RRS Awkuzu: RULAAC demands overhauling of police units

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Press Release

ON THE REPORTED EXISTENCE OF A POLICE CRIMINAL RING COMPRISING KEY OFFICERS OF ZONE 13 POLICE COMMAND, UKPO AND THE RAPID RESPONSE SQUAD (RRS), AWKUZU, ANAMBRA STATE, ALLEGEDLY INVOLVED IN ILLEGAL DETENTION, KIDNAPPING, EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLING AND HUMAN ORGAN HARVESTING AND TRADE

The Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Center (RULAAC) and Anambra State Police Stakeholders Partnership Forum (PSPF) are following with keen interest, the shocking revelations trending on social media about the existence of a criminal ring comprising some police officers and others in Anambra State allegedly involved in illegal detention, kidnapping, extrajudicial killing and human organ harvesting and trading.

Those accused of being part of the deadly criminal ring are a Chief Superintendent of Police Patrick Chukwuemeka Agbazue, who is a former O/C SARS, Awkuzu and currently the Commander of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS), Awkuzu; a Superintendent of Police, Princess Nwode Nkeiruka, who is a former Police Public Relations Officers (PPRO), Anambra State Police Command and currently the PPRO for Zone 13 Headquarters, Ukpo; and Inspector Harrison Akama, also attached to the RRS, Awkuzu, Anambra State, among others.

They are reported to be notorious for the serial criminal acts of killing accused persons in their custody and then taking over their money and property.

We recall that PSPF had addressed a petition dated January 28, 2023 calling for investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death in the custody of the SCID Annex, Awkuzu of an accused person Uchenna James Okafor sometime in December 2022. PSPF had also called for autopsy to resolve the controversy over the actual cause of death of the victim. That petition is yet to be acknowledged till date and the petitioners have no information about any action taken in response to their petition. Public demand for a transparent investigation of the suspicious death has been ignored.

It is pertinent to point out that the SCID Annex, Awkuzu is the former notorious SARS Awkuzu where numerous human rights atrocities were documented. After it was converted to SCID Annex, the atrocities of the inglorious days of the notorious SARS have continued to be committed at that concentration death camp. The current Head of the SCID Annex Awkuzu, Patrick Agbazue was the last Commander of Awkuzu SARS before it was converted to the annex of the Anambra State CID which he also heads and has continued to superintend over atrocious acts at the centre.

RULAAC and PSPF commend the Inspector General of Police for his timely intervention in setting up a Special Investigation Panel to investigate the allegations at the end of which a report is expected to be issued. We call on the IGP to ensure that the accused police officers do not find their way back to their former beats pending the conclusion of investigation. They are quoted to have boasted that “power pass power”, after their curious release from custody at the Force Headquarters, Abuja.

We also welcome the Anambra State Governor, Mr. Charles Soludo’s directive to the Attorney General of the State to call for and review all case files with allegations of human rights abuses handled by Police Zone 13 Headquarters, Ukpo, and the Rapid Response Squad (RRS), Awkuzu. We call on Governor Soludo to implement the recommendations in the report of the Anambra State #EndSARS Panel submitted to his office since March, 2022. This will be in line with his manifesto in which he made this a priority.

RULAAC and PSPF have in the past received and actually interfaced with some of the senior officers mentioned in the very scandalous allegations and have also written petitions and reports to police authorities implicating some of the officers for similar crime allegations.

Allegations of likely involvement of some police officers in arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, extrajudicial killing and organ harvesting are also not new.

In several interviews that RULAAC has had with former detainees and survivors or family members of victims of Awkuzu SARS, the allegation of likely harvesting of, and trading in, human parts always came up.

A report of a fact-finding mission in 2021 by a coalition of civil society groups under the aegis of the Action Group on Free Civic Space detailed the atrocities perpetrated by the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The report documented evidence and patterns of torture as well as the identities of the operatives responsible.

The report also focused attention on Awkuzu, the deadliest unit of SARS in Nigeria—and Enugu, documenting the personal experiences and eye-witness accounts of several victims and indigenes of the communities who were terrorized and dehumanised by SARS operatives in the two states.

Excerpt from the text of the Press Conference to present the report:

“The fact-finding mission team documented twelve established patterns and motivations for extreme violence by SARS operatives in Anambra, Enugu as well as other parts of the country. These patterns include the deployment of SARS to settle personal scores; use of pseudonyms to disguise their real identities; prolonged detentions, including denial of access to family members and lawyers; the use of torture to elicit information from victims or to request bribes to facilitate their release; killing detainees for fun and according to mood swings; deliberate starvation of detainees with intent to kill slowly and without proof; incriminating innocent persons; keeping detainees in overcrowded cells, forcing them to sleep in shifts on top of each other or to sleep while standing; keeping decomposing dead bodies in the cells together with the living detainees; extrajudicial execution of detainees that refuse to pay bribes in exchange for freedom; trading of dead bodies especially to the university teaching hospitals in Nigeria. Politicians also used SARS as a willing tool of oppression to deal with perceived enemies and political opposition,”.

The report also identified the individuals – politicians and policemen who aided or perpetrated the SARS abuses.

The erring SARS operatives identified in the report include Ugochukwu Ozuode, also known as Ugo SARS, late Jude Agbanijelu, nicknamed Okpontu which literally means ‘the nailer’ because of his notoriety for driving nails into his victims’ skulls, Orthopedic, a man notorious for breaking the bones of his victims, Pele, and Too-Much-Money.

“These pseudonyms over the years have helped notorious officers escape recognition and culpability because victims are often at a loss regarding their torturers’ true identities.”

CALLS

The time has come for a thorough overhaul of many police units that continue to be run by criminally minded police officers the same ways that the disbanded SARS were run which over time, built up public anger and precipitated the #EndSARS rebellion, the aftermath of which has continued to hunt the Nigeria Police and the country in general.

1. We call on the IGP to ensure an overhaul of all police units that continue to discredit the police and continually keep the institution on negative spotlight. All police officers responsible for corruption and human rights violations should be investigated and brought to account.
2. In particular, the IGP is called upon to ensure that there is no cover up of any sort or shielding of any police officer or anyone whatsoever found involved in the alleged criminal acts and human rights violations by police officers at Zone 13, Ukpo and the State CID Annex, Awkuzu, Anambra State.
3. We also call on Governor Soludo to ensure that appropriate government agencies monitor the situation closely and ensure that justice is done if anybody was found culpable.

Signed:

1. Okechukwu Nwanguma
Executive Director, RULAAC

2. Prince Chris Azor,
Coordinator, PSPF

Dated: February 21, 20223

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