Timothy Olanrewaju, Maiduguri
Scores of people representing civil society groups, labour unions, students and artisans in Borno State have demonstrated against the disbanding of the federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) by police authorities.
The demonstrators, who walked through a major highway in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, to the Government House, Tuesday morning, to deliver a letter of their demands for the re-introduction of the controversial police unit, were seen with placards bearing messages reading: “Return SARS”, “We want FSARS”, “We need SARS”, “Reform FSARS”, among others.
Workers from organised labour unions, lawyers, market traders, students, women groups, youth organisations and artisans were among the demonstrators.
The State Chairman, Network of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Ahmed Shehu, said that agitations for the disbanding of the SARS in some parts of the country do not represent the general position of most Nigerians. He said SARS has been good to the people of the State.
‘FSARS may be bad to people in other regions of the country, but to us in Borno, FSARS is good. We’ve seen how the squad has been tackling Boko Haram in complementary role with other security agencies. Their presence alone on our highways, which are usually unsafe, give people courage to travel and not fear Boko Haram,’ Shehu said.
The civil society leader said SARS remains a formidable security outfit that has put constant pressure on Boko Haram and has cleared insurgents from blocking highways in the State. He maintained that Borno did not record the kind of abuses allegedly committed by the squad in other Nigerian states.
He said the letter of demands brought to the State Governor contains a demand for the Federal Government to end Boko Haram and re-constitute the SARS unit.
The Maiduguri Branch Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Bar Abba Ummate, said the anti SARS protesters did not consider the peculiar security situation in each of the States in arriving at the calls for undoing the unit. He described the ban on the squad as unfair to the people of Borno.
State Deputy Governor Umar Kadafur, who received the letter of demands from the protesters on behalf of the State Governor, urged the people to be law-abiding.
‘We urge you to be law-abiding and keep praying for the peace of the State and our Governor to succeed in all developmental engagements,’ he said to the demonstrators.