MEMBERS of Nigeria’s Special Anti Robbery Squad (Sars) police unit often mutilated the bodies of some of their victims and even sold body parts according to human rights body the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (Rolaac).
Earlier this month, Sars operatives killed a young boy identified as Joshua Ambrose in cold blood in Delta State but unfortunately for them, videographer Prince Nicholas Makolomi, recorded the whole incident live. His video, which fuelled anger across Nigeria, also led to a mob attack on an off-duty Sars operative, Sergeant Ohwovwiogor Fidelis at the Ughelli Central Garage as an angry mob doused him in fuel, attempting to set him ablaze.
This sparked off a series of nationwide protests, with celebrities joining in with an online campaign across social media. Under pressure, the inspector-general of police Mohammed Adamu announced that the Sars unit was being dissolved nationwide but the government handling of the crisis led to a people’s revolt with widespread violence and looting.
Okechukwu Nwanguma the Rolaac executive director, said Sars became an organised criminal entity. He praised Nigeria’s youth who have for many years, been the main targets and victims of police brutality as they rose courageously in their numbers to demand the disbandment of Sars.
Mr Nwanguma said: “The inspector-general of police has said that no member of the defunct Sars will be part of the new outfit that has been created to replace it. That is a good first step but the next step would be to do an audit of personnel of the disbanded Sars, identify those with cases of murder and abuse to answer and have them investigated and prosecuted.
“Their victims are also entitled to redress, including apologies and monetary compensations. The personnel also need to go through a psychological evaluation to isolate those with mental health problems.
“They can’t be reintegrated or redeployed into other units because they will not only continue with their crimes in their new places of postings but also negatively influence other less brutal and corrupt officers. The Nigeria Police needs purging and those who are un-trainable and irredeemable must be shown the way out.”
He added that Sars operatives, just like those of other tactical units, were laws unto themselves because they were answerable only to the inspector-general of police They held senior officers, including state commissioners of police in contempt and were beyond their control, so acted as they liked without supervision and accountability for crimes and abuse.
According to Mr Nwanguma, Awkuzu Sars in Anambra State was the most notorious of all the bases across the country. He added that it was notable for the cruelty and mindlessness of its operatives in the abuse of arrest and detention procedures and in the use of torture and extra-judicial killings as a means of investigation.
They were notable for framing and parading people for crimes they had no evidence that they committed. They also extorted huge sums of money from their victims and family members of their victims and also killed for politicians and were available for hire to settle scores.
Mr Nwanguma said: “Every single person I have interviewed who passed through Awkuzu Sars spoke about the sale of human parts. I know that this is something difficult to prove, even though they all say it and they described a particular man called Doctor, who always came in a white robe any time somebody was shot at the back of the torture chamber.”