Four young men in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, remain missing two months after being unlawfully arrested by personnel of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
The four were arrested at Boss Lounge, a popular nightclub along Woji Road in GRA, Port Harcourt, on Sunday, January 5, 2020 around 8:00pm and their whereabouts have remained unknown since that period.
Efforts by their family members to locate the four persons have been rebuffed by the police, who deny having a hand in their ordeal.
Narrating the incident to SaharaReporters, Mr Ezekiel Tariuwa, elder brother of one of the missing young men, Kingsley, said a Mobile Police officer in charge of security at the lounge, gave access to the SARS officials into the facility to effect the arrest of Kingsley and the three others.
According to Tariuwa, the police in Rivers have denied ordering the arrest and claimed not to be aware of the incident and whereabouts of the young men.
He said, “My brother, Kingsley Tariuwa, was arrested alongside three others at the Boss Lounge, on Sunday, January 5, 2020, at around 8:00pm by SARS.
“The SARS officers were actually cleared by a Mobile Policeman named Elisha Hassan, who is in charge of security at the facility.
“Someone at the lounge, who recognised my brother, had to call someone that alerted one of my siblings to the fact that Kingsley had been arrested.
“We tried calling his phone number from around 9:00pm, it was ringing but there was no response until around 11:30pm when someone picked up the call but all I could hear were voices of police officers ordering them to write statements.
“The line soon dropped and up until this moment, the number had remained switched off.”
Speaking further, Tariuwa disclosed that he had been to the SARS headquarters in Port Harcourt several times to search for his brother but the officers deny carrying out any arrest the previous night each time he went there.
He stated, “I met one officer named Supol Amanze Onyegbula, who sent a junior officer to check their cells if the persons I was looking for were there.
“The officer came back and said they were not in their custody.
“He then advised me to go to radio room at the state police headquarters so that they could help me do a radio search for my brother instead of walking from one station to another.
“I went there, the lady on duty radioed all the stations around but none of them confirmed to have them in custody. I was there for more than two hours and it was still negative.
“The lady at the radio room advised me to go and confirm once again from the policeman at Boss Lounge about which people actually made the arrest.”
Tariuwa further revealed that in the course of his findings, the identity of the SARS official, who led the operation was revealed, adding that the man indirectly confessed to killing the four persons.
He said, “The Mobile Police officer at Boss Lounge told me that it was men from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad that made the arrest and that one of the SARS officers gave him his number.
“He then called the number of the SARS officer, put it on loudspeaker so that I could hear what the man would say while I was standing next to him.
“When the SARS officer picked the call, he then told him that he was the Mobile Policeman at the night club where they arrested four young men the previous night and that their relatives were there with him.
“The SARS officer then said in pidgin that, ‘Forget them! Them don come our office today, commander tell them say no be we arrest the boys. In fact we don travel those boys, we don clear them, no where he reach, nothing go happen’.”
Tariuwa disclosed that after running a check on mobile application, Truecaller, with the SARS officer’s number, the name was revealed as Francis Nwankwo.
He said that a petition had been sent to the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mustapha Dandaura, who directed the DCP, CIID, to oversee the matter.
He added that during the course of investigation, all parties concerned were invited for interrogation and while they honoured the invitation, the SARS officer refused to visit the state CIID.
Tariuwa also revealed that the Mobile Police officer at Boss Lounge was detained by the command.
According to the aggrieved man, Nwankwo, the SARS officer, denied arresting anyone at Boss Lounge when he was called by the investigating officer at the state CIID.
Irked by the slow pace of investigation by the Rivers State Police and ludicrous cooperation of the SARS, Tariuwa lodged another complaint at the Police Complaint Response Unit, which he said triggered some results.
He said, “After I petitioned the Police CRU in Abuja, two days later, the SARS officers showed up at the state CIID, gave their statements but did not show up with my brother and others arrested.
“The day that the DCP gave us to update us on their final investigation was the day that the OC, General Investigations, told us that the case had been transferred to Abuja.
“The result of their investigations has not been relayed to us, no words on the whereabouts of my brother.
“The only thing the OC, General Investigation, said was that SARS had agreed that they arrested my brother but they have not told us his current state or the other three men.”
Apart from family members of Kingsley Tariuwa, relatives of the three other young men unlawfully seized and arbitrarily detained by Rivers State SARS officials are demanding justice.
Over recent months, SARS officials have been behind many unlawful arrests, detentions and even killings across Nigeria. For instance, on February 22, 2020, SARS officials arrested a player of Remo Stars Football Club in Sagamu, Ogun State, named Tiyamu Kazeem after accusing him of being an Internet fraudster. While taking him away in their van, the policemen pushed him from the vehicle on motion and on to an oncoming car which crushed and killed him instantly. The incident led to violent protests all across Sagamu, forcing authorities to ban the activities of SARS in the area.
In April 2019, personnel of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad shot dead a young man named Kolade Johnson in the Mangoro area of Lagos while he was watching an English Premier League match. The policemen claimed to be chasing cult gangs when the bullet from their gun hit and killed the young man. The list is indeed endless.
Though police authorities announced a handful of measures put in place to check the excesses of SARS operatives, nothing significant has changed about the unit as they continue to torment innocent Nigerians.