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No evidence to prosecute 33 indicted SARS operatives – Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation

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The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation has said there is no sufficient evidence to pursue the prosecution of 33 operatives of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad who were indicted in the 2019 report of a Presidential Investigative Panel.

Recall that the Presidential Panel led by the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, had in a report which contained its recommendation after probing of 2018 and 2019 complaints of brutal activities of SARS operatives, indicted a total of 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, among others.

The report which recommended the prosecution of 33 operatives of the disbanded unit, also recommended that 57 victims be paid about N249m as compensation. The police was also directed to issue an apology to 35 people.

Punch however reported that a committee set up by the AGF, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) to review the individual cases recommended for prosecution by the special presidential panel, said the presidential panel’s report “does not meet prosecutorial needs” as it lacks vital exhibits such as “medical evidence and statements of the suspects”.

The report 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 which also expressed concern that the indicted officers “are still in the service and ought to go through the internal police disciplinary measures to avoid prosecuting officers in uniform”, listed three actions that “must be taken in earnest” for the AGF office “to be able to successfully implement the panel’s recommendations”.

Among the conditions are that the indicted officers must be made to undergo disciplinary actions and dismissed from service where necessary, while the IGP should set up a special team to further investigate the individual cases.

The report further read;

“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.”

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