We found no evidence of Boko Haram sponsorship against petitioner, police officer tells NHRC panel

A police officer on Monday told the independent investigative panel on violations of human rights by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that the police found no evidence of allegations of Boko Haram sponsorship against a petitioner before the panel. 

The police officer, DSP Ibrahim Agu, stated this when the police opened their defence in the petition brought before the panel by Mustapha Bukar Sabo, marked 2020/IIP-SARS/ABJ/130. 

Sabo had in the petition alleged unlawful arrest and detention, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment against Agu; Inspector Sani Daura; Corporal Gambo; ACP Garba Umar, all of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Task Force on Anti-Terrorism and Heinous Crimes.

He also joined Bashir Goni, a police informant and the AIG in charge of Task Force on Anti-Terrorism and Heinous Crimes and the IGP.

Testifying before the panel, Agu, who is the first respondent in the petition, informed that on May 3, 2013, a petition was written against Sabo by Bashir Goni, who claimed that he was a primary schoolmate with Sabo and made four allegations against the petitioner before the panel. 

He added that the said Goni alleged that Sabo was Boko Haram sponsor; that he purchased 200 AK-47 rifles; recruited 600 members of Boko Haram group and that Sabo always carried AK-47 rifles in his car.

According to him, the petition was assigned to his team and he left Abuja for Maiduguri to search for both Goni and Sabo, adding that after five days in the Borno State capital, they could not trace Goni.

“We later arrested the suspect (Sabo) in the bank. We searched his car and his house but we did not find any evidence suggesting that he was sponsoring Boko Haram as the petitioner  (Goni) alleged. 

“We also investigated his bank accounts and could not get any evidence that he was sponsoring the insurgents,” Agu told the panel. 

He informed that Sabo’s phone was seized for system analysis, adding that it was discovered he was communicating with a particular wanted Boko Haram suspect being looked for by the police. 

“He told us when confronted that the man has been calling him, but he did not recognise the person,” Agu said.

The first respondent told the panel that contrary to Sabo’s claim that he was detained in a police cell, he was not held in detention apart from the day they arrived Abuja from Maiduguri, adding that Sabo spent about four days in the hospital as he fell ill.

He added that because of the illness, the petitioner was “released to a serving senator”, adding that there was never any time Sabo gave him (Agu) money as he alleged.

“I even spent money to transport the policemen guarding him in the hospital and feeding them,” he told the panel.

While being cross-examined by Olawale Afolabi, counsel for the panel, Agu informed that the police were still investigating the matter with a view to fishing out the wanted Boko Haram member communicating with Sabo.

He told the panel that the police did not invite Sabo before his arrest in Maiduguri, adding that, “he was arrested for further investigation despite not finding anything in his house and car. We checked his bank account, we didn’t find anything in it.”

Answering questions from members of the panel, Agu said the problem the police had with Sabo was the Boko Haram suspect he was communicating with, adding that there was a warrant of arrest against him before he was arrested.

He informed that the police could not close Sabo’s case for now until the suspected Boko Haram suspect was arrested.

Sabo had on February 17 told the panel that Agu and members of his team arrested him without in-depth investigation, adding that the team came to Maiduguri to arrest him despite the fact that there were other security agencies in the Borno State capital.

He alleged that Agu extorted the sum of N230,000 from him and urged the panel to help him recover the money.

The petitioner stated that his ordeal in the hands of the police was a gang up against him, adding that he was working in Abuja and Minna, Niger State, within the period of 2009 and 2013 when he was alleged of sponsoring Boko Haram.

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