How Nigeria Police torture detainees, rob them – Amnesty International


A Nigerian police unit set up to combat violent crime has instead been systematically torturing detainees in its custody as a means of extracting confessions and lucrative bribes, Amnesty International said in a report published on September 21.

In Nigeria: You have signed your death warrant, former detainees told Amnesty International. They said they had been subjected to horrific torture methods, including hanging, starvation, beatings, shootings and mock executions, at the hands of corrupt officers from the feared Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

“A police unit created to protect the people has instead become a danger to society, torturing its victims with complete impunity while fomenting a toxic climate of fear and corruption,” said Damian Ugwu,Amnesty International’s Nigeria researcher.

“Our research has uncovered a pattern of ruthless human rights violations where victims are arrested and tortured until they either make a ‘confession’ or pay officers a bribe to be released.”

Amnesty International has received reports from lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists and collected testimonies stating that some police officers in SARS regularly demand bribes, steal and extort money from criminal suspects and their families.

“SARS officers are getting rich through their brutality. In Nigeria, it seems that torture is a lucrative business,” said Damian Ugwu.

SARS detainees are held in a variety of locations, including a grim detention centre in Abuja known as the ‘Abattoir’, where Amnesty International found 130 detainees living in overcrowded cells.

Amnesty International’s research shows that, in addition to its stated remit of tackling violent crime, SARS investigates civil matters and in some cases tortures detainees involved in contractual, business and even non-criminal disputes.

In one case in Onitsha, Anambra state, a 25-year-old fuel attendant was arrested by SARS after his employer had accused him of being responsible for a burglary at their business premises.

He told Amnesty International: “The policemen asked me to sign a plain sheet. When I signed it, they told me I have signed my death warrant. They left me hanging on a suspended iron rod. My body ceased to function. I lost consciousness. When I was about to die they took me down and poured water on me to revive me.”

Like many people detained by SARS, he was not allowed access to a lawyer, a doctor or his family during his two-week detention.

Yet in various cases where victims of police torture or other ill-treatment attempted to seek justice, the authorities took no action.

When asked by Amnesty International to explain why no police officers had been suspended or prosecuted for torture, the police simply denied that any torture had taken place.

However, one senior officer disclosed that around 40 officers alleged to have carried out various acts of torture and ill-treatment of detainees were transferred to other stations in April 2016. He did not say whether the claims against them were being investigated.

“This lack of accountability breeds and perpetuates impunity, creating an environment where SARS officers believe they have carte blanche to carry out acts of torture,” said Damian Ugwu.

“This is hardly surprising when many of these officers have bribed their way to SARS in the first place. The police chiefs in charge are themselves entwined in the corruption.”

Chidi Oluchi, 32, told Amnesty international he was arrested in Enugu before being robbed of his belongings and then tortured in custody by SARS officers.

“They told me to slap myself and, when I refused, they started beating me with the side of their machetes and heavy sticks. My mouth was bleeding and my vision became blurred,” said Chidi, who was released after he paid SARS officers N25,500 ($100) to be freed.

Apart from demanding bribes, SARS officers have been accused of stealing or confiscating property from relatives of detained suspects.

Some family members told Amnesty International that SARS officers stole their cars or withdrew all the money from their bank accounts.

The brother of a man arrested on suspicion of participating in an armed robbery told AmnestyInternational how a team of SARS officers raided his home in Nsukka.

“The police team from SARS forcefully broke into boxes, locked furniture and drawers. By the time they left, several items including watches, jewellery and shoes were missing. We were too scared to reportthe incident,” he said.

The majority of the victims of torture in SARS custody are poor and unable to hire legal representatives. In some cases when detainees cannot afford to pay bribes, they are simply tortured more.

“Our research has exposed the callous workings of a police squad operating outside of the law and inflicting daily brutality on Nigerians who are often legally powerless to defend themselves against criminal accusations, let alone from the torture meted out by SARS,” said Damian Ugwu.

“Depressingly, there are scant judicial or any other mechanisms in place to prevent SARS officers from subjecting vulnerable targets to human rights violations for their own financial gain.”

Despite repeated calls from Amnesty International in recent years, the Nigerian justice system has failed to prevent or punish torture.

In December 2014, the Nigerian police launched a human rights manual which prohibits torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, but SARS has failed to implement it.

When a new Inspector General of Police was appointed in early 2015 it was announced that there would be reform and reorganisation of SARS, but officers attached to the unit told Amnesty International they were not aware of the reforms.

A revised version of a bill to criminalize torture, which was first introduced in 2012 but was returned unsigned by the President, was passed by the House of Representatives in June 2016 and will be resubmitted to the Senate for further debates in 2016.

“With the Nigerian government’s previous attempts at stamping out torture proving completely ineffective, it is time for the authorities to ensure that officers responsible for such human rights violations are finally held accountable,” said Damian Ugwu.

“Police torture is a stain on Nigerian society that must be addressed with clear orders to law enforcement officers not to inflict torture or other ill-treatment on detainees under any circumstances.

“There is also an urgent need for robust legislation that ensures all acts of torture are offences under Nigeria’s criminal law. All victims have a right to reparations, and steps must be taken to ensure that nobody profits from abusing detainees.”

Nigeria is obligated under international and regional human rights law to ensure the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment.

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  • vagabonds in power

    Yes we saw it around the globe when the Police and DSS re-arrested Akpobolokeme————–of NIMASA–after the courts granted him bail——-The police ati EFCC and the hired DSS thugs-almost beat him to death-so this is not not new to us in Nigeria—————–it is a daily occurrence———————–Did we not experience similar situation with Bingo Buhari–before his overthrow by IBB—————————-when his gulag was thrown open for the world to see————————Yes that is the monster that the CIA via Obama imposed on us——————Only God knows how many may have hided in the hands of Bingo Buhari-It is a daily event in the Niger delta sha—where humans are killed and tagged criminals by soldiers and the police

  • tunde008

    The fear of Nigerian police is the beginning of wisdom

    • Otile

      The Yoruba support for terror, harassment, torture and inhumanity by the Buhari administration is ungodly.

      • Rommel

        Did this practice start under the Buhari administration?

        • Otile

          Yes, Mohamed Buhari started this kind of brutality in 1983. He also started kidnapping by taking Umaru Dikko captive in the year of the Lord 1983.

    • Chukwuka Okoroafor

      What wisdom is there in these cases? So if you were arrested and tortured, you would gain wisdom from it too, am I right?

      • John Okolie

        The wisdom is in avoiding anything that brings you in contact with them on any issue, law and order or whatsoever

  • Opekete

    The political leaders are the ones encouraging this terrible act by the police. They use it to intimidate their opponents and to put the fear of God in those who may want to question their failed leadership. Police leadership are susceptible to the whims of politicians because they serve at their pleasure. This egregious collaboration between politicians and the police has made the latter to behave in such a way that made animal right look better than human right.

  • mbewalu ogodo

    Better fall into the hands of armed robbers than into the evil hands of Nigerian Policemen. They are the worse of scumbags in the Nigerian society.

    • Babrutus

      When you’re faced with a loaded gun, what’s the difference?

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  • vagabonds in power

    The late military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, did not loot the national treasury contrary to the general impression, two military former heads of state have said.

    Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who ruled Nigeria between 1983 and 1985, and his successor, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, both of them gave Abacha the clean bill in Kano after the remembrance prayers marking 10 years of the death of Abacha, who ruled between 1993 and 1998.

    Abacha was accused of stealing over £5 billion while in office through the PTF headed by Buhari, out of which over $1 billion has reportedly been recovered from various sources around the world.

    But Babangida and Abacha both Northerners, described Abacha as a “courageous, loyal and honest military head of state who stood for the unity and development of the country during his years in government”, dismissed the allegations of corruption against late Abacha.

    Both said the looting allegations against Abacha were unfounded and baseless, stressing that “it is not true that he looted public treasury. I knew who Abacha was because I was close to him” Buhari was quoted as saying. So what does he Buhari shamelessly need the money for after he cleared Abacha of theft………………

  • omoagbala60

    This and other societal malaise was expected to be bygone with the emergent ‘CHANGE’ govt. Police brutality, Customs men collecting tolls at nation’s borders,archaic training of Army cadets and recruits,general atmosphere of lawlessness, nepotism, tribalism, official arrogance, bloated civil service, mind-boggling salaries and renumeration of NASS members,Dauralisation of Aso Rock got nothing to do with the price of crude oil.

  • Babrutus

    What’s the difference between a rogue officer and a robber?

    Simple! One is paid by the state with your taxes.

  • Omotolaaraujo

    The Nigerian Police Force is a phenomenal failure.

  • franknaija

    Are we sure vagabonds in power and burning spear are human beings? Even performing ape dey tire na.

  • Babatunde Razaq

    How do victims takes legal action when the only source of evidence is the police ?