SARS tortured me, victim tells panel

By Godwin Edeh, Odah Messiah and Paul Adoyi

A 65-year-old man, Benjamin Adeleye of Demekpe area of Makurdi recently narrated how he narrowly escaped death at the hands of men of the now disbanded Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad code named “Thunder Zone” over access road disagreement with his neighbour.

Mr Adeleye told the EndSARS panel sitting in Makurdi that, he was brutally tortured and manhandled which has led to hearing impairment in his left ear and subsequent operation on his abdomen as a result of the beating he received from the operatives.

According to him, his ordeals started when his neighbour, Mr Edwin Attah with whom he shared land boundary decided to block the only access road leading to his house by erecting a structure, after several complaints for him to maintain the original layout plan went unheeded. Rather, Mr Adeleye said, Mr Attah threatened to deal with him.

He further stated that, Mr Attah reported him at the Police headquarters and the Benue State  Urban Development Board was contacted to investigate and report back to the headquarters. It was later investigated and certified that the structure was on an access road and was marked by the Board for demolition. However, rather than seeking amicable resolution of the matter, Mr Attah took the matter to a Makurdi Upper Area Court where he was charged for unlawful trespass but was later discharged and acquitted.

Adeleye stated that the action of the court and his house marked for demolition further infuriated Mr Attah  who on 15 August, 2015 at about 4:00 pm invited a detachment of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) operatives, armed with guns, they whisked him to their base “Thunder Zone” located at Plaza Hotel where he was detained for hours. It was in the process of writing his statement that one of the operatives, Uka Lawrence hit him repeatedly on his head and slapped him on his left ear and abdomen, causing him severe injuries and grievous pains.

Led by his counsel F.O Eche, Mr Adeleye told the panel that, it was after the entire incident that he reported the matter to the then AIG Zone 4, Makurdi who then ordered for immediate investigation but unfortunately was later transferred. He urged the panel to ensure that justice is done to serve as deterrent to other police officers.

However, in his response, F.N Agwu Esq who is also the O/C Legal, Benue State Police Command submitted before the panel that, there is no code name or operational name or base in the Nigeria police force known as Thunder Zone and neither is there any police station located at Plaza Hotel as alleged by the petitioner and so, urged the panel to discountenance the submission. Despite the objection by Agwu, the two evidences presented to the panel were adopted as evidence and marked as Exhibit A and B and the matter was reserved for report.

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