- How their other colleagues harass, violate Nigerians’ rights
- Authorities plan mass transfer of officers
Two police men attached to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Lagos State Police Command have been arrested over the alleged robbery of a licensed customs agent in the Apapa area of the state.
The SARS operatives (names withheld), a sergeant and an inspector, were arrested just as allegations of extra-judicial killings, ill-treatment and violation of the rights of Nigerians are being levelled against the personnel of the police special anti-robbery unit.
Arrangements are also said to have reached an advanced stage on putting the arrested police officers through an Orderly Room Trial over their alleged involvement in the robbery incident.
The alleged misconduct of the two policemen and that of their other erring colleagues is said to have become a subject of worry to the police high command, triggering a planned mass transfer of the officers and men of SARS across the country.
Our correspondent gathered that the two arrested SARS operatives, who were posted as station guards within the State Police Command Headquarters, had left their beat to engage in an illegal duty around Apapa, resulting in their alleged robbery of the licensed customs agent identified as Chibuzor Hope.
The policemen were alleged to have robbed Hope of an unspecified amount of money and other valuables at gun point.
Impeccable police sources, however, said that the already interrogated SARS operatives had “routinely been performing illegal duties to the knowledge of their superior officers, who tacitly endorsed their activities for pecuniary gains.”
Our correspondent was informed that the arrested officers had last week driven to the Apapa area in a red Golf car, waylaying the customs licensed agent. They were also said to have manhandled and intimidated him to part with his money and other valuables while brandishing their guns.
The visibly shaken victim, according to findings, summoned courage and approached the Officer- in-Charge of SARS, Akinade Adejobi, a superintendent of police, who allegedly at first treated the matter with levity.
An insider at the SARS said, “Our Supol was given First Information Report on the matter, following a formal complaint by the victim. It is an irony of fate that the matter was treated with levity, as the officers involved were neither cautioned nor reprimanded over the issue.
“In other climes, the matter is nothing short of robbery; in that they used the guns bought with tax-payers money to intimidate and extort their victim.”
But the OC SARS, Akinade Adejobi, a superintendent of police, declined to make comments when contacted on the phone. Adejobi directed our correspondent to the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Superintendent Dolapo Badmos.
“If it is on that matter you are calling me about, I will not make any comment. It is not within my purview to make any public comment on a matter that concerns any of my officers. You better direct your enquiries to the right officer. I say you should direct your enquiries to the office of the Police Public Relations Officer,” he said.
However, Badmos, said her office had yet to be briefed on the matter.
She said, “I can tell you with absolute certainty that the Command does not condone any form of indiscipline. The Commissioner of Police would not allow such a matter to be swept under the carpet.
“If the officers actually committed such an offence, it would be viewed as a serious one. But do give me time to cross-check with their officer –in- charge. So, you can call me back later in the day.”
Further checks revealed that, prior to the complaint against the two SARS officers, another police Sergeant, Mr. Eboma Onyeka, who was attached to the Lagos Command, was arrested for armed robbery at the Ikorodu area of the state.
Duke, as he was popularly known, was cruising around the city in his newly acquired Hummer Jeep, when he was flagged down by some Eagle-eyed policemen chasing a fleeing suspected armed robber.
The sergeant was alleged to have berated his colleagues on the operation, calling them names.
His attitude was said to have compelled the duty officers to further probe his conduct before it was revealed that he was a dismissed officer, who was merely on bail as his matter was pending at a Lagos High Court.
A search of his car led to the discovery of some alleged incriminating items.
While Eboma was alleged to be maintaining a fat bank account with millions of naira balance, police authorities soon became convinced that he was a criminal gang leader, who once killed a guard attached to a commercial bank at the Akowonjo area of the state.
Authorities have records of how SARS operatives in Yenagos, Bayelsa State, killed one Assistant Superintendent of Police, Matthew Akpos, under yet-to-be ascertained circumstances.
Also, recently, the son of a Customs officer, who just returned from the United States, was caught at the scene of a crime at the Area B, Apapa in possession of his father’s service pistol, after allegedly robbing a car dealer.
A police sergeant attached to SARS in the Lagos Command was said to have “summarily executed” the boy.
Similarly, in the Ikotun area of Lagos, a SARS operative was said to have shot and killed a fan, who had attempted to beg a popular musician for money.
The attempt made by the “unknown guy” was said to have angered the armed SARS operative, who was among the security men attached to the musician.
Across the country, SARS officials have been accused of alleged blood-letting. Early this month in Delta State, a 22-year-old bus driver, Mr. Ese Eruotor, was allegedly shot dead by a policeman from the SARS in the state.
Eruotor was killed by the policeman for allegedly stopping to pick a passenger in his bus in front of a transport company where the SARS operative was on guard.
Further checks revealed that the action of the policeman triggered violent reaction from commercial transport workers around the area, who besieged the premises of the transport company, demanding justice.
It took the efforts of a combined team of policemen from SARS in the Warri Area Command to restore order in the area.
The SARS operative, who immediately went into hiding after the incident, was later arrested by his colleagues and spirited away. He has since been detained in a cell at the Homicide Section of the state’s Criminal Investigations Department.
Worried by this litany of killings and human rights violations by SARS operatives, the Police Management Team has prioritised the re-organisation of the special unit nationwide.
It was gathered that lately the PMT had received over 100 petitions bearing on the “misuse of powers and human rights abuse by some of the officers attached to both the State and Federal SARS”.
It was also revealed that there had been, “series of cases of extrajudicial killings by some officers attached to the outfit viewed generally as a slaughter-slab.” In November 2014, AI released a report entitled, “Welcome to hellfire’: Torture and other illtreatment in Nigeria.”
The report revealed that torture and other ill-treatment had become widespread and routine in military and police custody across Nigeria.
In the two years since that report was published, torture had allegedly been widely used across police units, especially by the SARS.
Two Nigerian human rights organisations, the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria and the Human Rights Social Development and Environmental Foundation, continue to report that “confessions” obtained from suspects through torture by the police were still admissible and used in courts as basis for conviction.
Amnesty International’s research found that the majority of the victims of torture in SARS custody are poor and unable to hire legal representatives.
In December 2014, police authorities launched a human rights manual prohibiting the torture and other ill-treatment of detainees.
Supported by international donors and civil society groups in Nigeria, the manual was adopted for use in all police training colleges as part of police reforms and to address concerns about police misconduct.
However, in practice, SARS has failed to implement the recommendations within the manual.
A Complaint Response Unit was set up by the Inspector General of Police in November 2015 to address public complaints against the police.
In the first and second quarters of 2016, the CRU reported that they had received 1,960 complaints, including 143 against officers from SARS. The IGP acknowledged the public concern against SARS officers on several occasions and made it clear that human rights violation by its officers would not be condoned.
In August 2015, police authorities announced that in a bid to address complaints of human rights violations by SARS officers, it would introduce reforms by splitting the command into two units: Operations and Investigation, respectively.
Also speaking on the alleged illegal activities of policemen, with particular reference to the operatives attached to SARS, a lawyer and human rights activist, Oghenejabor Ikimi, who doubles as the Executive Director of the Centre for the Vulnerable and the Underprivileged, said, “The story of accidental discharge is an old story. It is a cock and bull story, which police then used as an excuse whenever they killed innocent citizens.
“The function of the police is to maintain law and order. They are not trained to kill. It is the soldiers that are trained to kill. In the worst case scenario, police can only maim any suspect that is trying to escape from their custody. The police is a civil organization while the soldiers are military people. But today, the reverse is the case because, instead of the traditional function of arresting, apprehending, or in the worst case scenario, maiming suspects, what we now have is extra judicial killing.”
He argued that the extra judicial killing was as a result of so many factors, one of which was that the police “is ill-trained.”
He added, “They are ill- funded and because of this, most of them cannot perform adequately. Some of them work with almost bare hands. In those days, we used to have intelligence gathering where plain clothes police men would go round town to gather evidence. But today, all these things are gone. They go to check points with empty stomach. And we know that a policeman who is hungry can use his gun to harass innocent citizens so that he can get something to eat. “This is why so many innocent people have died at police checkpoints.
The Inspector General of Police said there should be no checkpoints, but the police are still on the road. What they say is that, they are doing stop and search.The stories we hear today is that, the police were taking the suspect out for investigation and that in the process, there was a gun battle and the suspect was accidentally killed. This happens because the police no longer do their investigations. What they do is cut and paste. If you look at all their statements, it is only confessional statement from the suspects. They don’t go out for investigations.”