The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation has said there is no sufficient evidence to prosecute the 33 operatives of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad indicted in last year’s report of a Presidential Investigative Panel, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.
The AGF’s office has therefore asked the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, to set up “a special investigation team” to conduct “thorough investigation” into the cases. This is contained in a report of a committee set up by the AGF, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), to review the individual cases recommended for prosecution by the special presidential panel.
Our correspondent on Friday obtained the excerpts of the report from a top police source. The Presidential Panel led by the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Mr Tony Ojukwu, had between 2018 and 2019 probed complaints of brutal activities of SARS and had submitted its report to the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), on June 3, 2019.
The report 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 recommended 33 for prosecution, and punishment, including sanctions like reduction in rank and dismissal. It also recommended that 57 victims be paid about N249m as compensation while the police should tender public apology to 35. The NHRC on October 19, 2020 submitted the report to the AGF accompanied with a specific list of those recommended for prosecution. But after reviewing the panel’s report, the committee set up by the AGF 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 the service and ought to go through the internal police disciplinary measures to avoid prosecuting officers in uniform”. It listed three actions that “must be taken in earnest” for the AGF office “to be able to successfully implement the panel’s recommendations”. Among them 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.
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, the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr Dayo Apata (SAN), said on Wednesday that the recommendations of the panel for the prosecution of indicted SARS operatives would be implemented by the AGF office. Apata, who represented the AGF 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, most of which he said were state offences.
He said, “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.”