Vehicular and human traffic was disrupted for several hours Thursday at the central of Benin poplarly called ring road, and adjoining roads including Akpakpava Road, Airport Road, Sokponba road, Sapele road and others as hundreds of youths under the aegis of National Association of Edo Students (NAES), and coalition of civil society organisations staged a ‘SARS must go’ protest.
The peaceful protest went sour when the group arrived at the state headquarters of the State Police Command.
The protesters wanted to prevent a police van from entering the premises but the police vehicle ignored them and wanted to run into them, leading to some of the protesters jumping into the side drains of the road and in the process sustained injuries.
The protesters who wore all 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, amongst others, lamented that SARS treat them like second class citizens in their own country.
Speaking to newsmen on behalf of the youths, Okunbo Omokaro noted that if SARS must exist in the country they must operate within the ambit of the law that set them up.
He said, “We have become second class citizens in our country, the youths of this nation no longer fear armed robbers and other criminals but rather SARS and other tactical units of Nigerian Police Force.
They have put fears in us and we have become second class citizens in our country. We are here to say no to SARS and if SARS must exist, they must operate within the law that set them up, 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 up arms and go to the street and use it against innocent citizens and intimidate and extort Nigerian youths”
Also speaking, Miss 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”.
However, receiving the protesters, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Finance and Administration, Kanayo Valentine, said the grievances of the protesters would be addressed.
On his part, the Police Public Relations Officer, Chidi Nwabuzor said the Edo State Command has already complied with the directive of the Inspector General of Police.
He 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 IG, 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 of that directive.”