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No evidence to prosecute indicted SARS operatives – Malami

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The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation has revealed that there is no sufficient evidence to prosecute the 33 operatives of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad indicted in 2019 report of a Presidential Investigative Panel.

The office has asked the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, to set up a special investigation team to conduct a thorough investigation into the cases.

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This was contained in a report by the committee set up by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), to review the individual cases recommended for prosecution by the special presidential panel.

The Presidential Panel led by Mr Tony Ojukwu, the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), had submitted its reports to President Muhammadu Buhari after it’s 2018 and 2019 probed complaints of brutal activities of SARS.

The report indicted 35 police operatives in 12 states and the Federal Capital Territory for various rights violations including, extrajudicial killing, death in police custody, unlawful arrest, biased investigation, unlawful intimidation, harassment, criminal assault, torture, cruelty, inhuman and degrading treatment, threat to life, extortion and confiscation of property.

33 officers according to the report were recommended for prosecution, punishment, including sanctions like reduction in rank and dismissal.

The reports also stated that 57 victims be paid about N249m as compensation while the police should tender a public apology to 35 others.

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The NHRC on October 19, 2020, submitted the report to the AGF accompanied with a specific list of those recommended for prosecution.

The committee set up by the AGF after review, said the report does not meet prosecutorial needs as it was said to be lacking in vital exhibits, such as medical evidence and statements of the suspects.

It added, “The report of the panel does not meet prosecutorial needs. No proper investigation was concluded in all the cases.

“Admissible evidence such as exhibits, medical evidence, statements of the suspects and witnesses that can be used in court have not been obtained or recorded in the appropriate sheet from the suspects and witnesses by the appropriate investigation team.”

The report expressed concern that the indicted officers “are still in service and ought to go through the internal police disciplinary measures to avoid prosecuting officers in uniform”.

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The report also listed three actions that must be taken in earnest for the AGF’s office to be able to successfully implement the panel’s recommendations.

It stated, “The indicted officers should be made to undergo disciplinary actions immediately and dismissed where appropriate.

“That the IGP who is well aware of the sensitivity of the matter should be advised to set up a special investigation team to conduct a thorough investigation into the individual cases.

“That after thorough investigation, the cases that are federal offences or fall within the FCT will be prosecuted by the office of the HAGF while those that are state offences will be transferred to the respective states for prosecution.”

Meanwhile, Mr Dayo Apata (SAN), the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, said on Wednesday that the recommendations of the panel for the prosecution of indicted SARS operatives would be implemented by the AGF’s office.

Mr Abubakar Malami, who was represented by Apata at the inaugural sitting of the Independent Investigative Panel on Human Rights Violations by members of the disbanded SARS in Abuja, said the AGF and state Attorneys-General, had already scheduled a meeting on how to fashion out the strategy for the prosecution of the cases.

“The coming weeks will be full of activities. The Attorney-General of the Federation will be meeting with states’ Attorneys-General because some of the offences are state offences,” he said.

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