The government of Lagos State has advised youth protesting alleged brutality by operatives of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) – an operational outfit in the Police Force – to be civil, as they demonstrated in the State to express their grievances.
The deputy governor, Obafemi Hamzat, on Friday, said he shelved official engagements and obliged the request to address aggrieved #EndSARS protesters who besieged the State House in Alausa.
As the deputy governor arrived at the scene, some of the demonstrators engaged in intense arguments with the Government House police guards deployed to keep the peace. The operatives did not harass any of them.
Mr Hamzat 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.
Protesters in Lagos defied a police order to disperse and continued their protests Friday calling for the scrapping of SARS, and not just a reformation of the police unit.
Mr 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 the 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.”
Mr 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.
Mr 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 chant anti-police songs, calling for disbanding of SARS. But, Mr Hamzat instructed security operatives at the scene no to harass or exchange words with any of the demonstrators.