BY ANAYO ONUKWUGHA, Port Harcourt –
Supporters and leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State yesterday staged a peaceful protest in support of the ongoing reforms in the operations of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) as ordered by the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.
This is as the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communication,, Hon. Emma Okah, said the pro-SARS protest by the opposition party has proven the the tactical unit of the Nigerian Police has become an arm wing of the APC.
The protesters, who march through the major streets of Port Harcourt before arriving the Police headquarters, Moscow Road, Port Harcourt, carried several placards and banners declaring their support for the continued existence of SARS operatives in the state.
Some of the inscriptions read, “SARS is fighting the enemies to save Rivers people”, “ To end SARS is to increase beheading “, “ Without SARS, criminals will cripple Rivers State”, “Support SARS Commander for a better Rivers State” amongst others.
Speaking while presenting their letter of protest to the Commissioner of Police, Zaki Ahmed, Chairman of APC in the state, Dr. Davies Ikanya, said the party is concerned about calls by Governor Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the scrapping of SARS.
Ikanya said, “As a party, the APC is concerned by the call by Governor Nyesom Wike and the PDP for the scrapping of SARS. In 2015, over 300 of our members were killed. From 2015 till now, we have lost more than 400 of our members. In one day alone in ONELGA, we lost over 30 people. My Ward Chairman, Ward 4 in ONELGA was killed, his pregnant wife was killed. At the sane time, his son was killed, his daughter was killed Justin their house in one day.
“Now, they know that the 2019 election is around the corner and they know they cannot win Rivers State in a free and fair election, now, they want the Police to go; they want the security agencies to go.”
Also speaking, governorship candidate of Labour Party (LP) in the 2015 election in the state, Prince Tonye Princewill, said although there may be some bad eggs in SARS, that should not led to a call for the scrapping of the entire unit.
Princewill said, “Whether it is in America; whether it is in Germany, there are always bad eggs. Will you take because of few bad eggs in SARS and call for the scrapping of the entire Police Force? Does that make sense? It does nor make sense. The Inspector-General of police has said there will be reform in SARS and we are her to declare our support for the reform. But what we are saying is that SARS must stay.”
Responding, the Commissioner of Police, Zaki Ahmed, said between January and now, operatives of SARS have arrested over 1000 suspected armed robbers in the state and recovered over 100 stolen vehicles as well as arms and ammunition, including AK-47 rifles and Pump Action rifles.
He said, “SARS as a body have been doing a good job. If we review their performance from January to date, we will see that more than 1,000 suspected armed robbers have been arrested. Out of this, about 500 of them are being prosecuted in the courts of law. If you look at recoveries made by SARS, you will realise that they have recovered over 100 stolen vehicles. They have also recovered assorted arms; AK-47 rifles, pump-action rifles, pistols and locally made guns.”
But reacting to the protest, Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Emma Okah, said the protest by members of the APC in the state in favour of SARS was unfortunate and very sad commentary in the state.
He stated that the protest goes a long way to confirm the fears of the state government that operatives of SARS, in recent times are not doing their jobs professionally.