#Endsars: Can Of Worms At Lagos Inquest

#Endsars: Can Of Worms At Lagos Inquest

DCP Abba Kyari, 35 others for prosecution

Abdul Lateef Taiwo Bamgbose

Revelations are pouring out at the ongoing Judicial Panel of Inquiry in Lagos State as more revelations are reeling out beyond the expectations of the initial #ENDSARS movement.

Indeed ,  the first shocker came in form of the  alleged  extortion by one Abba Kyari, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), who was the SARS Commander in Lagos, Kyari,  has been accused of extorting over N41 million from Afeez Mojeed, a Lagos-based businessman.

According to a document seen AljazirahNigeria, Mojeed said the extortion was done in 2014 when Kyari was the officer in charge of the now disbanded special anti-robbery squad (SARS) in Lagos.

In a series of petitions between 2016 and 2018, Mojeed sought justice through the Independent Corrupt Practices And Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), but to no avail.

In a fresh petition filed on October 22, 2020, through Salawu Akingbolu & Co, Mojeed’s counsel, and addressed to the newly formed judicial panel of inquiry and restitution for victims of SARS-related abuses in Lagos, Kyari and his officers were accused of forcefully taking about 32 items from Mojeed’s house during a raid in 2014.

The National Human Rights Commission had earlier submitted a list of 35 operatives of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police Force to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), for prosecution.

Submitting the list at the AGF office in Abuja, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Mr Tony Ojukwu, said the list was an extract of the full report of the Special Presidential Panel on SARS earlier submitted to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), on June 3, 2019.

Responding, Malami said his office would do justice to the list “through prosecution and taking associated incidental administrative steps”.

The minister, who said the Buhari regime had embarked on policies and legislation such as the Police Act 2020 to ensure deep reforms of the police in the country, also said the panel’s report would not be implemented to protect the interest of the victims without considering the interests of the general society.

He said the report would be implemented in line with the “multi-way-traffic nature of the justice system”.

The submission came amid protests by the youth in different parts of the country calling for the scrapping of SARS, an end to police brutality and reform of the police force.

Ojukwu told journalists after the presentation of the report to the AGF that the submission of the list of the indicted SARS operatives came over one year after submitting the report to the President Muhammadu Buhari because of the long time it took the white paper panel to conclude its job and to obtain the necessary approvals for the recommendations of the implementation committee.

He noted that the list submitted to the AGF   contained the names of 35 operatives earlier handed to the Police Service Commission earlier for disciplinary action.

“All the people to be dismissed are going to be prosecuted,” he said.

He added that the report of the panel contained the list of operatives to be dismissed and demoted, as well as list of people to be compensated or apologised to via newspaper publications.

Instructively, the Lagos government had set up a judicial panel to attend to cases of abuses, especially by the officers of the disbanded police squad, after the protest against police brutality.

In the petition seen by AljazirahNigeria , Mojeed said his ordeal began on the night of October 18, 2014, when four gun-wielding policemen from SARS broke into his house.

The businessman, who was home with his pregnant wife, 18 month-old son and mother in-law, had thought it was a robbery attack.

“They forcefully took his wedding ring and that of his wife from them, opened their wardrobe and took the sum N280,000 and the sum of N50,000 was also taken from his car, after which the Honda Accord (2008) model was seized and taken away till today,” the petition read.

Phones, landed properties, cheque books, bank cards and other valuable documents were allegedly taken from his house.

After ransacking the house  the petitioner stated , Mojeed was  taken to the SARS office in Ikeja where he was detained for 14 days– from October 18 to October 31, 2014.

He was later “arraigned on a trumped-up charge” of stealing N97 million and for over one year, the matter was in court, the police “never showed up or brought any witness”.

After several adjournments, the court reportedly struck out the charge against him.

According to the petition, while in detention, “the police under the supervision and threat of Abba Kyari (OC SARS) forced him to sign three Zenith Bank cheques in the sum of N150,000 each making N450,000 in total on October 22 – 23, 2014 and gave the sum to one Alabi Olawale Nurudeen who is also one of their cronies to withdraw”.

The police also allegedly obtained password to his bank card with which they withdrew another N395,000 from his account between October 20 to 23, 2014.

AljazirahNigeria learnt, on the directive of Kyari, Mojeed was taken by one Inspector Fola, Corporal Bolu and Corporal Akeem to Diamond Bank Ajah branch on October 23 and 24, 2014 to forcefully transfer the sum of 41 Million and N800,000 respectively from his corporate account M. Mateen Concepts into the account of one Obinna Edward, whom our client had never seen or heard of before, after which they shared the money.

“All these acts perpetrated on our client were exhibited with serious injuries inflicted on him due to a series of slaps and beatings for them to get access to his ATM password, signature on cheques and also transfer from his account.”

Mojeed’s counsel had confronted Kyari in his then office in Ikeja on why he would seize his money and properties without a court order, but Kyari reportedly said he had kept the money as an exhibit.

 “But till date, they have not released any of the items to him including his car which which we got information had been taken away by Abba Kyari,” the petition read.

Kyari was also accused of attempting to connive with Mojeed’s counsel to further extort him.

The senior police officer reportedly told the Counsel that Mojeed was an internet fraudster and that was why they took the money from him.

“He also went further that there was another N15 million in another account, that the counsel should cooperate with him to take it the way they took N41 million and a sum of N5 million would be given to him while they would take N10 million,” the petition read.

The counsel was allegedly threatened over the refusal to “cooperate” with Kyari. 

The November 14, 2014, medical report seen by AljazirahNigeria , showed how Mojeed suffered hearing difficulty, a bad right eye and recurrent chest pain, all of these following police brutality.

As of the time of filing this report, Kyari, who now heads the intelligence response team (IRT) of the inspector-general of police, was unreachable as his telephone lines were switched off.

But in post on his time line on the facebook, Kyari in a standard response said it is criminals that are fighting back and that they were ready to defend their actions. The statement was signed by one Barr. Hamza.

The first witness at a Nigerian inquiry into police brutality  in Lagos  has described how he was tortured and had teeth extracted by members of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

Okoye Agu was detained after his boss accused him of stealing from work.

The inquiry in Lagos state was formed in the wake of nationwide protests calling for an end to SARS.

It may also look into the shooting at protests last week in which rights groups say 12 people were killed.

he was beaten, paraded in public as a criminal, suspended upside down and had two of his teeth pulled out. In addition, his car and mobile phones were sold without his permission by SARS officers.

The police have refused to pay him compensation despite a court order; he told the panel which is being led by a retired judge.

He said his family did not know where he was and when they arrived at the police station after 47 days of searching for him, his wife and mother were also beaten in front of him.

Mr Agu’s experiences echoed other accusations levelled against SARS officers, who have been said to have harassed, beaten and sometimes killed many people.

The three other cases scheduled to be heard on Tuesday had to be adjourned as some of the relevant witnesses were not available.

The alleged abuses of the hated police unit triggered mass protests across Nigeria that were organised under the hashtag #EndSars. They forced President Muhammadu Buhari to disband the unit.

Independent investigations into police abuses were a core demand of the protesters who rallied across the country for more than two weeks.

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu who announced that the scope of the panel had been expanded to include events at the Lekki toll gate on October 20 when witnesses and groups such as Amnesty International said soldiers opened fire at protesters, killing so many.

The military has denied involvement in the shooting. Nigerian authorities have failed to prosecute a single officer from the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), despite anti-torture legislation passed in 2017 and evidence that its members continue to use torture and other ill-treatment to execute, punish and extract information from suspects, Amnesty International said over the weekend

In a new report, Time to End Impunity, Amnesty International documented at least 82 cases of torture, ill treatment and extra-judicial execution by SARS between January 2017 and May 2020. The victims of the police unit, set up to fight violent crimes, are predominantly male between the ages of 18 and 35, from low-income backgrounds and vulnerable groups.

Miracle 23,  a  victim  narrated his encounter with SARS  said in March 2017, he was arrested and detained by SARS officers in Neni, Anambra State, South-east Nigeria, accused of the theft of a laptop. He was tortured and given hardly any food during the 40 days he was in detention before he was charged to court. “…their leader directed them to go and hang me. They took me to the back of the hall and tied me with ropes. Then they started using all manner of items to beat me, including machetes, sticks, inflicting me with all kinds of injuries. One of the officers used an exhaust pipe to hit me on my teeth, breaking my teeth. I was left on that hanger for more than three hours…”

In October 2018, 24-year-old Sunday Bang, an amateur boxer was arrested in his home in Abuja, by SARS officers and accused of robbery. He was held in detention for 5 weeks without access to family, lawyers or medical care – and was not charged in court. While in SARS detention, he suffered bone fractures and other injuries due to torture and other ill treatment.

“No circumstances whatsoever may be invoked as a justification of torture. In many cases the victims are the poor and vulnerable, easy targets for law enforcement officers whose responsibility it is to protect them,” said Osai Ojigho.

Across Nigeria, SARS officers have turned their duty to protect Nigerians into an opportunity for extortion and stealing money, property and other valuables belonging to suspects and their families. Since 2016, Amnesty International has documented 15 cases where SARS officers arbitrarily confiscated suspects’ property.

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