Obafemi Hamzat, deputy governor of Lagos state, says he suffered harassment from special anti- robbery squad (SARS) officers four years ago.
Speaking while addressing #EndSARS protesters at Alausa, Ikeja, on Friday, Hamzat narrated how SARS operatives harassed him in the Amuwo-Odofin area of the state.
The protesters are demanding that the authorities disband SARS, a special unit of the police force that has been accused of excesses, mainly regarding youths.
The deputy governor, who appealed to the protesters to be orderly, said the action of some SARS operatives is enough to upset any citizen.
“Every decent Nigerian will be upset. This happened to me four years ago. I was going to Amuwo Odofin…they (SARS operatives) were not in uniform, they had guns, they just double crossed us and said we should get out,” Hamzat told the protesters.
The deputy governor said the state government would continue to engage the police leadership and the federal government to address the issues raised by the citizens and bring about needed change in the police operations.
“The tenet of the police operation is to protect the citizens. Security operatives don’t have the right to trample on the rights of law-abiding citizens, because of their unfamiliar looks, or because they are carrying laptops or iPhones. It is wrong for any police officer to expressly accuse or pronounce someone, irrespective of age, guilty because they have dreads or ride luxury vehicles,” he said.
“As a government, we support evidence-based investigations and actions driven by intelligence. The procedure of arrest and prosecution must be followed through. We are equally aggrieved like every other law-abiding Nigerian. If a young man or woman who is legitimately doing his or her job is attacked or maimed by police officers for no reason, we will never support that. We condemn police brutality in whatever guise and we will continue to engage their leadership for change.”
Hamzat said it would be counterproductive to pull down the entire operation of the police because of the infractions committed by a few bad eggs in the system.
He added that there were processes to be followed in calling for change in its operations.
“We fully understand the reasons for your anger but this demonstration must also carried out in line with the law. If we employ violence or destruction to drive home our grievances, we will also be hurting ourselves. The protest must be orderly, so that those concerned will get the salient point of the message.
“You can’t block the road, disrupt free flow of traffic and prevent other people from embarking on their lawful duties, especially the emergency responders. As citizens, it is within your rights to express your grievances but let us exercise caution and eschew violence. The authorities have heard your voice and I hope we all leave the roads with the understanding that drastic changes will be effected.”