Directs release of illegal detainees
By Samuel Oyadongha – Yenagoa
Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has said he is totally in support of the ongoing protest against police brutality exemplified by the hashtags #EndSARS and #EndSWAT across Nigeria noting that his administration would not condone acts that infringed on the fundamental rights of citizens in the state.
Governor Diri spoke on Saturday evening when the protesters in their hundreds blocked the Government House entrance in Yenagoa to press home their demands.
The protesters had earlier staged a peaceful march, occupying a section of the Melford Okilo expressway from the Edepie axis of the state capital to Ovom.
The governor, who was returning from inspecting communities ravaged by flood, came out of his vehicle to join the youths that were waving placards and chanting slogans against police brutality.
Addressing the protesters, he noted that as a firm advocate against all forms of police brutality, he moved motions as a federal legislator against extra-judicial killings and illegal detention in the state.
“In 2016, I moved a motion as member of the House of Representatives against extra-judicial killings in Bayelsa.
“Also, in 2018, I moved another motion in the House for the release of one Collins Opumie from Southern Ijaw that was arrested by the DSS and detained in an underground cell for many years until it came to my knowledge. He was eventually released after that motion.
“So, I’m one hundred per cent in support of you. In a democracy, power belongs to the people. Power belongs to you the youths. You have every right to protest and nobody can stop you from protesting,” he told the cheering crowd.
The governor commended the protesters for their peaceful conduct, promising to address the demands within his powers and channel others to the appropriate quarters at the federal level.
He later marched with the protesters to the state police headquarters and was received by the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mike Okoli.
Speaking at the state command headquarters, the governor directed the state police boss to immediately release a youth that was allegedly arrested during the protest, saying citizens has an inalienable right to peaceful protest.
In his remarks, the Commissioner of Police thanked the youths for conducting themselves in a peaceful manner and urged them to maintain the tempo.
Mr. Okoli reassured that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) remained disbanded as announced by the Inspector General of Police and promised that any officer caught infringing on the fundamental human rights of Nigerian youths would be dealt with according to the law.
Earlier, Comrade Mathew Ayibakuro, who spoke on behalf of the protesters, called on the governor to set up a judicial panel of inquiry to look into cases of police brutality in the state with representatives of the youths and civil society organisations.
Comrade Ayibakuro also called for the establishment of a Bayelsa State security and human rights committee, a victim compensation fund, the reform and adequate funding of the police among other demands.