Scores of youths were injured yesterday during a protest march against police brutality and extortion at the headquarters of the Edo State Police Command in Benin.
Peeved by the high cases of police brutality and extortion of youths in Edo State, a coalition of Civil Society Organisation and the National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) had for the second time in a week staged a protest march against the police.
What was supposed to be a peaceful protest, however, turned violent as the youths engaged the police in a war of words and threw water at the police in anger.
During the hot exchange of words, the protesters attempted to prevent a police van from entering the premises of the Police headquarters, but the police vehicle ignored them and almost ran into them.
The ugly incident led to some of the protesters jumping into the side drains of the road while attempting to escape and in the process sustained injuries.
During the protest, they called on the Inspector General of Police to put a stop the harassment.
The aggrieved youths who marched through the major streets of Benin carrying placards with different inscriptions such as “End SARS Before They End Us,” “End SARS Brutality Now”, “We are not Criminals, We are Nigerians”, “No to SARS, No to Police Reforms” amongst others.
Speaking with journalists at the Edo State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) earlier, Comrade Osunbor Omokaro said if SARS must exist in the country they must operate within the ambits of the law.
Omokaro deplored police brutality, intimidation and extortion, noting that Edo youths are no longer afraid of armed robbers but SARS and other tactical units of the police force.
He said: “Today we are here to say no to SARS.
“SARS supposed to be for anti-robbery and anti-kidnapping and not the other way round.”
He lamented that the police are using the weapon bought with taxpayers money to intimidate and extort money from the youths.
He called on the national assembly to reform the police and enhance their welfare package so that they will not transfer their anger on the innocent youths.
Mr Anayo Valentine, an assistant superintendent of police who addressed the youths on behalf of the commissioner at the state police headquarters said they have complied with the Inspector General of Police directive and disbanded the crime-fighting outfit.