Presidential Panel on SARS Reforms begins hearing in Imo

The Presidential Investigation Panel yesterday in Owerri, began a public hearing on alleged human rights violations by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, of Nigeria Police Force, in the South-South and South East geopolitical zones of the country.

In his welcome address, the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Mr Tony Ojukwu, enumerated a litany of allegations levelled against SARS operatives across the country.

"There has been a persistent public outcry, complaints and numerous reports in the electronic, print and social media, alleging gross violations of human rights of fellow citizens by officers and men of SARS", Ojukwu said.

According to the NHRC boss, some of the complaints and reports border on issues of alleged abuse of power, arbitrary and unlawful arrest and detention.

"SARS operatives are equally accused of extortion, brutality, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, as well as the involvement of SARS in assignments totally unconnected with their primary duties", Mr Ojukwu said.

The NHRC Executive Secretary, who also doubles as Chairman of the Presidential Panel, was not happy that SARS was even employed to settle matrimonial disputes, contracts, tenancy problems and recovery of debts.

"It is important to note that before the request of the Presidency for the constitution of this Panel, the NHRC, in line with its statutory responsibility of investigating and determining cases of alleged human rights violations, had conducted public hearings into some allegations against SARS officials", Ojukwu said.

It will be recalled that some of the matters slated for the hearing included the alleged extrajudicial killing of Mr Emmanuel Ette Nkim, filed by Mrs Esther Etta Nkim against SARS, Cross River State, Deputy Superintendent of Police Sekiru Akinlaja and seven others.

Also slated for hearing is how Ani Okechukwu allegedly gave N1 million to a policeman in Force Headquarters, Abuja, for the recovery of his stolen tipper in February 2017.

"While the policeman is still waiting to receive a balance of N.3 million, as he demanded, the vehicle has not been recovered and my money not refunded till date", Okechukwu lamented.

No fewer than 31 matters are slated to be heard at this venue, before the Panel winds up December 1, 2018.

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