Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja and Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Northern governors have rejected disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) submitting that unit has been useful in the fight against insecurity in the region.
Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) and Plateau Governor, Simon Lalong, made this declaration after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, yesterday.
He said though President Buhari has approved the scrapping of SARS, northern states did not believe the baby should be thrown away with the bath water arguing that the outfit was not made up of bad elements alone but included personnel who did their work diligently.
The governor said what was needed was reformation to enable the unit discharge its functions optimally. He, however, acknowledged that there are divisions in the country concerning the continued existence of the unit.
Lalong, who said he was in the Presidential Villa to commend Buhari for approving community policing which training had commenced in the various zones of the country.
Asked his message to the protesting youths, he replied: “We had a meeting yesterday (Wednesday) with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). I’m sure my chairman addressed the press. When we see issues like this, because most of the complaints vary from one state to the other; in one aspect, some people said they don’t want SARS, some said they want SARS but a reformed SARS. They want a reformed SARS because as far as they are concerned, some of these SARS operatives helped them in addressing insecurity. If there are bad ones under, holistically, bring them together and reform them. Then, you work for them.
“So, our opinion and conclusion at that stage was that let us not just say we are throwing away the baby with bath water. If there are good ones, you don’t chase them away. So, as SARS is banned, we are now looking forward to…because most of the states in the north said no. They want SARS because SARS helps them.
“Borno said without SARS, he would not have been surviving today. Niger also wants SARS. So, if you are addressing this issue of SARS, you need to know what is wrong in some places. Is it the process of recruitment? Is it the character of the people? You can’t say because somebody is wrong, everybody is wrong in the country. These are some of the issues we concluded yesterday. And it’s for the chairman to go and meet Mr. President to still look at this issue holistically and critically so that we understand where we are going.
“On a whole, we all agreed that there must be general reform within the police. But you can’t do general reform without proper funding. You must address the issue of proper funding so that they don’t say government is responsible for lack of funding and we attack them for non-performance of their duties.”
However, youth wing of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has asked northern governors insisting on SARS to restrict it to their zone, just as it rejected the reformed Special Weapon And Tactics (SWAT).
Speaking to Daily Sun in Owerri, National Publicity Secretary of the Ohanaeze youth wing, Chief Osmond Nkeoma said utterance by the northern governors elucidated the clamour for restructuring by the Igbo.
“Northern governors by their utterances are helping us to call for restructuring with their stand on #EndSARS, you will see that Nigeria need to be restructured.”
Similarly, the Igbo youths rejected the newly set up SWAT, claiming that there was no difference between it and SARS.
“If they want SARS, let them have it in their own region. South East and South South do not need SARS, we don’t even need SWAT or whatever name they rebranded.”
AbdulRazaq walks with protesters
Kwara Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq walked along with hundreds of #EndSARS protesters to the police headquarters in Ilorin, the state capital, urging them to remain calm and peaceful while their grievances are promptly addressed.
Acknowledging the grievances of the protesters, AbdulRazaq said he and a few governors and some businessmen have recently held a zoom meeting with some individuals involved in the protest movement following which their five-point demands were forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said the President was already acting on the five-point demands of the protesters whose activities particularly in Kwara the Governor said have remained peaceful and largely coordinated.
Accompanied by his deputy Kayode Alabi, the governor joined the protest from the Government House Ilorin where the mostly young protesters had converged. He briefly addressed the protesters and then led them to the police headquarters on their request.
Addressing the protesters at the police headquarters, AbdulRazaq said the young people have spoken loud and clear and would have their interest protected by the government.
He announced the setting up of an ombudsman through which people can channel their grievances and have same attended to in the state. He said the ombudsman would be the go-between for aggrieved citizens and security agencies.
“However you look at it, we are all victims. I have since joined the protest. Some of you may notice online that I joined a Zoom meeting on Monday with Hajia Aisha Yesufu, Aliko Dangote, Wizkid and others to arrive at a resolution on this protest. It was part of this that led to the five-point agenda which is being implemented now by the federal government. The President is definitely listening to the complaints,” AbdulRazaq said.
“The Commissioner of Police has listened to your complaints here. I have also listened. I thank you for your calmness,” he said.
“I urge you to please give (Mr President) the time to implement the five-point agenda. A reform is definitely coming to address all the issues.”
The protesters had earlier called on the Governor to join them to draw the attention of police authorities to their grievances.