Protesters campaigning against brutality by officers of the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) on Monday grounded Akure and disrupted economic activities in the Ondo State capital.
The protesters who clustered at the entrance of the town located at the major Akure/Ilesha/Owo expressway stalled vehicular movements while travellers were stranded for many hours.
Schoolchildren who just resumed for academic activities on Monday, as well as, workers and several other persons who were trapped as a result of the protest trekked to their destinations. Others who could not trek had to turn back home after being held up by protesters who had trooped to the streets as early as 7 am.
Armed with placards, singing different solidarity songs, barricading the road with trucks, tents and canopy, they prevented vehicular movements on the ever-busy road for several hours.
Most of the motorists lamented over the development while some travellers took alternative routes to their destinations while some were unlucky to move out of the traffic logjam.
Men of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) were helpless to do anything about the heavy traffic as the protesters continued with their protest, while some of the protesters were seen cooking on the road.
Speaking with Tribune Online, one of the protesters, Olaniyi Michael, said the protest had been peaceful and controlled, while hoodlums had been prevented from hijacking the protest.
He said: “We blocked the highway to make the protest be felt by everyone in the country. We are being peaceful so far, and we will continue to be peaceful. So people should bear with us for now. We are all going to enjoy it at the end of the day.”
It will be recalled that the state governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu while speaking with the protesting youths last week, said the government would set up a committee to receive complaints from members of the public on illegal detention, extortion and brutality by officers of the Nigeria Police Force in the state.
The governor who described the committee as an expression of his support and belief in the ongoing protest urged the protesters to take advantage of the committee by bringing to their notice all complaints and issues around police brutality, extortion and harassment.
He said: ”I note your statement that you don’t have a problem with SARS in Ondo State. But no doubt, SARS has ended. But whether you have a problem with SARS or not, there is no longer SARS in Nigeria. Your struggle has brought an end to SARS and you should give kudos to yourselves.
“Now, when you talk about police brutality it’s something not limited to youths alone. All of us know that a number of families have experienced this. People have lost their lives, people have lost their limbs. And the police itself is aware of this.
“So, right from the President, to the Vice President to the Inspector General of Police, all of us held a meeting yesterday at the National Executive Council and we made clear that there must be a reform of the Nigeria Police. And it has to be reformed.
“The committee will look at it and ensure that they are released instantly. So, after release, if they are entitled to other compensation, the committee will recommend. The committee will start work next week. I want you to take advantage of that committee. All of us are in support of the struggle.”