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Nigerians must know whereabouts of persons in police custody – IIP-SARS chair insists

The Independent Investigative Panel on allegations of human rights violations by the defunct Special Anti – Robbery Squad (SARS) and other units of the Nigerian Police has reminded the Police on Thursday that it has a duty to explain to Nigerians the whereabouts of persons who they arrested and are supposedly in their custody.

The Chairman, Justice Suleiman Galadima (retd) gave this reminder at the hearing of the alleged violation of the right to personal liberty and enforced disappearance of one Eric Ezeala who was arrested in 2017 by members of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and nothing has been heard about him, according to his family members.

The Chairman who was visibly angry about the situation told the lead Counsel for Respondents in this matter, James Idachaba, that the police cannot run away from answering questions on the enforced disappearance of Eric Ezeala, and that the police must be deeply involved in this matter, “we must get to the bottom of this case as quickly as possible” he noted.

Buttressing the Chairman’s position, one of the panelists, John Aikpokpo-Martins in his words said, “we have a timeline and we must finish this national assignment within the time frame we have. The panel cannot wind up without confirming the whereabouts of victims in police custody, whether they are alive or dead.”

James Idachaba assured the panel that “ I will get involved personally to find out the whereabouts of Eric Ezeala” and he further disclosed to the panel that from a preliminary investigation carried out personally, he found out that Eric Ezela was arrested by the Inspector General of Police, Intelligence Response Team (IGP-IRT) and not SARS as alleged by his family.

It could be recalled that in her testimony, Hilda Ezeala, mother of the victim, stated that in July 2017 some policemen came and arrested her son and informed her to come with her lawyer to Owerri Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) office. On getting to the SARS office they were informed that he has been transferred to Abuja, and nothing has been heard about him since then.

The matter has been adjourned to 23rd November 2021 for respondents to find the whereabouts of Eric Ezeala.

Similarly, the police failed to produce Bawa James of defunct FCT SARS before the panel, to explain his role in the case of alleged inhuman and degrading treatment and extortion against Ezeani Henry.

The petitioner, Ezeani Henry, in his earlier testimony alleged that members of defunct SARS FCT forcefully arrested him and tortured him at their office in Garki. The team led by one Bawa James demanded that he pays N350,000 to bail himself, but his wife was only able to raise N120,000 to secure his release.

Following the absence of Bawa James, the Chairman of the panel directed that respondents have to forego their defence, hence subsequently directed both Counsels for petitioner and respondents to prepare their written addresses and submit the same one week from today.

The Chairman adjourned the matter to 22nd November 2021 for the adoption of addresses.

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