Posted by News Express | 21 October 2020 | 1,056 times
Just as with the case of CSP James Nwafor, Officer-in-Charge (O/C) of Anambra SARS, then Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Arase’s initial attempt to redeploy Abba Kyari as O/C SARS, Ikeja, due to rampant complaints of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances of detainees, was also resisted by political and business interests. But towards the end of Arase’s tenure, he eventually created the IRT at the Force Headquarters and redeployed Abba to head it.
One of the cases that discredited SARS, Ikeja under Abba Kyari, was the case of arrest, indefinite and incommunicado detention and disappearance of Afam Nriezedi.
Afam Nriezedi, a Lagos resident, was arrested in Lagos on Friday January 17, 2015, by officers from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Ikeja, Lagos, and detained incommunicado. His family members as well as lawyers were denied access to him by the detaining authorities.
According to his family members, the SARS operatives first trailed, double-crossed and arrested his two elder sisters, assaulted them without any provocation or justification, seized their phones, forced them into their vehicle and asked them to lead them to their brother.
None of the two women had any prior information or invitation from the police concerning any crime that their brother may have committed or any other reason for looking for him. The two women, who by this time had become traumatized, took the police officers to a hospital in Ikorodu, Lagos, where their brother had gone for a surgery the previous day. One of the police officers, Abdurrahman (08062080913) later told the women that their brother was wanted for being in possession of four AK47 rifles belonging to the police. The two women found this claim incredible, because their brother has been very close to them and had never, to their knowledge, been involved in any crime.
About two weeks after Afam Nriezedi’s arrest, his family members, to their utter shock, read a report in some newspapers, including Saturday Independent of January 31, 2015, page 9 claiming that the accused is an informant to a kidnap gang which allegedly kidnapped two prominent oil dealers in Lagos.
The family members said they were perplexed, because the initial information the police gave them was that their brother was wanted allegedly for being in possession of four AK 47 rifles belonging to the police. The allegation published in newspapers that their brother was involved in kidnapping and that he confessed during interrogation at SARS contradicted this new allegation.
Afam Nriezedi’s family members were never allowed, despite several efforts, to see him and ask him some questions and hear his response to the allegation levelled against him. They remained in doubt of the allegation by the police, because they were never aware of their brother’s involvement in any criminal act, let alone one involving the use of firearms. They were also worried because they knew that, for numerous reasons, SARS operatives usually torture innocent people to “confess” to crimes they did not confess.
Upon receiving this complaint on April 27, 2015, I called the O/C SARS, Ikeja, Mr. Abba Kyari, and inquired from him about it. The O/C replied thus through a text message: “My brother, he is a member of a kidnapping gang that kidnapped Mr Ademola, owner of Dapsy Oil and Alh Fashola, owner of Kings Oil. The arrest of Afam Nriezedi; Chukwube, Kelvin and, etc., was celebrated all over the newspapers and television. We are still making serious efforts to arrest Ikechukwu and two others before they will form new gang to kidnapping innocent citizens again. Thanks.”
I then inquired from the O/C SARS about the whereabouts of the accused, but got no further reply.
However, the investigating police officer (IPO), Abdurrahman, later sent me a text message through 08062080913 and said, “Is a transfer case Sir.”
In further efforts to ascertain from sources at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, if and where in ‘Abuja’ the case may have been “transferred to” as claimed by SARS Ikeja, I called the then Principal Staff Officer to the IGP, Mr Austin Ewa (CP) now AIG retired, narrated the incident to him and requested him to assist us with inquiry to locate where the case/suspect may be in Abuja, which he promised to do. Subsequent efforts to reach back to the PSO for feedback did not yield any success.
A NEW TWIST
Curiously, on Sunday May 3, 2015, one Prophet David Babalola, self-styled General Overseer of His Presence Redemption Ministry, Ogba, called one of the accused person’s sisters, Mrs Ngozi Nriezedi, who worships in his church and informed her that some police officers from Abuja had come to Lagos to pick up a file relating to the case from SARS, Ikeja. The “man of God” told her that the officers would like to meet with any member of their family. Mrs Ngozi Nriezedi went to see the “man of God” in his church and he assigned one of his workers who took her to a hotel in Ikeja where she met a man who claimed to be police officer, Patrick and who claimed that he was a member of the team from Abuja.
The said Police Officer Patrick asked Mrs Ngozi Nriezedi to write a statement stating that her brother, Afam Nriezedi, was arrested in a beer parlour with members of his gang and that she should not mention that her family had given any money to Prophet David Babalola to assist them in “settling” Abuja and securing her brother’s release. She said she could not write such a statement changing the facts of her brother’s case.
PETITION TO IGP
I wrote and drew IGP Arase’s attention to the fact that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria presumes any person arrested and detained for any alleged crime as innocent until proved otherwise, after a fair trial before a competent court of law. Any person detained for a crime is also entitled to be allowed access to family members, doctors and legal representatives. It is prejudicial to fair trial to try an accused person on the pages of newspapers without allowing the person the opportunity to appear before a court of competent jurisdiction to prove his innocence or otherwise.
I then requested the IGP to kindly direct the O/C SARS, Ikeja, to grant the family of the detained person immediate access to him or disclose to them his whereabouts, if he is no longer in the custody of SARS.
I further requested the IGP to order a prompt, impartial and exhaustive investigation into this case, with a view to:
1. Ascertaining the true identity of the “police officers” who claimed to have come from Abuja and who wanted the sister to the accused person to make false statements rewriting the facts of the case.
2. Ascertaining the role of Apostle David Babalola (the General Overseer of His Presence Redemption Ministry, Ogba, Lagos), especially his involvement in brokering this curious meeting between the “police team from Abuja” and the detainee’s family.
3. Ascertain why the police officers chose to meet the detainee’s family in a hotel rather than at the police station.
4. Ascertain the information we received from the family that Prophet David Babalola had so far deceitfully and fraudulently obtained from them the sum of over N5 million, ostensibly to assist them to “settle some top management police officers in Abuja” and secure the release of the suspect.
The Police did not resolve this case until Abba Kyari was moved to Abuja to head IRT and until Arase left office.
The family of the victim later consulted Agbakoba Chambers which went to court to enforce the fundamental rights of the victim. The court awarded compensations, which the police have failed to pay.
In the course of my years of campaign and intervention in cases of police brutality, I came across cases where female detainees were sexually assaulted and raped, but the victims preferred that such information be not disclosed. I respected their preferences.
It was in Lagos, early 2015, that a 46-year-old man was arrested and detained in SARS, Ikeja, Lagos, after he was accused of robbery. The IPO insisted that the only way to release the man from custody was for him to sleep with the wife of the suspect and her 17-year-old daughter, who were coming for his bail. The ladies resisted for a while, but after two months and increasingly looking like their bread-winner was going to die in custody, they buckled and gave in to the demand of the SARS officer. To cut the story short, the SARS officer raped the wife and daughter of the man in his custody and shortly after still executed the suspect.
I have recalled the foregoing – just a few of several cases I have been involved in – to show that SARS atrocities are longstanding. I have spent all my adult life exposing many atrocities even more chilling than the ones that triggered the ongoing protests. What is new is that our youth have finally found their voice. I am happy that this day has come
The #ENDSARS campaign is not just about SARS. SARS is only a symptom and a manifestation of what is wrong with the Nigeria Police. What our youth are demanding is not just an end to SARS. They are, more importantly, asking for accountability for perpetrators of police brutality, killings and violence and rogue behaviour. They are asking for justice for the numerous victims, including apologies and adequate compensations. They are asking for Police Reform, including addressing the factors and conditions that fuel police brutality: compromised recruitment process that enables misfits and rogue elements to find their way into the police and discredit the institution; grossly inadequate funding that is responsible for operational inefficiency and poor welfare conditions, which fuels corruption. Our youth and citizens are ultimately asking for good governance. We cannot have the police we deserve unless we have the government we desire. Police cannot be our friend when government is not our friend.
Finally, I welcome the decision reached between the Federal Government and state governors to inaugurate judicial panels of inquiry in all the states and the FCT, to inquire into cases of human rights violations by SARS and other police units with a view to identifying the perpetrators, and recommending appropriate disciplinary measures as well as adequate compensations for the victims.
Rule of Law And Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) will be sending petitions on behalf of some victims and will also represent some of the victims at the panels.
•Nwanguma is Executive Director, Rule of Law And Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC).
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