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A human rights organisation, Amnesty International, says the use of torture is the only form of interrogation used by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad on suspects.
AI added that the major forms of torture included beating, starvation, prolonged detention and hanging.
Damian Ugwu, Amnesty International’s Nigeria Researcher, said this on Wednesday while presenting a report on the use of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
The report is sequel to a 2014 report issued by AI titled, ‘Welcome to hellfire: Torture and other ill-treatment in Nigeria,’ which revealed that torture and other ill-treatment were widespread and routine in military and police custody across Nigeria
The report partly stated, “Torture continues to be the first and sometimes the only form of interrogation by SARS. Officers in SARS continue the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (other ill-treatment) of detainees in their custody.
“Detainees, both men and women, are subjected to various methods of torture and ill-treatment in order to extract information and ‘confessions.’
“Such methods include prolong detention, severe beating, hanging, and starvation, shooting in the legs, mock executions and threats of execution. Amnesty International’s research found that the majority of the victims of torture in SARS custody are poor and unable to hire legal representatives.”
The report added that SARS officers involved in the torture and other ill-treatment of detainees were rarely held to account and in some cases were transferred to another location to avoid punishment.
It stated that officers at SARS had become rich by demanding bribes and extorting money in form of bail from suspects.
The report added that most of the victims of police brutality were the poor.
It added, “Despite the fact that bail is free, we found cases of corruption and abuse of power in SARS. During this research, we documented cases and received reports from lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists that some SARS’ police officers demand bribes, extort money from criminal suspects and their families, and steal from criminal suspects on a regular basis.
“For example, Ekene, a 24-year-old university student, was arrested in Awka, Anambra State, by police officers from SARS station in Awkuzu in December 2015. His lawyer told Amnesty International that he advised Ekene’s mother to pay N100,000.00 (approximately US$317) after the Investigating Police Officer insisted that otherwise he would not release him.”
In his response, the Commissioner of Police in Charge of the Federal SARS, D.P Akadi, said the new Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, was already making structural changes at SARS.
Akadi said he had received complaints about the notorious SARS office at Akwuzu, Anambra State, headed by one James Nwafor.
He said, “I have listened to the . raised and this is why I said I am glad about this forum. It is only through such forum that we are able to know about what is happening in the state formations of SARS so we can report adequately to the IG who will take necessary action.”