SARS and the Port Harcourt four

NOT many things can be more troubling than the story of four young men in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, who have been missing for over two months now after being unlawfully arrested by personnel of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). The men, who were said to have been arrested at Boss Lounge, a popular nightclub along Woji Road in GRA, Port Harcourt, on January 5, have not been seen by their family members ever since. According to Mr Ezekiel Tariuwa, elder brother of Kingsley Tariuwa, one of the young men, a mobile police officer in charge of security at the lounge, one  Elisha Hassan, allegedly gave access to the SARS officials who came into the facility to effect the arrest of the the four men. Tariuwa added that the state police command denied ordering the arrest of the missing men, saying that it did not know their whereabouts. He added that a SARS officer secretly confessed that he and his colleagues had killed the men and that there would be no repercussion for their action. The said policeman allegedly said in Nigerian Pigdin: “We don travel those boys, we don clear them. Nowhere he reach, nothing go happen.”

Irked by the slow pace of investigation by the Rivers State Police and ludicrous cooperation of the SARS, Tariuwa lodged another complaint at the Police Complaint Response Unit, which he said triggered some results. He told SaharaReporters:  “I petitioned the Police CRU in Abuja and two days later, the SARS officers showed up at the state CIID and gave their statements, but did not show up with my brother and others arrested. The day that the DCP gave us to update us on their final investigation was the day that the OC, General Investigations, told us that the case had been transferred to Abuja. The result of their investigations has not been relayed to us. The only thing the OC, General Investigation, said was that SARS had agreed that they arrested my brother but they have not told us his current state, with the other three men.”

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

It will be recalled that in April 2019, a SARS operative shot dead a young man, Kolade Johnson, in the Mangoro area of Lagos State while he was watching an English Premier League match. The policemen, who claimed to be chasing cult gangs when the bullet from their gun hit and killed the deceased, are currently facing murder charges. And only on February 22, an operative of the outfit allegedly murdered Tiamiyu Kazeem, a player with the second division outfit, Remo Stars Football Club, by pushing him from a moving vehicle into his death. This event sparked violent protests all across Sagamu, forcing the authorities to ban the activities of SARS in the area.

The extant case certainly raises a number of important questions, including, most crucially, whether the country can realistically continue to retain SARS as a unit within the NPF. It is saddening enough that a group of citizens were arrested by SARS operatives at a night club without any authorisation by their superiors, and without any disclosure of the offences that warranted the arrest in the record books, but it is even more unfortunate that the police have been unable to account for their whereabouts for over two months now. As far as we know, this is not the practise in any country with the slightest pretence to democracy. If the men had committed offences, why were they not taken to court as provided by law? For how long will policemen get away with arbitrary detention and killing of hapless citizens?

To be sure, the SARS operative who allegedly confessed that the missing men have been killed has a lot to tell Nigerians about their fate. He could not have boasted that he and his colleagues would not be punished regardless of the level to which the case was taken if he had not got away with such extra-judicial killings in the past. To say the least, a police force whose member can make such a statement has no justification for its existence. In this regard, it is quite shocking that a policeman who allegedly made such a horrendous statement has not yet been given his just deserts by the police authorities. We call on the Nigeria Police headquarters to produce the missing men, and charge the SARS personnel who arrested them without authorisation to court without delay. But in case the men have actually been killed, the police authorities certainly know what steps to take, as the country’s laws are clear on murder.

To say the least, Nigerians are tired of SARS. As we said in previous editorials, it is both unfortunate and dangerous for the country to have a security agency that places little or no premium on human life. We reiterate our submission that SARS has to be wound down if improvements in the conduct of its personnel cannot be guaranteed. Enough is enough.

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