The National Human Rights Commission says it has given the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and its 36 state counterparts sufficient materials to prosecute 33 operatives of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad indicted in the last year’s report of a Presidential Investigative Panel. The Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Mr Tony Ojukwu, said this while fielding questions from journalists at the headquarters of the commission in Abuja.
Sunday PUNCH had on November 8, 2020 reported exclusively that the AGF office had declared that there was no sufficient evidence with which to prosecute the indicted cops.
The Presidential Panel led by Ojukwu, had between 2018 and 2019 probed complaints of brutal activities of SARS and had submitted its report to the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) on June 3, 2019.
The report indicted a total of 35 police operatives in 12 states and the Federal Capital Territory for various rights violations including, extrajudicial killing, death in police custody, unlawful arrest, bias investigation, unlawful intimidation, harassment, criminal assault, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, threat to life, extortion and confiscation of property.
The report recommended 33 for prosecution, and punishment including reduction in rank and dismissal.
It also recommended 57 victims for award of total of about N249m in monetary compensation 35 for public apology to be issued by the Nigeria police.
The NHRC on October 19, 2020 submitted the report to the AGF accompanied with a specific list of those recommended for prosecution.
Sunday PUNCH reported that a committee raised by the AGF, Mr Abubakar Malami, to review the panel’s report had concluded that the report “does not meet prosecutorial needs” as it was said to be lacking in vital exhibits, such as “medical evidence and statements of the suspects and witnesses”.
The committee’s report also expressed concern that the indicted officers “still in the service ought to go through the internal police disciplinary measures to avoid prosecuting officers in uniform”.
It therefore asked the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, to set up “a special investigation team” to conduct “thorough investigation” into the cases.
Asked to react to the concerns of the AGF office about the report, Ojukwu said the two major issues raised had been addressed by the commission.
Ojukwu said, “The issues raised by the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation as to why the prosecution seems difficult are:
“One, he said he has not received the original case files. Two, he said some of the police officers must be dismissed first by the Police Service Commission before they can prosecute them, of course that is procedural.
“We have worked on those conditions. We have sent all the original case files, not only to him (the AGF), but to all the states, because the law says it is either the Attorney General of the Federation or the Attorney General of the states.
“There are about 13 states involved, and I can assure you that we have dispatched all the original case files to all the 13 states.
“Secondly, we have submitted the list of these officers, with other necessary documents to both the Police Service Commission and the Inspector General of Police.
“So, they need to do the needful. Moving forward, I expect that, once these internal procedures are tidied up, they should be able to do what they are supposed to do. This is because, as at today, we have sorted out these two obstacles identified by the AGF.”
Ojukwu lamented how poor funding had been hampering the ability of the NHRC to investigate rights violations in the 36 states of the federation and the FCT.
He said the National Economic Council which directed states to inaugurate the commissions of inquiry to probe SARS brutality in the aftermath of #EndSARS protests had also directed the various state governments to set aside N200m “to pay for awards and compensation that may arise in all the states”.
He said the commission had similarly asked for N200m for its retired Justice Suleiman Galadima-led Independent Investigative Panel currently probing complaints of police brutality received from different parts of the country.