The Attorney General’s Office of the Federation has stated that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute the 33 operatives of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad indicted in a Presidential Investigative Panel report last year, Sunday PUNCH has learned.
Therefore, the office of the AGF requested the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, to establish a “special investigation team” to conduct a “thorough investigation” of the cases.
This is contained in the report of Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), a committee set up by the AGF to review the individual cases recommended for prosecution by the special presidential panel.
PunchNg correspondent obtained the extracts of the report from a top police source on Friday.
Between 2018 and 2019, the Presidential Panel headed by Mr Tony Ojukwu, Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, investigated allegations of brutal SARS activities and submitted its report to the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), on June 3, 2019.
A total of 35 police officers in 12 states and the Federal Capital Territory were indicted in the report for various violations of rights, including extrajudicial killing, death in police custody, unlawful arrest, biased investigation, unlawful intimidation, harassment, criminal assault, torture, cruelty, inhuman and degrading treatment, life threats, extorting and confiscation of property, among others.
For prosecution and punishment, including penalties such as reduction in rank and dismissal, the report recommended 33.
It also proposed that 57 victims should be given N249 m as compensation, while the police should give 35 public apologies.
The NHRC sent to the AGF on 19 October 2020 a report followed by a detailed list of those recommended for prosecution.
However, after reviewing the report of the jury, the committee set up by the AGF reported that the report “does not satisfy prosecutorial needs” as it was said to lack critical information, such as “medical evidence and suspects’ statements.”
It continued, “The panel study does not serve prosecutorial needs.” In all of the cases, no proper investigation was concluded. Admissible proof such as evidence, medical evidence, testimony of suspects and witnesses that may be used in court has not been collected by the appropriate investigating team from the suspects and witnesses or reported in the appropriate sheet.
The report expressed concern that the indicted officers “are still in the service and need to go through the internal police disciplinary measures to prevent suing officers in uniform”.
It identified three steps that “must be taken in earnest” for the AGF office “to be able to enforce the recommendations of the panel effectively.”
These include the fact that the accused officers must be subjected to disciplinary proceedings and, where possible, discharged from service, whilst the IGP should create a special team to further examine specific cases.
“It said,” The officers indicted should be made to immediately undergo disciplinary actions and fired where appropriate.
It should be recommended that the IGP, which is well aware of the sensitivity of the matter, should set up a special investigation team to carry out a thorough investigation of the individual cases.’
“After a rigorous investigation, the HAGF office will prosecute cases that are federal crimes or fall under the FCT, while those that are state offenses will be referred for prosecution to the respective states.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Dayo Apata (SAN), Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice, said on Wednesday that the AGF office would adopt the recommendations of the panel to prosecute the accused SARS operatives.
Apata, who represented the AGF at the opening session of the Independent Human Rights Abuses Inquiry Panel of disbanded SARS representatives in Abuja, said that the AGF and the State Attorneys General had already scheduled a meeting on how to form the strategy for prosecuting cases, most of which he said were state crimes.
“He said,” It will be full of events for the coming weeks. The Attorney-General of the Federation will consult with the Attorneys-General of the States, since some of the crimes are state crimes.