Rights group warns against return of dreaded ex-SARS chief to Anambra

Posted by News Express | 2 September 2016 | 4,669 times

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A civil society group, the International Human Rights and Equity Defence Foundation, (iH-REF) has written to the Acting Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, not to endorse the re-posting of one James Nwafor, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), to Anambra State Police Command, given his poor human rights abuses and acts of impunity when he earlier served as Officer-in-Charge (OC) SARS, in Awkuzu.

“We are not unmindful of your burning desire to rid Anambra State of crimes and criminalities, but such desire must be pursued within the ambits of the laws of the land and in strict compliance with international standards. Sir, CSP Nwafor is grossly unfit to be a police officer in the 21st century Nigeria, not to talk of manning a sensitive formation such as SARS, where high profile crimes are handled. There are a thousand and one other competent and fit officers in the Nigeria Police who have the capacity to combine crime fighting and respect for human rights seamlessly. More so, Sir, the security of any society cannot be built around any particular individual, especially, when the individual concerned is a subject of public rejection, with a track record of official impunity.”

The International Human Rights and Equity Defence Foundation, a group of lawyers and social activists committed to the protection, enforcement, preservation and advancement of human rights, social justice and equality in Nigeria, in the petition signed by its Executive Director, Comrade Justus Uche Ijeoma and Head, Information/Publicity Desk, Comrade Obi Barth Ifediorah, noted:

“It is important to point out that our opposition to the planned return of James Nwafor to Awkuzu SARS is not in bad faith. It is in the interest of the Nigeria Police Force, Anambra State Government, the generality of the Nigerian people and Ndi-Anambra in particular, to make sure that Mr. Nwafor does not return to Anambra State. There are dozens of unresolved cases of gross human rights abuses hanging on the neck of CSP Nwafor. Both international and Nigerian-based human rights groups who have done one or two research work around the activities of Nwafor, while he held sway as the OC SARS in Awkuzu, all have gory tales of anti-human rights disposition to his credit”

Pleading further with the IGP, the group recalled that Nwafor took over in Awkuzu from Felix Kigigha (CSP, as he then was) in 2012; and that he was Commander of SARS Annex office in Nnewi. But, “all through his tenure in SARS Awkuzu, extra-judicial killings; enforced disappearance; torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments and many other human rights violations were his stock-in-trade. There is a plethora of documented informative evidence that lend credence to these.”

To help the Police boss appreciate the enormity of evidence against CSP Nwafor, iH-REF probed further into his past record and efforts made during the tenure of Comrade Ijeoma, as at the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) Anambra State Branch, as its secretary and later legal secretary, when it wrote several petitions cataloguing Mr Nwafor’s unprofessional conducts, bothering on human rights violations.

 It cited specific instances: “On several occasions, the CLO called on the relevant authorities to visit appropriate sanctions on Nwafor, but all that did not yield the desired fruit, as there were some ‘powerful and highly connected’ individuals who act as Nwafor’s patron.”

In what looks like a most damning evidence, the group recalled: “In January 2013, when the Ezu River saga (where unidentified corpses were found floating on the river) happened, International Society for the Civil Liberties and Rule of law (INTERSOCIETY), where our executive director served then as its Head of Publicity Desk, did an in-depth research on the saga, and all fingers pointed at Awkuzu SARS under the watch of CSP Nwafor. There are several living individual victims, who still melancholically recount what they went through in the hand of James Nwafor at Awkuzu SARS.

“We are aware that Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), a coalition of about 47 NGOs in Nigeria, working assiduously to see to the reform of the Nigerian Police Force, had written several petitions to the police authorities against the nefarious activities of James Nwafor at Awkuzu SARS. We are aware that on several occasions when the authorities wanted to act, the same patrons of Nwafor, who carry themselves as the ‘powerful’ in the state kept blocking the move. When the immediate past IGP, Solomon Arase, finally summoned the balls, following torrential petitions coming in against his activities in Awkuzu, and eventually removed him from Awkuzu, NOPRIN wrote and told the IGP that it was not enough to remove him from Awkuzu SARS, but that it was important to call him to account for his numerous atrocities. This is yet to happen to happen till date.”

 The petition recounted the personal experience of a victim to substantiate its claims:

“In September 2014 when Amnesty International launched a report of their research on the incidences of torture in Nigeria, SARS Awkuzu, featured prominently in the negatives. In fact, one of the star witnesses at the launch of the report that held at the Sheraton Hotels in Abuja, Dr Justin Nwankwo, was a victim of Nwafor’s SARS and their torturous brutality. It was spine-chilling as Dr Nwankwo recounted his ordeal in the hands of CSP Nwafor before the flashing cameras of both local and international media. Even the caption of the report: ‘Welcome to Hell’, was an inscription on one of James Nwafor’s cell of death in Awkuzu SARS, confirmed by numerous victims interviewed by Amnesty International in the course of their research. In unmistakable terms, Amnesty International called for the investigation and sanction of Nwafor. The whole episode was a grievous global embarrassment both on the Nigerian Government; the Nigeria Police Force and all Nigerians of goodwill.

“When the news of the ugly development referred to above started filtering in as a mere rumour within the human rights and civil society community in Anambra State and beyond, about two weeks ago, we didn’t give it a serious thought as we believed that such self-injuring move can hardly be consciously made by any leader whose primary interest is to protect the lives and property of the people, and to ensure that the fundamental rights, enshrined and guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended); and other extant municipal laws and numerous international instruments to which the Nigeria state is a party, are respected, protected and preserved.

“The rumour not only turned out to be true, but was also almost perfected, hatched and fully executed, with your office playing a very prominent role in the whole move. This is really worrisome, Sir, to say the least.”

Concluding its appeal, the group noted: “It is surprising, therefore, that such a man with this kind of heavy baggage of deficit, morally and professionally, would be angling to return to the place where he committed all the foregoing atrocious infractions.”

•Photo shows Acting IGP Ibrahim Idris.

Source: News Express

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