Controversial Nigerian singer, Azeez Fashola, popularly known as Naira Marley, has said that the safety of protesters stopped him from going ahead with the planned Tuesday protest.
He said this during a live chat with Frank Mba, the spokesperson of the Nigerian Police Force on Tuesday. The chat focused on the concerns of youth on the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
“I know my rights and yes, what really stopped me was me thinking about the safety of everybody. That was the only thing that stopped me from doing the protest. And the fact that I saw the police initial statement, that’s what made me stop the protest,” he said.
The popular singer earlier announced a protest against the operations of SARS in Lagos state and other parts of the country. The announced protest was followed by an appeal from the Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, that the singer should not hold the protest.
To further dissuade the protest, the Nigerian police force also on Tuesday said it will hold a live chat with the popular singer to discuss the concerns of youth on the activities of SARS.
The controversial singer thereafter cancelled the protest saying they would give the authorities one week to see if there would be changes, and if there are no changes, a mass protest will take place.
Naira Marley’s Demands
Stating the demands of the youth to the police spokesperson, Naira Marley said all that the youth want is SARS to be off the road and stop harassing Nigerians, especially the youth, because of the way they are dressed.
“SARS is the same as SWAT and we don’t see SWAT anyhow. We only see them for special operations. They should only come out when there is robbery, then, we need all of them to wear uniforms.
“We need to actually get these guys off the road, we will be happy to see them when there is a special operation. But they need to get off the road, we are tired of seeing them disturb the youth and harass them,” the singer said.
Reacting to the demands of Naira Marley, Mr Mba said the ban of SARS and other tactical units by the IGP still remains and these units will be seen only when necessary, adding that the officers will not be allowed to search phones or computers, operate without uniforms or conduct themselves in unprofessional manners.
“We are not going to leave our streets unprotected, conventional police officers, Rapid response squad (RRS) will continue to patrol the streets for safety.
“The SARS, IRT, and others will only come out when there are reasons for them to come out, like looking for suspects and when they finish the operation, they return to base. We need them (SARS) to continue to respond to violence, armed robbery and other criminal activities,” Mr Mba responded.
“The people causing the problems are just a very small, insignificant number of the teams we have. We need to get them out, they are causing problems for the hardworking and diligent officers out there who are working tirelessly, putting their lives in danger, standing in the gap between the people and the criminals are still serving this country diligently. The force is making efforts to Silence the very little group of persons,” Mr Mba said.
The police spokesperson added that the fundamental duty of the police is to protect lives and properties of citizens, and crucial to this is protecting the rights and dignity of the people.
He added that part of the measures to ensure the sustainability of the Nigerian police is the recruitment of 10,000 young Nigerians between ages 18 and 25 as constables. “These are the people that will be your ambassadors,” he said.
The force spokesperson said the Nigerian police needs more funding to function effectively and purchase modern equipment such as better vehicles, body cameras to capture the scenes of incidents.
“As people are agitating for reform, I also want you to begin to talk to government agencies, corporate bodies, very rich Nigerians and billionaires to invest in improving the security architecture of the country,” he said.
Mr Mba said the force does not need their cash but need their support in purchasing critical items and tools to work with.
Rounding off the live chat, the popular singer called on viewers who can support the police to do so, emphasising that the Nigerian police need investors. He added that youths should be wary of violence, stealing, and other criminal activities, even with the ban of SARS and other units from Nigerian roads.
The #EndSARS campaign has been trending on the Nigerian media space since Saturday, in which several calls have been made to the Nigerian Police and the federal government to dissolve SARS for their brutality, unlawful killings, harassment and extortion of Nigerians.