Shuaib Jawondo, a resident of Ilorin, Kwara State, North Central Nigeria has told the Kwara State Judicial Panel Inquiry on Police Brutality how he was arrested and detained for 73 days by operatives of the defunct Special Anti-Corruption Squad (SARS) over alleged possession of firearms.
Jawondo, who was one of the 18 petitioners who submitted their complaints against the police appeared before the 10-man panel on Monday at the beginning of its sitting.
In his narration, Jowondo said he was arrested in Ilorin in 2018 by the dreaded SARS over alleged illegal possession of firearms before being transferred to Abuja where he spent 73 days in detention in clear violation of his fundamental human rights.
He argued that men of the defunct tactical unit did not only detained and tortured him but also seized his vehicle which, he said, has not been released to him till date.
Jawondo told the panel that his life has been under constant threats by some unknown persons because of the complaints he submitted against the force.
“They arrested me in Ilorin because of politics…. They checked my fingerprints, they saw nothing that I carried a gun, why would I carry guns in my life? he said.
“And they are telling me that if I should go to any court or lawyers, they are going to kill me,” he said before the panel, adding that the constant threat to his life forced his counsel to withdraw from the case.
“My lawyer was the one that helped me to write the petition, but he cannot come here to explain everything because I have evidence to prove to you that my lawyer sent a voice message that some officers are threatening him not to appear.”
Another petitioner, Ganiyu Ishola, who was arrested in 2012, told the panel how he was illegally detained for 89 days.
According to him, illegal detention he was put worsened his health status that he had to undergo surgery to correct a broken spine he sustained due to several beating by SARS operatives while in detention.
“The deterioration of my health is as a result of their action after I was illegally incarcerated for 89 days of my life. My health is worsening. I just finished a surgery a month ago due to a broken spine because of beating. My lawyer would soon join me,” Ishola recounted.
Meanwhile, Adekunle Iwaloye, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), the state police command’s counsel, said the command was not able to respond to some of the petitions because of administrative bureaucracy, stating that Peter Alabi, the officer mentioned by Ganiyu Ishola in his petition, died some years ago.
Iwaloye while responding to the allegation raised by Jawondo urged the chairman of the panel, Babatunde Garba, to ensure that the alleged threat to his life was duly investigated, stating that the allegation cannot be swept under the carpet.
“The allegation that a counsel is being threatened should be looked into. I am making an application that it should form part of the proceeding. Respectfully, we will forward our application to this sitting regarding the allegation,” he said.
Most of the cases mentioned before the panel at the Monday sitting were adjourned for further hearing and consideration as proper hearing of the complaints begins on Wednesday
Abdulrahman AbdulRazaq, Governor of Kwara State, had earlier named a 10-member judicial panel of inquiry, headed by retired Justice Babatunde Garba, to look into issues of brutality, human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings by the police in the state.
This came after the recommendation of the National Economic Council, directing states to investigate such complaints and ensure social justice following the #EndSARS protest that grounded the country for weeks.
SARS was a unit of the Nigerian police under the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department charged to arrest, detain and prosecute people involved in an armed robbery.
The unit, which was dissolved on October 11, 2020, following widespread protests from Nigerians was notorious for crass human right violations including extortion, torture, framing and blackmail.