Joint CSO statement on directive by IGP disbanding satelite offices, bases

Joint CSO statement on directive by IGP disbanding satelite offices, bases

FULL TEXT: Joint CSO statement on directive by IGP disbanding satelite offices, bases
IGP Mohammed Adamu

JULY 16, 2020

A JOINT CSO STATEMENT ON THE DIRECTIVE BY THE INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE, MR. MOHAMMED ABUBAKAR, DISBANDING THE SATELLITE OFFICES AND BASES OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE INTELLIGENCE UNIT (IRT) AND THE SPECIAL TACTICAL SQUAD (STS)

The undersigned leaders of notable civil society organisations and coalitions across Nigeria have noted the recent directive by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mr. Mohammed Abubakar disbanding the satellite offices and bases of the Inspector- General of Police Intelligence Response Unit (IRT) and the Special Tactical Squad (STC).

We have also observed the mixed reactions that have trailed that directive as well as intensified campaigns from some quarters attempting to pressure the IGP to reverse himself based on their perceptions and opinions about the oft-advertised achievements of the IRT Commander, DCP Abba Kyari, in particular.

As notable leaders of civil society organizations in Nigeria most of whose organisations are involved in daily monitoring and documenting of the conduct of law enforcement agencies and are also reputable advocates of police reform and law enforcement accountability, we wish to state our position from an informed and unbiased perspective, and hereby state as follows:

1. That we commend and welcome the decision of the IGP to order the disbandment of the satellite offices and bases of the IRT and STS; and we believe his decision was in response to the numerous complaints and public outcry concerning the notoriety of the operatives of these units who regularly engage in human rights violations, brutality, violence, corruption and abuse. The operatives took advantage of the attachment of ‘Inspector general of Police’ to their names to commit crimes and abuses in the name of the IGP; they conducted themselves in the most appallingly unprofessional ways, placed themselves above the law and were unaccountable in their operations. Their excesses were so much that even Senior Police Officers, including DPOs and Commissioners of Police could not control them.

They became so unbearably lawless that senior officers in states complained. One senior officer lamented that ‘the personnel of IRT in the field are indeed doing everything they possibly can to bring that once reputable team to opprobrium. … tales of their activities here have become a sing-song amongst Policemen. The CP has continually decried their impunity, recklessness and unprofessional conduct. In fact, no Division or Area Command accepts suspects from them anymore. It’s a pity, but we need people like you to continue to point all these out and maybe, just maybe the top echelon will come to terms with all these and take a decisive action to stem the ebb’.

2. That we are not unmindful of the operational exploits of the IRT in particular, under commander DCP Abba Kyari, in arresting some high-profile kidnap suspects and successfully setting free some kidnap victims.

However, many of the operatives recklessly engaged in excesses and atrocities – ranging from abductions, detention, torture and extortion of huge sums of money from targeted victims and illegally confiscated and converted money and properties belonging to many of the persons they arrested. Many of our organisations intervened in many of the cases and our findings were that many of the victims were innocent of the crimes for which they were abducted, maltreated and extorted of huge sums of money. In fact, the operatives exploited and turned their call to combat crime into an opportunity to commit crime by harassing, intimidating, maltreating and extorting huge funds form victims most of whom were framed with false accusations. We will illustrate.

3. That contrary to insinuations by some people especially those engaged in propaganda and hatchet job, the IGP’s directive did not amount to disbanding the IRT and STS but a reorganization to bring the units under control and to ensure that they now begin to operate in transparent and accountable ways, respecting and observing due process in their operations. Most of the atrocities that have dented the image of the police are carried out at the satellite bases where the operatives acted with impunity. Their reckless actions and the public outcry over their excesses justify the IGP’s directive disbanding the satellite bases leaving only the headquarters offices now placed under the SIB. We believe that the IGP’s action was informed by the numerous complaints he has been received concerning the reckless activities of some of the operatives of these units, especially in the states.

4. It is our belief that the IRT can work with police officers in the various state commands who will be under the strict supervision and control of the State Commissioners who will, in turn, be held responsible for any excesses and failure of the operatives or failure to hold them accountable for a breach of due process.

5. That we call on the IGP to further ensure that numerous allegations and complaints against particular operatives contained in several pending petitions by several organizations and individuals and in reports by notable organizations such as Amnesty International, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), among others are investigated and officers responsible for abuse, corruption and misconduct brought to account.

6. That we have noted what appears to be desperate efforts by some people, including those who claim to be ‘security experts’, kicking and pushing a campaign against the IGP’s directives disbanding the satellite offices of IRT and STS; we have also noted the emergence of some hitherto unknown entities masquerading as ‘civil society organizations’, attacking the IGP’s directive and calling for a reversal, rehashing the achievements of DCP Abba Kyari, and flaunting his numerous ‘recognitions’ for his oft- advertised exploits as if those nullify the evident truth and fact that IRT operatives are predominantly and essentially lawless and involved in a criminal enterprise; they speak as though those claims can substitute the need to ensure accountability and due process in the operations of the IRT.

7. We believe that the IGP’s intervention was warranted, necessary and appropriate and ought to have even come earlier than now.

8. While we do not discountenance the exploits of the IRT in arresting some high-profile kidnap suspects and rescuing some victims, the need to reorganize and enhance professionalism and effectiveness and make them accountable is not disputable, it is warranted and the IGP has taken the first right step in the right direction. It remains for him, as we already stated, to ensure that personnel involved in criminal conducts of torture and extortion are investigated and punished accordingly for deterrence.

9. That for the purpose of illustration, we itemize hereunder, few of the numerous shocking instances of the criminal activities and human rights atrocities of the personnel of the IRT and STS in the states so Nigerians can see their true colors. Many of them engage in abductions, detention, torture and extortion of targeted victims. They appropriate exhibits and illegally seized properties not connected to any crime and demand bribes in millions to release their victims.

CASE 1
Mr. Francis Eze, a trader at Onitsha Medicine Market (Ogbogwu) was arrested on Wednesday 18th of March, 2020 by officers of IRT. He was on his way to Owerri in his Sienna car when he was accosted by the IRT officers who operated in a Hurma Bus.

The officers brought him down from his own car and ordered him into their own bus while one of their officers drove his car. They seized his phone; collected his wristwatch and gold necklace and handcuffed him.

They put one number in his phone, dialed it and the name “Africa” popped up. They asked him who Africa was and he told them that his real name is Edmund, a trader also in Ogbogwu Market and that Edmund is friend in the market. They told him that the reason they arrested him was that he was in constant communication with Edmund and that they wanted him to show them Edmund’s house.

Francis told them he didn’t know Edmund’s house but that he could take them to Edmund’s shop in the market. They claimed that Edmund allegedly sold tramadol medicine to some people in their custody who told them that they bought tramadol from Edmund.

They told Francis that he is not telling the truth and that they would “teach him a lesson when they get to Owerri”. They drove him to Owerri, at the SARS Office at the State Police Headquarters, Owerri where they subjected him to all manner torture, including “hanging” just for him to admit what they want him to admit. They were intent on extracting Edmund’s residential address from him even when he told them he didn’t know the address. He maintained that he didn’t know Edmund’s residence but that he could take them to Edmund’s shop in the market.

They detained him in Owerri, and the following day they took him to Kaduna where they further detained him and others, they arrested in connection to the said tramadol business.

Francis was eventually released alongside others on Friday the 20th in Kaduna while his vehicle was still held in their custody in Owerri. They also did not return his phone, wristwatch and gold necklace to him. All these properties belonging to Francis have remained in their custody for yet to be explained reasons.

Shockingly, upon Francis’ return, one of the persons who was also arrested, one Donatus Ajamma approached him and started demanding the sum of Eleven Million Naira (N11,000,000.) his own contribution of the total sum of Seventy Million Naira (N70,000,000.) he purportedly paid for their ‘bail’. Mr. Ajamma claimed that unless Francis paid him the said N11Milion, his vehicle and other properties will not be released to him by the IRT, as the IRT allegedly agreed with him (Ajamma).

Even though the rest of the persons arrested insisted that the tramadol they sold was the 100g, which is not prohibited (the one prohibited is the 220g), Francis had no crime alleged against him apart from the fact that the officers wanted him to take them to Edmund’s house.

When Francis brought this case to our attention for intervention, to secure the release of his properties, RULAAC contacted DCP Abba Kyari, who promised to investigate and that his car would be released if he is not a Drug Dealer. The car was eventually released. But the other items (wristwatch and gold necklace) are still with them.

ASP Abdulrahman (the Officer in Kaduna) asked them to come to Kaduna and collect those ones. We asked him to send them via courier as the distance to Kaduna is far and there was still ban on interstate travel, but he said that they will have to release the items on bond.

We explained that those things were not exhibits but personal properties and should have been given back to him alongside his clothes upon his release from custody but he insisted on Francis travelling to Kaduna
We further told Abba Kyari and he asked them to send the items to Owerri IRT office, so that they will sign the papers and collect them.

CASE 2
Onyebuchi Okonkwo informed us about the case of his brother, Ikechuchu Okonkwo, a trader at Bridgehead Market, Onitsha who was arrested on Monday the 8th of June, 2020 by a team of officers led by one Supol Kingsley of the IGP-IRT, Abuja. Ikechukwu was initially detained at Area Command Onitsha.

The case was that one Chinedu Itumo, another trader at the same market where Ikechukwu does business, was alleged to have received stolen goods, which were from a container of goods (Dolmar parts) belonging to one Chief Ezeemo. The said container belonging to Chief Ezeemo was said to have been diverted by criminals from whom Chinedu received the goods.

There was no mention of Ikechukwu in connection with the said crime. The police said that their investigation on Chinedu revealed that Chinedu had transferred some money into Ikechukwu’s account for the ‘people’. This was the report that Chinedu gave when he was arrested few days later.

Ikechukwu, in his own story, explained to the police that he had no transaction whatsoever with Chinedu in person. But that he has a neighbor, one Aaron (Aaron shares the same shop with Ikechukwu). Aaron had approached Ikechukwu and asked him if he has an account with a particular bank. He said that Chinedu wanted to pay him some debt but that he needed the particular account as, according to Chinedu, the bank was having issues with transfer to other banks. That was how Ikechukwu obliged him and gave his account to Aaron who gave same to Chinedu.

When Chinedu transferred the money to Ikechukwu’s account he subsequently transferred same amount to Aaron’s account. He clearly stated in the transaction details on (WhatsApp) that it is “MONEY FROM CHINEDU”. This is clearly shown in Ikechukwu’s bank records. Chinedu did not eventually deny the above position of Ikechukwu.

Ikechukwu’s brothers approached the officers for the release of Ikechukwu as there was clearly nothing that linked him to the crimes being investigated. Though they initially asked them to pay money for Ikechukwu’s release, they later declined insisting that they must contact their, DCP Abba Kyari who, according to them, was the only person that can order the release of their brother.

When they reached back to the police the next morning, they were informed that the officers had left for Abuja the previous night with Ikechukwu. Ikechukwu had spent 10 days in detention as at the date Ikechukwu was arrested.

They sought for our intervention. They said Ikechukwu was sick and completely innocent of the matter being investigated by the police. The police officers confirmed this but still refused to release him.

Ikechukwu’s brother, Onyebuchi Okonkwo had to travel to Abuja and the officers in Abuja asked him to look for a civil servant working in Abuja as a surety. This was very stringent as they have nobody in Abuja.

The operatives later took Ikechukwu to the bank to check his statement of account. When they saw his account balance, they demanded that he should pay them One Million Naira. Ikechukwu appeared helpless in the face of the threats, intimidation and torture he suffered in the cell.

When his brother informed us, we contacted Abba Khari on 6/19/20 and asked them not to pay them anything.
Response from Abba Kyari: ‘My brother, where is the evidence that he paid money because the thing now is to mention money whenever u are arrested and released. We need evidence for us to take action and recover their money and punish earring officers. Even the court of law needs evidence to convict accused persons.’

We then asked the victim to narrate how the money was collected from him. He wrote:
The IPO, Insp Oshi first took us to one woman who said she’s an officer attached to STS. She provided the following account details of account number:
*2080756112
Susan Maruwa

We transferred the sum of N560,000.00 to the account,
which is meant for the following: #500,000.00 bail fee; #50,000 for the IPO- he said it’s for his personal intervention and 10,000.00 for the POS service charge.

Incidentally, after sending the money and getting confirmation that the transaction was successful, Susan said that she hasn’t gotten alert, and so cannot release the money. We pleaded with the IPO to no avail that the money has been sent and that they would confirm it. The IPO insisted that he must receive cash before releasing my brother. (There’s an audio recording evidencing this)

Then the IPO took us another person (a restaurant woman) who also run POS service and she provided the following account:
*2256204926
Helen Okoeka

We also transferred the sum of #560,000. 00., meant to be disbursed as stated earlier. Luckily, Helen immediately confirmed the transfer and gave us cash, which we handed over to the IPO as stated.

In the evening, around 3pm, Susan- the woman we made the earlier transfer to brought the cash when she eventually confirmed the transaction. And because we didn’t want to carry cash around, we took it to Helen who transferred it back to us also at a charge (but this time she had pity on us and collected #5,000.00 instead of #10,000.00 she said they usually collect).

We paid the money in cash to Insp Oshi. An investigation on the bank accounts we mentioned will confirm all that we have said. All this happened on Saturday 20th June, 2020.

After sending this to Abba Kyari, along with the audio recording of the transaction, the IPO started calling Ikechukwu asking him why he was doing this to him!

Ikechukwu told him that there’s no way he would not report everything they did to him to us
Then DCP Abba Kyari replied: Will act on this correct evidence.

He later told us: The Team leader Fasasi told me the surety will enter Abuja today and I have warned the IPO to return anything he most have collected from them immediately. Action will be taken against the Inspr too. U will get feedback soonest

On 6/26/20, Abba Kyari replied informing us that he had ordered his release on bail but stating that ‘his account statement with us shows he Received the payment for the stolen goods that was sold but he just remitted 50k to the other guy hence the money they bought the goods is still with him because bank records show he used the money Personal’.

CASE 3
A Youngman who was facing harassment by operatives of IRT in Ogun State contacted RULAAC. His brother and friend were arrested in his place as a bait to lure him to the station for a false allegation of armed robbery. One of the officers who arrested his brother was calling him and asking him to bring the sum of two hundred thousand Naira for them to release his brother and end the manhunt on him. RULAAC got him to record the officers negotiating bribe with him. He did and forwarded the voice record to us. We forwarded the voice to the team leader who immediately released his brother and ended the manhunt on him after listening to the audio. The Team leader also pleaded that we should not make the audio public. We still have it.

CASE 4
Ann Okpara
A 36-year-old woman was arrested by men of the Intelligence Response Team at the Lagos State Police Command Headquarters on July 14, 2017 at Igando, Lagos State.

According to her, she was arrested in lieu of her husband whom the police alleged was an accomplice to Evans currently being tried for various kidnapping cases.

She narrated in tears how she was violently manhandled in the process of arrest and taken into detention at the Lagos State Police Command. While in detention she was beaten with all sorts of materials, verbally and physically assaulted to the point of coma. The police officers who carried out these acts according to her included one Philip, Christian and Idowu. She received serious injuries to her forehead, scars of which she still carries.

Her husband, thinking it was a case of kidnap reported the case to the Igando Police Station. She was later led by the police to arrest her husband at their home in Igando and the husband, Linus Okpara a Civil Engineer is still facing trial.

At the time of her arrest, Mrs. Okpara was nursing a baby who was delivered prematurely. But the police ignored this and still took her into detention for over two weeks.

The police collected N50, 000 from her brother purportedly to release her.

The police took her to their home and collected the few valuables they could lay hands on, including a rechargeable fan, ladies’ handbags which she sells and the husband’s car, a Toyota Camry, 1999 model. They further collected N40, 000, N5, 000 and another N20, 000 from her husband.

Her sister was threatened and intimidated at the police command and N1.000 collected from her for recharge card. On august 9, the police demanded another N170, 000 out of which N100, 000 was given to them.

Her humble request is fair and speedy trial for her husband and for the release of her husband’s car which has nothing to do with the alleged crime for which he is standing trial. Her major worry is her husband’s poor and deteriorating state of health which the police themselves acknowledged and were offering minimal medical treatment. He is asthmatic and has a growing hyena for which he was preparing for surgery before his arrest.

CASE 5
This case was one of the cases reported in Amnesty International’s report released in June 2020 entitled ‘Time to End Impunity: Torture and Other Violations by Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) under the sub caption TARGETING MONEY AND PROPERTY Amnesty International revealed that its research suggests that financial gain – rather than curbing armed robbery and other forms of criminal activity – appears to be one of the motivating factors of the SARS, as they constantly raid public places frequented by young people, in order to extort money from them. The report stated ‘Evidence collected indicates that SARS officers regularly demand bribes, steal and extort money from criminal suspects and their families.

Additionally, SARS officers act outside of their legal ambit by investigating civil matters and in some cases torturing detainees involved in contractual, business and even non-criminal disputes. Most victims of ill-treatment by the SARS are usually poor. Many are arrested by the SARS officers during large dragnet operations involving mass arrests, including raids on bars and television viewing centres, and ordered to pay a bribe to be released.

Those who are unable to pay are often tortured, either as punishment or to coerce them to find the money. The alternative is to risk being labelled as an armed robber. In most cases, this occurs with the full knowledge and acquiescence of superior police officers. Since 2016, Amnesty International has documented 15 cases where SARS officers arbitrarily confiscated the property of suspects of crime, in clear contravention of the Nigerian constitution.

Gift Ezenwa, a 32-year-old woman, told Amnesty International that her husband, Collins Ezenwa was executed by SARS on 27 January 2017 in Owerri, Imo State, after being accused of kidnapping. Her husband, a 35-year-old ex-police officer, was accused of armed robbery and kidnapping by the police. On 27 January 2018, the police paraded his dead body and the bodies of three of his associates. The police announced that they were killed during a gunfire fight with SARS officers at Owerri. Gift’s lawyer, however, told Amnesty international that the photo released by SARS Imo State Command suggested that the deceased persons were arrested at a police checkpoint and taken to the SARS station in Owerri, where they were executed.

Two months after the death of Collins Ezenwa, the police arrested four of his relatives and extorted various sums of money from them. One of the relatives, a 48-year-old trader, told Amnesty International that he was arrested in his village in Imo State and taken to Lagos, where he was detained for two weeks. He paid N1 million ($2,777) to the police before he was released.

Gift also told Amnesty International how another police unit, the Intelligence Response Unit (IRT), made elaborate plans to illegally confiscate family assets, including cash, buildings and business assets. All our vehicles have been unlawfully confiscated by the police and converted to their personal use… I saw one policeman using my car and… was driving the Sienna my husband gave his cousin… Our hotel has been taken over by the police. I was informed that our Prado jeep is being used by SARS for patrols.

Our hotel is currently managed by someone appointed by the police and he renders account to the police. The hotel makes a cash turnover of about N12m every month. To ensure that I have nothing, the police went to a furniture shop at New Haven where my husband made a cash deposit of N2, 200,000. 00 for a set of house furniture and retrieved the money from them… One of my brothers was arrested and everything of value he had, including money was taken by the police… The police have also stopped our tenants from paying rent to me. I have absolutely nothing. The police IPO warned me to cooperate with them and comply with their instructions and not to involve lawyers in my discussions with them. He said that he knew that I was innocent, but my husband made billions within two months, that I married him for his money. That my husband must have been a kidnapper or stumbled on money, but that men who stumble on money do not display wealth like he (my husband) had done… One policeman advised me to cooperate and work with the police, so that the police would give me “something” (a token) from my late husband’s estate; that when police kill men like my husband “they must collect” (make money) or make sure that everything is wasted.

Amnesty International confirmed that there was no judicial order authorising the police to confiscate Ezenwa’s property until 22 September 2019, much later than the date on which the police had illegally confiscated it.

Amnesty International saw a court document where the police made an application for authorisation to confiscate the late Ezenwa’s assets. The application was dated 10 December 2018, several months after the properties were seized. Amnesty International also saw another court order rejecting the request of the police to freeze the bank account of Collins Ezenwa. The police had approached a magistrate court, requesting an order to freeze a bank account jointly owned by the late Collins Ezenwa and his wife. The police, however, proceeded to freeze the bank account.

On 14 January 2019, a police officer attached to the Intelligence Response Unit (IRT) told the presidential investigation panel on the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) that he had supervised the confiscation of Ezenwa’s property in Enugu. He, however, failed to produce any court documents authorising the police action.

Amnesty International wrote to the Inspector General of Police in November 2018, asking for an investigation, but did not get a response. Senior police officer later informed Amnesty International that the police had started investigating the case. Further inquiry by Amnesty International in May 2020 indicated that the investigation was still ongoing. However, none of the SARS officers involved in the killing of Ezenwa have been removed from their duties and none have been prosecuted.

CASE 6
Involvement in Political Cases

The arrest of Agba Jalingo on the orders of the Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade for exposing his corrupt practice and his indefinite detention by the Cross River State Police Command followed his arrest on August 22 by operatives of the IGP- IRT in Lagos. He remained in incommunicado police detention for several months. Agba Jalingo was arrested in Lagos and driven by road to Calabar where he was detained without being charged to court for several months.

In summary It was a crying shame what our tactical squads became before their disbandment by the IGP. The culture of impunity that led to the stop gap created to maintain sanity within the operations of the Police before the new IGP assumed office was gathering steam again with the unprofessional daily engagement of men at the IGP/IRT.

We have since lost 82 Nigerians and several others to extrajudicial killings, abductions, indiscriminate harassment and arrests amidst other unprofessional conducts of Police officers due to the failure of the leadership to hold them accountable. Not a single officer attached to SARS, SACS, SAKS, STS, ZIS, IRT and other units has been brought to book based on their daily deployment of torture against innocent citizens despite the provisions of the Anti-Torture Act of 2017 and other extant national and international laws that prohibit human rights infringement.

The IGP/IRT was making the news almost every day for the wrong reasons and because unruly personnel have never been held to account, they continued to repeat their crimes, emboldened.

We currently live in a country where we are 20 times more likely to be killed by Police officers than by a terrorist. Suffice to say that majority of our tactical squads SARS, SAKS, SACS, ZIS, STS and IRT especially have now become criminal enterprises abducting citizens for ransom under the guise of fighting fraud.

We believe that the IGP wants to leave a better legacy and therefore considered taking the belated action on the organized crime syndicate running within the IGP/IRT as nothing proves the deployment of intelligence in their operations given our years of monitoring the Unit.

We had to, on many occasions, as shown above, bring few of these cases and our concerns directly to the attention of the Commanders of these units without presenting them publicly. The IGP’s action is a welcome response to public outcry and outrage over their atrocities. The state offices must remain closed and the unit must operate professionally, respect human rights, shun corruption and be accountable.
CALLS

1. We call on the IGP to, in addition to the disbandment of the units, order investigations into the various cases and allegation of unlawful detention, extortion, torture and other egregious abuses committed by any of the personnel

2. We call for a review of the cases handled by the IRT and STS and an audit of all the funds and properties confiscate by them either as exhibits or illegally confiscated properties and determine to what extent some or all of these were converted to personal use by the operatives. Hey must be retrieved and returned to their owners.

3. We call for training for police officers on the various law and legislator that impinge on police operations, including the Antitorture Act 2017, Force Order 237 and the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Agencies and the Guidelines for Law Enforcement Agencies on Covid-19 Enforcement, among others to enhance their professional efficiency

Signed:

1. Okechukwu Nwanguma, Executive Director, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre

2. Segun Awosanya – Founder/President Social Intervention Advocacy Foundation (SIAF)

3. Justus Ijeoma, Esq, Executive Director, International Human Rights and Equity Defense Foundation (I-REF)

Vanguard News Nigeria



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