A coalition of civil society groups, Action Group on Free Civic Space, has disclosed that the operatives of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad allegedly killed at will and dumped corpses in morgues in exchange for cash Punch Newspapers reports.
AGFCS in its 2021 report tagged, ‘#EndSARS: Police brutality, protests and shrinking civic space in Nigeria’ accused the ex-SARS officials of gross violation of people’s liberties by holding suspects incommunicado and denying them access to their family members and lawyers.
The report, launched in Lagos on Friday, also alleged that the disbanded anti-robbery police unit was wont to incriminate innocent persons, keep them in crowded cells while routinely meting out different forms of torture to them.
The unit, said to be notorious for human rights abuse, was dissolved following widespread outrage against police brutalities during the #EndSARS protest in October 2020.
The report, which focused mainly on the alleged atrocities of SARS units at police commands in the southern states of the country, featured accounts of victims and families of detainees who died in police custody.
A late officer-in-charge of SARS in Enugu was accused of killing suspects for fun in connivance with one DSP Chukwu.
A freed suspect and eyewitness was quoted as saying on condition of anonymity for security reasons, “There was a day four kidnappers were arrested and brought to SARS. The late officer announced that one of them would die that day. He then wrote ‘life’ on three sheets of paper and ‘death’ on one. He folded the papers and asked the guys to pick one each. He then told the person who picked ‘death’ that he would die that night. That very night, about 11pm, they called out the guy and took him to the theatre – a room inside the detention facility also known as the death chamber – and shot him dead.”
The report further claimed that SARS was a willing tool of oppression in the hands of politicians and an instrument for settling personal or civil grievances.
It stated that beyond the routine practices of extortion, torture and several acts of violence against victims, incidents tracked during the fact-finding mission pointed to other grisly activities of SARS.
The report added, “Of particular significance is the alleged commerce involving sale of dead bodies of poor detainees who were unable to pay their way out of detention and are sold in a thriving, unregulated morgue market as cadavers…. Two Enugu SARS survivors attested to the existence of this practice. They told AGFCS team how a SARS officer forced them to convey corpses to a mortuary in Enugu.”
The report recommended that police authorities should look into all cases and allegations of human rights abuse by any police personnel including the defunct SARS, embark on strict implementation of the Police Act 2020 to ensure security agents operate with civility, responsibility, professionalism and restraint and conduct an inquiry to respond to the allegations contained in the report.
The spokesperson for the police in Anambra State, Ikenga Tochukwu, said the command would await the outcome of the panel of inquiry set up by the state government to investigate cases of police brutalities before it could speak on the allegations made in the report.
Our correspondent called the spokesperson for the Enugu State Police Command, Daniel Ekea, several times and sent text messages to him on Friday and Saturday but he did not react to the allegations.
He said, “I cannot comment on a report that I have not seen and that has not come to the knowledge of the police. They should make a report to the appropriate authorities. Send me the report; I can forward it to where it can be verified.”
Parts of the report that indicted the defunct SARS in Enugu were sent to Ekea’s WhatsApp but he had yet to reply as of the time of filing this story.