Bisi Olaniyi, Benin, Nicholas Kalu, Abuja, Adekunle Jimoh, Ilorin, Kolade Adeyemi, Jos/ THE NATION
•Youths, activists urge Fed Govt to scrap unit
•Rebrand, don’t scrap SARS, Okiro tells Fed Govt
•Sokoto police chief bans tactical squads from routine patrol
• Rivers gets enforcement task force
PROTESTS for the scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) spread on Thursday in many parts of the country.
There had been a peaceful protest on Wednesday in Ikeja, the Lagos State capital, by some students and youths to make the government end the activities of the police unit.
In the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), scores of protesters on Thursday besieged the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters in Abuja, calling for the scrapping of the police squad.
The protesters caused traffic gridlock on the streets of the central area of Abuja, where the Force headquarters is located.
They dramatised the killings by police personnel by pouring red paint on the roads and chanted anti-SARS songs.
Among them was the Convener of the #RevolutionNow campaign, Omoyele Sowore.
The protesters said many SARS operatives and policemen had been indicted for rights violations, extra-judicial killings, extortion, illegal detention and other acts of misconduct.
Force Headquarters spokesman Frank Mba, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), had said SARS cannot be scrapped because it is still needed to combat armed robbery and other violent crimes across the country.
In Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, scores of youths on Thursday held a peaceful protest on major streets of the town.
They urged the police high command to end SARS.
The youths converged on the popular General Post Office area before marching on Ahmadu Bello Way to the headquarters of the state police command and then the Kwara State Government House.
They sang anti-SARS songs and carried placards with various inscriptions, such as: “End SARS now,”; “Say no to reformation of SARS”; “Police, protect us, police stop killing us”; “The only SARS we want is SARS on the beat”; “Stop killing our youth” and “Stop killing our male child.”
Convener of the protest, Miss Saadat Bibire, said the peaceful protest followed gross misconduct and atrocities committed by SARS operatives.
Another protester, Abdulsalam Abodurin, alleged that some of the unit’s officers extorted N50,000 from him because they could not understand the use of an application on his phone.
Abodunrin said he used the App to communicate with his clients as a creative writer.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Paul Omata lauded the peaceful and orderly conduct of the youths during the protest.
He assured that their grievances would be relayed to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu, whom he said had started taking steps towards addressing some of the issues they raised.
Former IGP Mike Okiro on Thursday said the SARS should be rebranded and refocused for effective service delivery, rather than scrap it.
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, Okiro said: “The police management should go to the drawing board and retrain personnel of the SARS as it will be counter-productive to disband them.
“You cannot throw away the baby with the bath water. If they have deviated from what they were established for, they should be retrained and refocused.
“Armed robbers will be happy that there is no more SARS in the country, but are Nigerians ready for that?”
The former IGP noted that the squad had derailed from the primary purpose of tackling armed robbery that it was established for.
“Members of the SARS are doing things that are different from their training,” he said.
Also, Sokoto State Police Commissioner Ibrahim Kaoje has banned the officers and men of tactical squads from carrying out routine patrols, stop-and-search, mounting of road blocks and other conventional low risk duties.
A statement yesterday in Sokoto by the police command’s spokesman Muhammad Sadiq, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), quoted Kaoje as saying the meeting followed the IGP’s current reforms of SARS.
“Having digested every word of the directives and guidelines issued by the IGP, I enjoin you to get more acquainted with the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
“This is in addition to the code of conduct and rule of engagement establishing your squads, in order to checkmate the excesses of the squads.
“Moreover, I want to warn all of you against the invasion of privacy, unauthorised search of mobile phones, laptops and other smart devices,” he said.
In Benin, the Edo State capital, hundreds of placard-carrying protesters yesterday marched on the major streets to ask for the scrapping of the police unit.
The protesters, who comprised members of civil society organisations (CSOs) and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), chanted “SARS must go” and caused traffic gridlock.
Leader of the protesters, Osunbor Omokaro, said: “We say no to SARS. If SARS must exist, they must operate within the ambit of the law. Anti-robbery should be anti-robbery; anti-kidnapping should be anti-kidnapping, while anti-cultism should be anti-cultism.
“It is common knowledge that we have become second-class citizens in our country. SARS operatives have been exploiting Nigerians. Enough is enough.”
Edo Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Finance and Administration, Kanayo Valentine, who received the protesters, assured that the command would address the issues they raised.
The command’s spokesman Chidi Nwabuzor, a Superintendent of Police (SP), said the command had fully complied with the directive of IGP Adamu to end the lawlessness of some SARS operatives.
Also, the Rivers State Police Command has inaugurated a task team to enforce the reformation of the SARS under the command.
Police Commissioner Joseph Mukan inaugurated the team in Port Harcourt, the state capital, according to a statement yesterday by the command’s spokesman Nnamdi Omoni, a Superintendent of Police (SP).
Mukan listed the team’s members to include the command’s Head of Operations, ACP Innocent Umerie; CSP Chris Amanyi and SP Daramola Kazeem.
Other members are: SP Nnamdi Omoni, ASP Bernard Okonkor, Insp. Kwagha Nathaniel and the command’s Police Control Room.
“The task force must immediately begin the enforcement of the IGP’s directives on FSARS and other tactical units.”
“They must embark on routine checks and visit all the formations and departments belonging to SARS, STS, IRT and other tactical units to ensure full compliance.”