Some residents of Borno State have taken to the streets to protest the disbanding on Sunday of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) by the federal government.
Protests have been going on in parts of the country, with Nigerians calling for the disbanding of SARS, a unit of the police notorious for illegal arrests, detention, extortion, as well as extrajudicial killings of innocent Nigerians.
The federal government had on Sunday bowed to pressure and announced the dissolution of SARS with a promise to “reform” the police. But dissatisfied protesters remain on the streets.
In Borno State, some residents are reacting differently to the disbanding of SARS.
Members of the civil society, comprising the organised labour, the Nigeria Bar Association, traders and students unions, took to the street to express their concerns on the breaking up of SARS.
The pro-SARS protesters said while SARS was a problem to citizens in the south, their activities had saved many lives in the state.
“We in Borno State need more presence of SARS operatives than their disbandment,” said Ahmed Shehu, the chairman of CSOs in Borno, who spoke on behalf of the protesters.
“The issue of insecurity has not abated in Borno. As I am speaking to you now, people cannot travel out of Maiduguri to the nearest village due to insecurity.
“We know all the efforts of both the state and federal government towards ending the insurgency, but we still don’t have the peace yet.
“For both government and humanitarian workers to travel from Maiduguri to the LGAs, we need the security escorts and the only security that is always available to provide that service is SARS.
“All checkpoints mounted in the roads are not manned by any other security personnel but SARS. Without SARS we are would all be nowhere in Borno.
“It was the same (SARS) that saved the day when the governor’s convoy was attacked. That was why we were shocked when we heard that SARS has been banned. As a people, we acknowledge the grievance of fellow citizens from the other parts of the country. But we also have to appreciate others as well. If SARS is doing bad in other regions, SARS is doing good in northeast Nigeria and Borno state in general.
“SARS in this part of the country is largely engaged in the life-saving operation, while in the other part of the country they may have been doing something else.”
The protesters demanded that the federal government either retain SARS and deploy others that were rejected from the other parts of the country to the Northeast, or provide a special replacement of SARS for the people of Borno State.
“For if this is not done, and SARS is disbanded, we know what will happen to us in the coming days. The two things that we have and rely on outside the military are God and SARS.”
The protesters were later received at the entrance gate of Government House, Maiduguri, by the state’s deputy governor, Umar Kadafur, to whom they delivered their message of concern.
Mr Kadafur assured them that the protesters’ concerns would be delivered to President Muhammadu Buhari, through the state governor.
The protesters carried on with their rally back to the headquarters of the CSOs, brandishing placards bearing different pro-SARS messages.