Intersociety: SARS Killed 30,400 in Police Cells Since 2004


Police query group’s source of data

By Kingsley Nwezeh

A human rights advocacy and research, group, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), yesterday said 30, 400 people were allegedly killed by the disbanded Special Armed Robbery Squad (SARS) across the country.

But the Nigerian Police queried the group’s source of data, insisting that panels of inquiry had already been set up in different states and would rather wait for the outcome of the inquisition.

A statement issued by the group said using national projection through available independent research statistics, average of 10 unprocessed and untried citizens were killed monthly in police custodies in each state across Nigeria.

It said this further translates to 370 persons monthly and 4,440 yearly.

“In other words, Nigeria as a whole is most likely to have lost in the past 16 years or since 2004 a total of 30,400 unprocessed citizens to police extrajudicial killings mainly perpetrated by SARS”, it said.

It said the Nigerian Police, particularly SARS had earned “notoriety in permanently disappearing hundreds, if not thousands of Nigerians every year. In other words, citizens arrested outside the law and taken into secret custodies are killed without the knowledge of their families and outside the confines of official records”.

According to the group “unprocessed detainees or detained citizens are those taken into custodies and pre-judicially accused of breaking the law and tortured to death or shot dead after they have been taken into custodies without undergoing full processes of arrest, investigation, prosecution, fair trial, conviction and sentencing”.

“This allowed police power to kill in the line of ‘exchange of gunfire’ with violent criminal suspects is hardly the case. Their torture and extrajudicial killings by NPF personnel particularly its SARS are in most cases fueled by trio of hate, corrupt and crude or unprofessional policing”.

The statement jointly signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi, Amaka Onuoha, Chinwe Umeche, Obianuju Igboeli, Ndidiamaka Bernard, and Sam Kamanyaoku, said 140, 000 Nigerian citizens were killed outside the law since 1999 (21 years).

From our previous and updated research records, Nigeria had lost not less than 140,000 citizens outside the law in the past 21 years or since June 1999. ‘Killings outside the law’ are killings not permissible in law or killings that ought not to have occurred, but occurred on account of failure or conspiracy of relevant state organs and their security agencies or killings perpetrated by state through state terrorisation of the general or particular citizenry on account of their religion or tribe; or such killings supervised by state using its allied armed groups or mob actions.

“They exclude ‘street crime’ related killings but include unlawful military and police killings, vigilante killings, jihadist killings, ‘eco-cultural-jihadist killings and killings resulting from ethnic and communal violence”, the group said.

Intersociety said from its December 2016 updates, not less than 101,000 defenseless Nigerians were killed outside the law between June 1999 and Dec 2016 and between Jan 2017 and 2020; 40, 000 defenseless Nigerians have died outside the law.

“They include 18,000 deaths in police custodies on average of 4,450 yearly; 7,000 Christian deaths perpetrated by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen, not less than 4,000 deaths (asymmetrically represented) by Jihadist Boko Haram/ISWAP and some 4,000 mainly indigenous Hausa Muslim deaths perpetrated by Jihadist ‘Bandits’ in Muslim areas of Zamfara, Kastina, Sokoto and Kaduna (Birnin Gwari).

“The rest are over 600 military killings, 2020 COVID-19 killings, EndSARS killings, killing of Christians by Jihadist ‘Bandits’ and other killings arising from ethnic and communal violence”, it alleged.

Reacting to the allegations, Force PRO and Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Frank Mba, queried the group’s source of data, insisting that the police would rather wait for the outcome of the inquisition.”

“The first question a reasonable mind will ask is: how did they arrive at that figure? Without knowing the source(s) of their data, the collection process, the credibility or integrity of the process, amongst others, I may not be able to answer your question appropriately.

“Most importantly is the fact that judicial panels of enquiry have been set up in most states of the federation to deal with allegations of brutality and extrajudicial killings by members of the defunct SARS”, he said.

Mba stated further that “it may therefore be sub-judice, disrespectful or preemptive for me to continue to discuss matters that are likely to be brought before the Judicial panels. I will rather wait for the panels to do their job and submit their reports. Only after that, can we know the total number of confirmed cases of extrajudicial killings and then discuss this in a most sensible, scientific and empirical manner.

“For now, the NPF will concentrate in providing needed support (where required) to the judicial panels of enquiry in different states of the federation to ensure that deliver on their mandate”.