Some stakeholders in Rivers State say to rescue the economy of the oil-rich state, the security must be fixed first. They have therefore called for posting of operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to help business people retake the streets hitherto taken over by hoodlums.
All of last week, gunmen shot in the open in parts of the state capital robbing shop owners serially. Some of the leaders said the economy of the state had crashed due to insecurity.
Now, top leaders including the prince of Kalabari kingdom, Tonye Princewill, have demanded for posting of more SARS operatives to the troubled state. This is as the police chief in the state, Zaki Ahmed, has revealed that SARS has so far arrested 1000 armed and violent persons with 200 Ak-47.
The demand for more SARS was declared in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, Monday morning, December 11, 2017, by hundreds of protesters who headed to the Moscow Road headquarters of the police. Those who used to protest against SARS used to end at the Government House in Port Harcourt, not far from Moscow Road.
Princewill, former Labour Party governorship candidate in the state, however stressed the need to reform SARS based on complains by some sections of the public, but kicked against the call for it to be scrapped.
Princewill stated that the precarious security situation in the state makes it imperative for more SARS operatives to be deployed to the state to stem criminality.
Another Rivers leader, the 2015 Rivers State APC deputy governorship candidate, Asita Honourable Asita, revealed that some of those protesting for the stay of SARS were victims of violent crimes in the state such as kidnapping, robbery, attempted assassination.
He said they have lost family members due to activities of criminals, which SARS have tried to checkmate. Asita stressed that if SARS was scrapped, living in the State might become hellish for residents and businesses.
Receiving the protesters, Ahmed said contrary to the negative campaign against SARS, the police unit has since January till date, arrested over 1000 suspected armed robbers out of whom about 500 are being prosecuted in court. He further added that over 200 assorted lethal weapons including AK-47 have been recovered.
Ahmed explained that any SARS operative who is involved in human rights abuse contrary to police ethics would be sanctioned.
He lauded the pro-SARS campaigners and appealed to them to continue to support the police to discharge its statutory mandate of protection of life and property, arrest and prosecution of offenders.
Hundreds had taken to the streets of Port Harcourt in support of the vilified Special SARS demanding for the deployment of more personnel to the State to enhance security. Armed with placards with inscription such as “SARS is fighting the enemies to save Rivers people, say no to end SARS”, “Without SARS, criminals will cripple Rivers State,” the protesters matched from Port Harcourt Polo Club down to the Police headquarters on Moscow Road, saying only criminals and their sponsors will clamour for the scrapping of SARS.
Explaining why some members of the APC joined the protests, Rivers State APC chairman, Davis Ikanya, said the party had lost over 400 persons since 2015 elections to attacks and assassination.
He said: “Because we as APC lost the most in terms of number of lives, we are concerned about the call to scrape SARS. In 2015, over 300 of our members were killed or beheaded. From 2015 till date, we have lost more than 400. One day alone in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, we lost persons including my ward 4 chairman, his pregnant wife, daughter and son” he said.
Ikanya accused politicians opposed to SARS in the State of being afraid that they would lose grip of political power if free and fair polls were held in 2019.
The executive director, Maritime Operations, Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Sokonte Davis, stressed that prior to the advent of SARS, there existed manifold evidence of beheading of people across the state. He argued that only criminally minded individuals in society were opposed to the operations of SARS in the state.