Youths of Imo State, numbering over 400 on Monday and Tuesday stormed government house roundabout, Wetheral/Okigwe Road, Owerri, demanding for total ban on the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) and total reform of entire police force to end what they termed police brutality.
The protesters who blocked the roundabout which is the major point of movement in the state capital, threatened not to leave the place until the state Commissioner of Police (C.P) Isaac Akinmoyede comes to address them.
They displayed placards with inscriptions such as; “Enough is enough. We come in peace, end SARS, end public brutality. My phone is my privacy. iPhone is not a crime. Stop extorting money from Nigerian youths, end police brutality. End SARS, Reform police, stop killings”, among others.
The youthful protesters made it clear that they have no confidence in the pronouncement of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Muhammed Adamu, recalling that such pronouncements had been made over three times in the past, but SARS and other tactical squads always come back worst than they were before such pronouncements.
“Government should re-orientate the men of the Police Force, so they stop invading our hostels and lodge with the intention of seizing our vehicles, laptops, phones and other valuable items including extorting us”, frowning that Policemen have no right to ask drivers about their driving license on the road”.
They told the Imo State government led by Governor Hope Uzodimma to provide jobs for teeming idle youths, train them on meaningful vocational skills and empower them accordingly, as well as provide social facilities that will encourage productivity and comfortable living.
They said the only way to convince them that SARS has been truly banned was for President Muhammadu Buhari to make an executive order on the ban and for the national assembly to put its legislative seal on it.
Asked why they chose to inflict pains on innocent motorists and travelers by blocking the road and harshly preventing any motorist who tries to maneuver through the blockade, Emmanuel Daligton and Mgbeahuru Dominic said the group first embarked on the protest, about three days back when they demanded to see the C.P, but was told they did not follow due process in the protest, which entails informing the command through an official letter.
“Because of that we deferred the protest and did all necessary requirements. When we started this protest today, we didn’t block the road, we stayed on one side of the road and only demanded to see the state commissioner of police. It was when we found out that he was not willing to see us that we decided to block the road to make the public feel our plight and probably force the C.P to come and address us”.
The protesters blocked the road for over four hours, causing traffic gridlock in the entire Owerri capital city, making travellers and commuters bemoan their fate, as many said they missed crucial appointments.
Despite an order of the Inspector General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu on Saturday, disbanding the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a group known as #End SARS group on Monday, 12 October, shut down the city of Umuahia in protest.
The protest which commenced by 9:am from Okpara Square area of the Abia State capital, was staged to draw the attention of the world to the alleged atrocities which were being committed by the men of the disbanded SARS against Innocent Nigerians.
Addressing the public in front of Umuahia North LGA headquarters, one of the leaders of the group, Mr Gideon Akwari said the blood of innocent people allegedly wasted by SARS must be addressed, pointing out that mere disbandment of the Police Anti Robbery department was not enough action by the federal government.
Akwari also regretted that many young men and women disappeared in the detention ground of SARS, citing Awkuzu , Oyi Local Government of Anambra State as one of the most notorious.
He added that the protest would continue in Aba and other big towns of Abia State but assured that it would be executed devoid of violence.
His words: “We want the world to know about the atrocities committed by SARS in Nigeria which includes killing of innocent youths, disappearance of youths without trace, raping of young girls and even married women, arrest without trial, harassment of innocent people, among others.
“The Inspector General, Adamu told Nigerians he has disbanded SARS but what about the SARS officers who committed atrocities, we want to see them dismissed and tried. Telling us that you have disbanded them is not enough, Nigerians are not fools.”
But drama ensued at St Finbers Catholic Church gate when the convoy of Janet Agbede, Abia State Commissioner of Police which was going to work ran into the crowd of protesters.
The Commissioner, who slowed down, directed her men to be civil, a gesture which was reciprocated by the protesters who cleared the way for her, telling her that she was not the target of their protest.
The Commissioner then continued her journey to Bende road Police Headquarters while the #End SARS group continued their protest, heading to Azikiwe road from where they cascaded to Abia State House of Assembly, where they went to register their displeasure with the Nigerian system.
The slow pace of their movement caused heavy traffic gridlock, forcing motorists to apply alternate routes. Anti-riot Policemen escorted the protesters throughout their march around the Umuahia city, to prevent the protest from going violent.