By Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt
Thousands of youths in Rivers stormed major roads in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, to join the #EndSARS protest in defiance to Governor Nyesom Wike’s directive on Tuesday.
Wike had banned all forms of protests including the #EndSARS campaign in any part of the state.
The Governor, in a statement by Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim, insisted there was no need for such protest since the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, had proscribed the notorious police outfit.
But the youths, in defiance to the Governor, converged opposite the Pleasure Park on Aba Road and began their procession, insisting Wike had no right to ban peaceful protests.
Armed with various placards and chanting “End SARS”, in solidarity, the youths blocked the busy Aba road, causing traffic gridlock.
The activities of the youths shut down other major roads as they marched to the Government House located at the Azikiwe Road and barricaded all vehicles from passing through, including bullion vans loaded with money.
The protesters pelted oncoming vehicles, resisting them from passing with water bottles and forced them to use alternative routes.
Most commuters were seen stranded and trekking to their destinations as vehicular movements were on standstill, a situation that disrupted economic activities in the city.
The youths said moving around with expensive phones or laptops was never a crime and asked the police to stop the unlawful harassment of young citizens.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards were: “EndSARS Now”, “End Police Brutality and killing” and “Our lives matter and Justice for Sleek, among others.
Most of the protesters demanded justice for Sleeek, a budding musician, recently killed in Port Harcourt by the police and called for an end to police brutality.
Port Harcourt-based artistes, human rights activists and civil society groups joined the protest.
One of the angry protesters, who Identified himself simply as Chris, said they would not disperse until the Governor addresses them.
He said: “We marched from Pleasure park to this place (Government House gate) and all we want right now is for Governor Wike to come out and talk to us, we don’t care if he sends someone to address us.
“The killings of innocent youths must end in this country, we are organised and peaceful, we are not causing trouble, all we want is to tell the police and the government is enough is enough.
Wike, who was compelled by the youths to address them, said no state had suffered more in the hands of SARS than Rivers.
The governor said he was not in support of the protest because when he started the campaign to #ENDSARS nobody gave him the needed attention.
He recalled many cases of police brutality in Rivers, saying the force and other security agencies needed total reform.
Wike asked the people to hold President Muhammadu Buhari responsible to his promise of reforming the police.
The governor said: “I never supported us to be here. I took oath to protect the lives and property of people of the state. Every blood of Rivers person matters to me.
“What we saw in this country nobody want to say the truth. Rivers State is a state in this country that has suffered in the hands on SARS.
“When we raised alarm of the SARS activities they did not give attention, when it happened in other places you want me to listen.
“No governor in the country can say they have challenged SARS the way we have done. When there was so much kidnapping here, raised alarm, they said it was politics and I prayed that it should be all over the country. It has now gone round the country it is no longer politics.
“I am the only governor that has come out to start #ENDSARS protest. No other state. We have lost so many people in this state to SARS. No state supported us. SARS has killed our people a lot.
“The same SARS has killed in another state they want me to protest, I will not. Rivers blood is important to me. Rivers State cannot play a second fiddle role.
“Look at the lecturer in Polytechnic Bori, SARS killed him, nobody came to protest. I am not interested. SARS can never be my friend. I will never.
“No governor can challenge police the way I do. Every Nigerian should support total reformation of the police force.
“What we want is the reform of the police. I will do what is right at all times. Nigeria needs total reform of the Force not just SARS.
“The President has said he will reform the Police, let us hold him by his words. The President has appointed his media aide as INEC commissioner and we are saying INEC should be independent, how can we achieve that? Nobody is talking about it. The President cannot bring his aide to be an INEC national commissioner”.
Read the original article on The Nation