By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
One Richard Augustine a complainant at the Independent Investigative Panel on allegations of human rights violations by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other units of the Nigerian Police Force on Wednesday told the panel how he was shot on the foot and suffered torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the hands of SARS operatives in Nasarawa and Lagos state.
Augustine a resident of Kafanchan, Kaduna State, the panel that on the 13th February 2015, he was on his way to Kafanchan from Abuja where he had gone for some business transactions and that his inability to board a vehicle back to Kafanchan made him to pass the night in a friend’s house in Keffi, Nasarawa state.
Before taking the decision to stay back in Keffi, he told the panel that he had contacted his friend, Jacob Ali who quickly granted his request advising him that it will not be safe to travel at night.
According to him, he was surprised when his friend’s house came under siege at about 2 am, with the entrance of some heavily armed policemen who he identified as SARS personnel.
Continuing his narration, he said the policemen whom according to him were armed with AK 47 gave him and his friend Jacob a thorough, while forcing them to confess to the crime of armed robbery.
He said they were later conveyed in a bus to a hotel in Gwagwalada, Abuja where they were chained in a toilet in the hotel room where they passed the night.
Mr, Richard, an ICT Engineer further told the panel that they were taken to Lagos on the 14th of February 2015 amid intermittent torture. According to him, after a brief stopover at Lokoja Police Command, he was shot in the foot by the first respondent, Mr.Eku Raymond (aka death).
He said it was in Lagos that they were paraded before the press as armed robbers who specialise in car snatching at gunpoint which he said was aired in a national television and in over five national dailies.
Richard stated that not even the statements of other suspects that he was not part of any armed robbery case could set him free as the police officers insisted that he must confess to the alleged crimes.
Upon discovering that the allegations against him were false and malicious, the police, he alleged decided to extort him to tune of N250, 000. Specifically he mentioned Mr. Sylvester; his IPO in Keffi whom he said collected N100, 000 from his elder brother who came to bail him.
He said that the OC SARS Lafia Division collected N150, 000 from his elder brother. He added that one of the senior police officers who witnessed his ordeal orally apologised to him saying that he was never linked to any armed robbery case during the police investigation.
Consequent upon the above development, he told the panel that he has suffered severe mental and physical anguish, as well lost several job opportunities, with some of his contracts revoked, having been publicly labelled armed robber by the police.
The complainant informed the panel that it was after his ordeal that he filed a case for the violation of his rights at Keffi High Court Nasarawa state.
Asked what he want the panel to do for him in this circumstance, he prayed the panel to order the Nigerian police to write an official apology in five national dailies and Television station and a compensation of N290, 000,000 to be paid to him by the police.
The panel later adjourned the matter to 15th March, 2021 for the 1st and 2nd respondent (Mr.Eku Raymond and IPO Sylvester) to appear before the panel, which responsibility will be borne by the police.
Under cross examination by the police counsel, James Idachaba the issue of pendency of the case in Keffi High court was raised and the complainant informed the panel that the case was struck out for want of jurisdiction.