Amnesty International has called on Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo to intervene in the alleged brutalization of Nigerians by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)
Reports emerged over the weekend that men alleged to be SARS officials shot dead a man identified as Kolade Johnson.
Speaking on the development, Amnesty International in a statement on its Twitter verified page said SARS intended to protect Nigerians has become a danger to the society.
According to them, restructuring of SARS is not enough, adding that reforms ordered by ‘Prof Osinbajo in August last year have been ineffective.’
The statement reads: “Once again SARS is in the news for alleged brutalization of Nigerians. We have several times called for EndSARS.SARS is a police unit created to protect the people, instead, it has become a danger to society, torturing its victims with complete impunity while fomenting a toxic climate of fear and corruption.
“Our research since 2016 uncovered a pattern of ruthless human rights violations by SARS, where victims are arrested and tortured until they either make a ‘confession’ or pay officers a bribe to be released. Apart from brutality, some police officers in SARS regularly demand bribes, steal and extort money from criminal suspects and their families. SARS officers are getting rich through their brutality. In Nigeria, it seems that torture is a lucrative business.
“Because of corruption SARS officers believe they have carte blanche to torture Nigerians. This is hardly surprising when many of these officers have bribed their way to SARS in the first place. The police chiefs in charge are themselves entwined in the corruption.
“Apart from demanding bribes, SARS officers have been accused of stealing or confiscating property from relatives of detained suspects. Some family members told Amnesty International that SARS officers stole their cars or withdrew all the money from their bank accounts.
“The majority of the victims of torture in SARS custody are poor and unable to hire legal representatives. In some cases when detainees cannot afford to pay bribes, they are simply tortured more. Despite repeated calls from Amnesty International in recent years, the Nigerian justice system has failed to prevent or punish torture. Despite Buhari signing into law the Anti-Torture Bill Police torture Nigerians with impunity.
“Police torture is a stain on Nigerian society that must be addressed with clear orders to law enforcement officers not to inflict torture or other ill-treatment on detainees under any circumstances.
“Many attempts to reform SARS, including the one ordered by Prof Osinbajo in August last year have been ineffective. Nigerians are still brutalized by SARS. Restructuring SARS is not enough unless the government takes concrete steps to protect Nigerians.
“Victims of SARS told Amnesty International that they had been subjected to horrific torture methods, including hanging, starvation, beatings, shootings and mock executions. SARS officers are notoriously corrupt and brutal.
“Amnesty International found that in some cases where victims of police corruption and brutality attempted to seek justice, the police authorities took no action.
“In Nigeria Police being posted to SARS is often regarded as a “juicy” posting and is preceded by intense lobbying by potential officers. Officers sometimes pay superior officers responsible for transfers as much as N300,000 to influence their posting to SARS.
“Despite years of numerous petitions from Nigerian and international human rights organizations to the police authorities, there is no indication that any SARS officers have been punished specifically for torturing detainees or extrajudicial killings. “