Operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), an arm of the Nigerian Police have been accused of illegally arresting and torturing innocent citizens.
The SARS operatives who have been severally accused of human rights violations are said to have made predominantly male between the ages of 18 and 35, from low-income backgrounds and other vulnerable groups their primary targets.
Furthermore, a fresh report by Amnesty International (AI), a human rights organization has accused the SARS operatives of torturing and killing people on at least 82 occasions since January, 2017.
The report also accused the SARS operatives of mostly using torture and intimidation to extract information from suspects which sometimes results in the death of such persons.
The AI report noted that “horrific violations were carried out under the supervision of high-ranking police officers”.
“The systemic use of torture and other ill treatment by SARS officers for police investigations and the continued existence of torture chambers within the Nigerian Police Force points to an absolute disregard for international human rights laws and standards.”
AI said on many occasions, the SARS victims were beaten, denied food, access to family members and medical care.
“In many cases, Amnesty International bore witness to the scars, bruises, and dried blood on victims’ bodies. Many of them were subjected to beatings with sticks and machetes and denied medical care.
“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.”
The AI country director, Osai Ojigho also added that the government seems to have so far failed in its attempts to curb the excesses by the SARS operatives.
“The complete failure of Nigerian authorities to bring an end to the gross human rights violations perpetuated by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad or to bring any SARS officer to justice is shocking and unacceptable,” Ojigho said.
Citing examples of cases it witnessed or handled, AI narrated the case of one Miracle who, in March 2017, was reportedly arrested and detained by SARS officers in Neni, Anambra state, after being accused of stealing a laptop.
“He was tortured and given hardly any food during the 40 days he was in detention before he was charged and brought before a court,” the group said, quoting the victim as saying the police officers used “all manner of items to beat me, including machetes, sticks, inflicting me with all kinds of injuries”.
The human rights organization also added the story of another victim identified as Sunday Bang who was held in detention for 5 weeks without access to family, lawyers or medical care throughout his time in detention.
“He was held in detention for 5 weeks without access to family, lawyers or medical care – and was not charged in court,” it said of Bang who “suffered bone fractures and other injuries due to torture and other ill treatment” while in SARS detention.
Ojigho said the “the Nigerian authorities must go beyond lip service to ensure there is real reform within the Nigeria Police Force with an emphasis on SARS.”
Naija News recalls despite some attempts by the government to reform the activities of SARS in the country, the operatives still remain a major source of concern for many Nigerians.