Man disappears while in SARS custody, CSO raises alarm
A Civil Society Organisation (CSO), Rule of Law And Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) has raised alarm over a man that disappeared in the custody of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
RULAAC raised the alarm in a letter addressed to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, Force Headquarters, Abuja.
The CSO also drew the attention of IGP Adamu that the SARS operatives have also refused to comply with a court order to produce the citizen arrested by SARS since January 2020.
The letter redas:
Enforced disappearance by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Port Harcourt, Rivers State and refusal to comply with a court order to produce a citizen arrested by SARS since January 2020
Rule of Law And Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) has received disturbing information about yet another tragic tale of human rights atrocity by operatives of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Family members of TARIUWA KINGSLEY
a 33-year-old heavy duty truck driver with the Nigeria ports authority Port Harcourt, under the umbrella of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria have informed RULAAC that some operatives of SARS from Port Harcourt arrested him along with two others at the Boss Lounge, a popular night club in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on January 5, 2020 at about 8pm. He has since then not been seen by his family and the officers who arrested him have been unable to account for his whereabouts. The police in Rivers State have also refused to comply with a Rivers State High Court order to release him or produce him in Court.
TARIUWA KINGSLEY is married and had a five months old baby as at the time he was arrested. The baby will be one year old by the end of July 2020.
RULAAC was informed that the SARS operatives arrived at Boss Lounge at about 8pm on January 5, 2020 and were cleared by a Police Mobile Officer identified as ELISHA HASSAN (08036747679) who was in charge of security at the lounge on the day TARIUWA KINGSLEY’ was arrested.
Another person who was also at the lounge on that day and witnessed the arrrest by the SARS operatives, and who recognised TARIUWA KINGSLEY and knows his family quickly alerted his brother about his arrest.
His brother immediately called his phone number from around 9pm, and it rang many times but no one picked the call. He continued to call until about 11:30 pm when someone eventually picked the call and he could only hear voices at the background which he believed were the voices of the SARS officers and he heard one of them saying in pidgin english “Shae una say una finish school, make una write una statement. Abi na we go write statement for una”… And the SARS officer was saying that repeatedly until the call cut off without him being able to speak to his brother or anyone in particular. Till date, his missing brother’s phone has remained switched off.
Early the next day, his sister and two of his other siblings went to the Boss Lounge and met the Police Mobile Officer in charge of security at the lounge who told them that their brother was arrested by SARS Officers and confirmed that he gave them clearance to carry out the arrest.
That same day, one of his brothers, Ezekiel, went to SARS office in Port Harcourt and met one Supol Amanze Onyegbula to whom someone directed him to meet and seek help from in locating his arrested brother.
Ezekiel said Supol Onyegbula ‘indirectly said their boys did some rough work the previous night, but never disclosed what the nature of the work was, but then sent a junior officer to check their cell if the persons I’m looking for was there’.
The officer sent to check the cell came back and said no one bearing the name TARIUWA KINGSLEY was in their cell.
Ezekiel further narrated: ‘Supol Onyegbula then advised me to go straight to radio room at state police headquarters to search for them instead of going from one station to another. This he did just to shift my attention from SARS’.
‘I went there, the lady radioed all the stations around searching for my brother but none of the stations agreed to have them in custody. I was there for more than two hours and it was still negative’.
‘So the lady at the radio room advised me to go and confirm once again from the mobile officer at the Boss Lounge about who actually made the arrest’.
‘So I went there in company of my younger sister. It was there that the mobile officer, again, told me that it was men from Special Anti-Robbery Squad that made the arrest; that the boys just followed them calmly and most people in the lounge didn’t even know what transpired’.
He said the Police Mobile Officer told them that one of the SARS Officers gave his number to him. ‘He then called the number of the SARS Officer, put it on loudspeaker while I was standing next to him. When the SARS Officer picked the call he then told him that he is the Mopol man at the night club, that the relations of the boys they arrested are here with him. The SARS Officer on the other side of the phone now said ” Forget them!!! Dem don come our station today, but commander tell them say no be we arrest the boys. In fact WE DON TRAVEL THOSE BOYS, shae u understand, we don clear them, no where e reach, nothing go happen”.
After this, he called Supol Amanze Onyegbuna and told him what Police Mobile Officer said but he asked him to call the officer at SARS again and ask him to explain what he meant.
He collected the number of the SARS Officer from the Mopol and dialled the number, and his name, as revealed by Truecaller, was FRANCIS NWANKWO, indicating ‘SARS’ officer.
TARIUWA KINGSLEY’s family was compelled to write a petition to the Commissioner of Police, Rivers State, CP Dandaura when they continued to hit the brick wall in their effort to locate him. The CP directed the petition to the DCP State CIID to investigate.
The IPO at the state CIID, ASP RUFUS invited the Police Mobile Officer, the management of the Boss Lounge and operatives from SARS on 16th of January to appear at the state CIID for questioning. All others but SARS reported. For a reason not clear to the family, the Police Mobile Officer was detained.
The IPO sent another invitation to SARS and still, they refused to turn up.
The family said both the IPO and SARS gave them reason to suspect foul play; and they decided to contact the IGP-Complaints Response Unit (CRU)at the Force Headquarters. The CRU sent summons to SARS and they showed up at State CIID for two consecutive days and made statements. The family’s expectation that they would bring along TARIUWA KINGSLEY whom they arrested was again dashed.
The DCP gave the parties a date – February 1, 2020 – to update them on the progress of investigation. On that date, the OC general investigations told them that the case has been transferred to the CRU Abuja (CRU) based on the family’s complaint to CRU. There was no word on the investigations findings as at that date or on the fate of TARIUWA KINGSLEY.
Today, nearly six months after the arrest of TARIUWA KINGSLEY, there has not been any response from the CRU. According to Ezekiel, ‘and each time you call police complaint response unit, they keep saying the case is under investigation, that we should be patient’.
Seeig that they were not getting any result from the Police, the family decided to approach the court. A High Court in Rivers State gave an order on the Police to release their captive pending hearing on the suit. SARS was served but till date they ignored the court orders.
The family laments ‘We have done everything possible to see him but all to no avail’.
However, three weeks ago after they made the case trend on Twitter, the head of CRU ordered an immediate investigation and conclusion of the matter. ‘Some officers from CRU promised to come to Port Harcourt. But we’re yet to see them’.
Ezekiel said, ‘this whole thing has really devastated my family. My father has developed high blood pressure and my mum is seriously ill. We really need justice in this matter and we will really appreciate your help’.
RULAAC finds this story so depressing!
We are appalled at the temerity and sense of impunity by the SARS officer in saying that they have ‘travelled’ a youngman just hours after they arrested him without any resistance from the arrested youngman and without him being charged to court for any known offence. And the SARS officer said so with relish and without the slightest compunction, exhuding confidence that nothing will happen.
*We wonder how many more such cases occur with less articulate relatives to press their case! There are ‘good’ committed policemen in Nigeria (we have worked with them) but there are so many who should not be let out in the street with a sweeping brush never mind a badge and a gun!
RULAAC calls on the Inspector General of Police to ensure that this case is exhaustively and impartially investigated with a view to identifying all the SARS operatives responsible for the arrest and disappearance of TARIUWA KINGSLEY. They must be made to account for him as well as face the full legal consequences of their unlawful, discreditable and unprofessional conduct.
The victim must also be accorded the full remedies and reparations as provided by law.