Any Ossai, told PREMIUM TIMES that they were protesting because SARS operatives had been treating them like second-class citizens in their own country.
Another youth, Okunbo Omokaro, noted that if SARS must exist in the country, they must operate within the ambit of the law that set them up.
Mr Omokaro said, “We have become second class citizens in our country, the youth of this nation no longer fear armed robbers and other criminals, but rather SARS and other tactical units of Nigeria Police Force.
“SARS is supposed to be anti-robbery, anti-cultism is supposed to be anti-cult, anti-kidnapping is supposed to be anti-kidnapping but every morning police go to their station, sign out arms and go to the street and use it against innocent citizens and intimidate and extort Nigerian youths.”
Another protester, Precious Oruche, said, “I am putting it to the authorities that if they don’t scrap SARS, then they are saying they are in support the evils SARS have been doing. These men go around and pick boys and girls randomly and bail that is supposed to be free, they collect hundreds of thousands of naira from them.”
Addressing the protesters, Kanayo Valentine, a deputy commissioner of police in Edo State in charge of finance and administration, said the grievances of the youths would be addressed.
Also, Chidi Nwabuzor, the state police public relations officer, said the command has already complied with the directive of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu.
Mr Nwabuzor 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 IGP, 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.”