How SARS used me to lure, torture my friend, witness tells NHRC panel
A hydrogeologist, Iwuamadi Stephen, on Monday narrated to the independent investigative panel on violations of rights by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) how some operatives used him to lure his friend and colleague leading to his beating and arrest.
Stephen was testifying in a petition brought before the panel by his colleague, Ezeani Henry, alleging inhuman and degrading treatment against Bawa James of the defunct SARS, Federal Capital Territory (FCT); the defunct FCT SARS; FCT Commissioner of Police and the Inspector-General of Police
According to Stephen, on the morning of June 30, 2017, Henry called him to go and run a geophysical survey for a client as he had another thing to attend to that day.
“He sent the number of the client to me. I called the client and he told me he was at Guzape and that I should come to AYA to meet him,” he told the panel.
He informed me that he went to AYA junction in Abuja to meet the said client, adding that after waiting for about 15 minutes, a Sharon bus arrived and he went to meet the occupants.
“They were about five inside the bus. The one by the door came down for me to enter, which I did. One of them asked me how much it costs to do the geophysical survey and I told them N25,000. He said they would cash money on the ATM.
“As they drove past ATM machines, I asked why were they not using the ATM to withdraw the money again. It was then the man in the front seat showed me his identification card. I didn’t see it well. The one sitting by my side then showed his to me. It was then I realised they were policemen,” he said.
He further told the panel that the officer sitting in front, who he claimed he later learnt to be James Bawa, asked him to bring his phone and unlock it, which he did.
“He brought out some numbers and dialled them on my phone. On discovering that the numbers were not on my contacts list, he said I was not the person they were looking for,” he said.
The witness informed that the policemen asked if he knew one Ezeani Henry and he told them that he had known Henry from school, adding that they were colleagues.
The policemen, according to him, then asked him to call Henry but he insisted to know what offence he (Henry) had committed.
“They took me to their office at Abattoir. They kept telling me to call Henry but I said I wanted to know his offence first. One of them then told me that that day was a Friday and I would have to spend the weekend in their custody if I refused to call him.
“Later at about 3 pm, he came to ask if I was ready to call Mr Henry. I later agreed to call him. They gave me my phone to call him and put it on speaker. I called Henry. He asked if I had finished with the survey and I said yes.
“I asked him where we could meet and he said at Berger junction. I was taken to Berger. They asked me Henry’s car and I told them. Bawa later left the car we were with others to go and arrest Henry and asked one of them to stay with me in the car,” he informed.
Stephen said from where he was, he could clearly see how the police officers crossed Henry’s car and attempted to drag him out of it, punching him in the process.
He said as people gathered to know what was happening, Bawa showed them his identification card and later held Henry and dragged him to the Berger police station from where they were taken to Abattoir.
The witness informed that while at Abattoir, Henry was thoroughly beaten with wood and hot machete, adding that at about 12 am, the police took him (Henry) to the estate he was living, declaring that, “I did not follow them there, so I did not know what happened there.”
He, however, told the panel that he was later released by the SARS the following day, which was a Saturday.
Under cross-examination, Stephen said the policemen he met at AYA Junction did not wear uniforms, adding that he got to know the name of James Bawa when they got to Abattoir when his colleagues called him by his name.
He told the panel that neither his offence nor that of Henry were disclosed to him, adding that he was forced to call Henry.
“I was forced to call Henry. There was a threat before I called him,” he told the panel, adding that he saw how the police dragged his friend out of his car and beat him at Berger and also at Abattoir.
Meanwhile, the petition has been adjourned till April 14 for the respondents to open their defence.
While testifying before the panel on December 3, 2020, Henry had told the panel that the “hell was beaten out of him” by SARS operatives, adding that he was handcuffed and paraded as a criminal by SARS.
He informed that when he was to be arrested at Berger, he told the policemen to go to the nearby Berger police station for them to be identified as policemen, saying this infuriated them and one of them brought out a handcuff and handcuffed him.
“I created a scene for people to intervene. People then told them to take me to the nearby police station for them to be identified. They then took me there and they were identified as policemen from SARS,” he stated.
According to him, the infuriated SARS operatives took him in their vehicle from the police station to their office at Abattoir, Garki, Abuja, adding that they threatened to kill him.
“As we reached the gate of their office, they started to beat me with a wooden stool and a rusted machete. I was asking them what was my offence but they didn’t tell me anything but kept threatening to kill me.
“We got to their office at about 6:30 pm and they took me into a room. From that time till 11 pm, they were beating me. They beat the hell out of me.”
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