Actions of the officials of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a controversial police unit in Nigeria, show that they are more interested in enriching themselves than bringing criminals to book, Amnesty International (AI) has said in a new report.
Released on Friday, the report, Time To End Impunity: Torture And Other Violations By SARS, is based on research conducted between January, 2017 and February, 2019 and interviews with over 82 people. It contains accounts from various victims of extortion who are mostly young and vulnerable Nigerians.
Its findings, AI noted, suggested that “financial gain ― rather than curbing armed robbery and other forms of criminal activity ― appears to be one of the motivating factors of SARS, as they constantly raid public places frequented by young people, in order to extort money from them.” “Evidence collected indicates that SARS officers regularly demand bribes, steal and extort money from criminal suspects and their families,” it continued.
“Additionally, SARS officers act outside of their legal ambit by investigating civil matters and in some cases torturing detainees involved in contractual, business and even non-criminal disputes.
“Most victims of ill-treatment by the SARS are usually poor. Many are arrested by the SARS officers during large dragnet operations involving mass arrests, including raids on bars and television viewing centres, and ordered to pay a bribe to be released.
“Those who are unable to pay are often tortured, either as punishment or to coerce them to find the money. The alternative is to risk being labelled as an armed robber.” In the majority of cases, the unlawful practices take place with the full knowledge and agreement of superior police officers, Amnesty reported. It said it had documented 15 cases of arbitrary property confiscation by the police unit.
Gift Ezenwa, 32, said her husband, Collins, was killed by SARS operatives in January, 2017 in Owerri, Imo State, after he was tagged an armed robber and kidnapper, the organisation stated.
It quoted Gift as saying that her husband’s body was paraded by the police and photo evidence indicated that he had been arrested at a police checkpoint and taken to a SARS detention facility where he was executed.
“Two months after the death of Collins Ezenwa, the police arrested four of his relatives and extorted various sums of money from them.
“One of the relatives, a 48-year-old trader, told Amnesty International that he was arrested in his village in Imo State and taken to Lagos, where he was detained for two weeks. He paid one million naira($2,777) to the police before he was released,” the international NGO reported.
According to Gift, another police department, the Intelligence Response Unit (IRT), planned to illegally take custody of the family’s assets and money.
“All our vehicles have been unlawfully confiscated by the police and converted to their personal use… I saw one policeman using my car and… was driving the Sienna my husband gave his cousin… Our hotel has been taken over by the police. I was informed that our Prado jeep is being used by SARS for patrols,” she narrated.
“Our hotel is currently managed by someone appointed by the police and he renders account to the police. The hotel makes a cash turnover of about N12 million every month. The police have also stopped our tenants from paying rent to me. I have absolutely nothing.
“The police IPO warned me to cooperate with them and comply with their instructions and not to involve lawyers in my discussions with them. “He said that he knew that I was innocent, but my husband made billions within two months, that I married him for his money. That my husband must have been a kidnapper or stumbled on money, but that men who stumble on money do not display wealth like he (my husband) had done.”
AI confirmed that no court order granted the confiscation of properties possibly until much later in September 2019. Ezenwa’s bank account was also frozen despite the court rejecting the
application by the police to do so.
32-year-old Ugochukwu, a trader based in Anambra State, told Amnesty that he lost six million naira to SARS operatives in 2018 after he was arrested without a warrant, detained for six days, and tortured. He was accused of paying money to a criminal gang and told to pay the sum of N20 million as condition for his release.
“On the fifth day, they brought me out and told me that my life would end on that day, since I was refusing to cooperate with them,” Ugochukwu recounted. “Four policemen blindfolded me and handcuffed me and pushed me into their car. They drove for about two hours and stopped at a particular spot. They removed my blindfold. I saw that I was beside a borrow pit inside the bush. I had no idea where we were… They told me that my life had come to an end, as I would be executed shortly.
“Their leader told them that they should shoot me as soon as he gave the signal. I was crying and pleading, but they refused to listen. They all pointed their guns at me. I heard the command to shoot and heard the sound of rapid gunshots. I passed out. When I regained consciousness, I saw that I was inside their vehicle, blindfolded.
“They took me back to the cell… They said I would not be so lucky the next time. I had no option but to agree to their terms. I transferred the money using my mobile phone application and they allowed me to go. One of the officers told me that they would kill me if I revealed my ordeal at SARS to anyone, including my family members.” Amnesty International observed that in all the cases it documented, there was no single instance where a SARS operative was sanctioned for torturing civilians.
“In every case investigated by Amnesty International, the perpetrators acted with impunity,” the organisation said, adding that there was an absence of oversight mechanisms regarding the conduct of the police unit. “It is high time the Nigerian government took a solid stand against impunity by SARS, by ensuring that all police officers are made accountable for their actions,” AI said.
“Serious consideration should be given to the creation of a specialised department within the PSC, for oversight of SARS,” it added.
“The Police Service Commission (PSC) should have enough independence to develop its own processes and procedures and should have its own investigators. It should not have to rely on the police to investigate allegations of human rights violations.” Amnesty said it wrote to the police to clarify issues in the allegations but they did not respond.
Senate Urges FG To Raise Age Limit For Job Seekers
The Senate on Wednesday urged the Federal Government to urgently raise the age limit usually attached to job vacancies in the country.
The call by the Senate followed its consideration of a motion titled: “Urgent need to review age barrier during recruitment and employment” sponsored by Senator Ibrahim Gobir (Sokoto East).
Citing order 42 and 52 of the Senate Standing Rules, Gobir noted that recruitment requirements of Federal Government Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) and other private bodies which set age barriers “inadvertently excludes and marginalizes skillful and competent prospective applicants from participating in such exercises.
“Due to the high unemployment rate in the country, many graduates spend up to 10 years seeking employment and this puts them in a disadvantaged position by no fault of theirs.
“Many individuals resort to falsifying their age all in a bid to fall within the required age limit for them to be gainfully employed.
“This development, where a person believes he is unemployable can lead them to embracing criminal activities and further increase the growing crime rate and
insecurity in the country.”
Gobir called on the Senate to “urge the Federal Government to direct the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity to set up a committee to review the age limit for employment or recruitment with a view to get this problem of age barrier sorted out to allow the teeming skilled and competent Nigerians to be employed by Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).”
In his contribution, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah (Kebbi South), said the Senate can only progress on the call for review of age limit by first calling for the lifting of the embargo placed employment over thirteen years ago by the Federal Government.
According to him, the embargo period must be factored into the review of age limit for job recruitment by the Ministry of Labour and Productivity for prospective job seekers in the country.
Na’Allah said: “I think the motion is apt and timely. The major basis for the Senate to proceed on that request lies in the fact that, as an institution, we must take notice that the federal government on its own placed embargo on employment for over 13 years now.
“The period that there have been embargo by the Federal Government in itself should be considered in the review of age limit.
“For example, if the age limit is 23, we must now add the 13 or 14 years of embargo on employment to the age already earmarked for employment, so that the age will be plus 13, because it is the government on its own that placed the embargo on employment.
“There cannot be justification for you to place embargo on employment, then at the same time expect graduates to remain at the age they were during the period of the embargo.
“I think in the review, that has to be taken into account, and therefore, the age limit can now be raised in addition to the established age. That should be the legal verdict for the review.”
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, in his remarks lamented the discrimination against job seekers as a result of the barrier imposed by often prescribed age limit.
“It is not through a fault of theirs that people are discriminated against. They’ll tell you only 30 years limit, meanwhile someone graduated 10 years ago.
“This is a very good motion urging the Ministry of Labour and Productivity to swing into action immediately,” Lawan said.
Senators unanimously approved the only prayer of the motion when it was put to voice vote by the Senate President.
Maj Gen Adeniyi To Face Court Martial After Lamenting Inadequate Equipment, Wrong intelligence In Boko Haram Fight
Maj.-Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi, the erstwhile Theater Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, will face a court-martial few months after a video circulated of him complaining bitterly about inferior ammunition and wrong intelligence given to troops prosecuting the war on terror in the North-East.
Adeniyi was among 886 officers the Army redeployed on Tuesday.
In the video in March, he was shown among forlorn troops after a battle with insurgents, stating that many soldiers and equipment were lost as the insurgents attacked from “every flank with not less than 15 gun trucks.”
However, he stressed that the troops remained committed to the fight in spite of the challenges.
The video sparked outrage, especially on social media, with many commentators accusing the Buhari presidency and military authorities of lying to Nigerians about the true state of the counterinsurgency operations.
On April 1, Adeniyi was redeployed as Theater Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole to the Nigerian Army Resource Centre (NARC) as a Senior Research Fellow, a move touted as a form of punishment for the incident.
In Tuesday’s postings, Adeniyi was moved again from the NARC to the Army Headquarters, both in Abuja.
The Army said he was moved “for jurisdiction”, which Premium Times reported Wednesday, quoting unnamed military sources, means to face a court-martial.
According to insiders quoted by the reputable online newspaper, the Army deliberately allowed the controversy to die down before hauling the major general before the court-martial.
Yorubaland Is The Glue Holding Nigeria Together — Olu Falae
Former Secretary to the Federal Government (SFG), Chief Olu Falae says Yorubaland is the glue holding Nigeria together.
Falae, who spoke in a Vanguard interview, added that the South-West has invested so much into Nigeria’s unity to pursue secession.
He said this explains why the South-West geopolitical zone is frequented the most by people of other zones whenever their zones are in crisis.
The elder statesman said, “We have invested, perhaps, more than most groups in Nigeria. To prove my point, if there is a crisis in the East today, where do people rush to? The South-West. If there is a crisis in the North, where will they run to? The South-West.
“This is the refugee camp of Nigeria. This is where everybody is welcome, accepted and looked after. That is the investment of peace we have been making from time immemorial.
“Yorubaland has been the glue that holds Nigeria. If the South-West says it wants to secede, the Middle-Belt will fight us because they see Yoruba as the cement that holds Nigeria.
“During the Civil War, when the Igbo went home, Governor Mobolaji Johnson looked after their property for them. Rents were in the banks. When they returned, their money was given to them to start life all over again.
“That is a fact. But the property they left in Port Harcourt was taken over by their neighbours. It took several years before some of them were returned to the owners.
“We have demonstrated that we are the most accommodating; we are the cementing culture in Nigeria. So, there is no way we can secede. This is our home.”
Meanwhile, Falae emphasised the importance of restructuring the nation, saying it would address many of Nigeria’s current challenges.
He flayed those accusing Yorubaland of plotting secession with the establishment of Amotekun, the regional security network in the South-West zone.
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