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No Sufficient Evidence To Prosecute 33 Indicted SARS Operatives —– AGF

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The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation has said there is not sufficient evidence to prosecute the 33 operatives of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) indicted in last year’s report of a Presidential Investigative Panel.

The AGF’s office has therefore asked the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, to set up “a special investigation team” to conduct “thorough investigation” into the cases.

This is contained in a report of a committee set up by the AGF, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), to review the individual cases recommended for prosecution by the special presidential panel.

Our correspondent on Friday obtained the excerpts of the report from a top police source.

The Presidential Panel led by the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Mr Tony Ojukwu, had between 2018 and 2019 probed complaints of brutal activities of SARS and had submitted its report to the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), on June 3, 2019.

The report indicted a total of 35 police operatives in 12 states and the Federal Capital Territory for various rights violations including, extrajudicial killing, death in police custody, unlawful arrest, biased investigation, unlawful intimidation, harassment, criminal assault, torture, cruelty, inhuman and degrading treatment, a threat to life, extortion and confiscation of property, among others.

The report recommended 33 for prosecution, and punishment, including sanctions like reduction in rank and dismissal.

It also recommended that 57 victims be paid about N249m as compensation while the police should tender a public apology to 35.

The NHRC on October 19, 2020, submitted the report to the AGF accompanied with a specific list of those recommended for prosecution.

But after reviewing the panel’s report, the committee set up by the AGF said the report “does not meet prosecutorial needs” as it was said to be lacking in vital exhibits, such as “medical evidence and statements of the suspects”.

It added, “The report of the panel does not meet prosecutorial needs. No proper investigation was concluded in all cases. Admissible evidence such as exhibits, medical evidence, statements of the suspects and witnesses that can be used in court has not been obtained or recorded in the appropriate sheet from the suspects and witnesses by the appropriate investigation team.”

The report expressed concern that the indicted officers “are still in the service and ought to go through the internal police disciplinary measures to avoid prosecuting officers in uniform”.

It listed three actions that “must be taken in earnest” for the AGF office “to be able to successfully implement the panel’s recommendations”.

Among them are that the indicted officers must be made to undergo disciplinary actions and dismissed from service where necessary, while the IGP should set up a special team to further investigate the individual cases.

It stated, “The indicted officers should be made to undergo disciplinary actions immediately and dismissed where appropriate.

“That the IGP who is well aware of the sensitivity of the matter should be advised to set up a special investigation team to conduct a thorough investigation into the individual cases.

“That after a thorough investigation, the cases that are federal offences or fall within the FCT will be prosecuted by the office of the HAGF while those that are state offences will be transferred to the respective states for prosecution.”

Meanwhile, the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr Dayo Apata (SAN), said on Wednesday that the recommendations of the panel for the prosecution of indicted SARS operatives would be implemented by the AGF office.

Apata, who represented the AGF at the inaugural sitting of the Independent Investigative Panel on Human Rights Violations by members of the disbanded SARS in Abuja, said the AGF and state Attorneys-General, had already scheduled a meeting on how to fashion out the strategy for the prosecution of the cases, most of which he said were state offences.

He said, “The coming weeks will be full of activities. The Attorney-General of the Federation will be meeting with states’ Attorneys-General because some of the offences are state offences.”

BIG STORY

Six Foreigners, Nigerian Jailed Seven Years For Oil Theft In Rivers [PHOTOS]

Gbemileke Ajayi

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The Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State has convicted and sentenced six foreigners and a Nigerian to seven years imprisonment for oil theft.

Justice Kolawole Omotosho gave the sentence yesterday after three years of prosecution of the convicts by the Port Harcourt Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

They include Mohammed Ejaz and Nasser Khan – Pakistanis; Oleksandr Nazarenko and Oleksandr Kashernvi – Ukrainians; Romeo Annang – Ghanaian, Fredrik Omenu – Indonesian; and David Otuohi – Nigerian.

The convicts were arraigned for oil theft alongside four other persons – Victor Mikpayi (Beninois), Francis Ahorlu and Kwesi Attah (Ghanaians), and Victor Azebiri (Nigerian).

But the four others were discharged and acquitted by the court.

They were all docked alongside a company – Asztral Shipping Corporation SA, and a Vessel, MT. TECNE (also known as MT STAR), on four counts of conspiracy, dealing in petroleum products without a license, and tampering with oil pipelines.

When the charges were read to them, all the defendants pleaded not guilty to them.

Their pleas prepared grounds for their trial that lasted three years during which the EFCC presented evidence and witnesses who testified against the defendants in court.

In his judgment yesterday, Justice Omotosho found the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eleventh defendants guilty of all the four charges and sentenced them to seven years imprisonment, with an option of a fine of N2 million each.

According to the court, the sentences run concurrently from their date of arraignment.

On the other hand, the first, eighth, ninth, and tenth defendants were discharged and acquitted on the ground that “they were not linked to the commission of the crime”.

The company involved in the crime – Asztral Shipping Corporation SA – was wound up by the court while the vessel carrying the offensive crude oil was forfeited to the Federal Government.

The suspected oil thieves ran into troubled waters when their ship was intercepted by the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) DELTA on April 25, 2017, at Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Afremo ‘A’ Terminal, South East of Escravos in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State.

The ship was seized for illegal loading of petroleum products suspected to be crude oil.

Members of the crew, according to the EFCC, connived with Victor Azeberi, one Peter Ala, and David Ogoma (who is at large), to siphon about 1905.836 cubic liters of crude oil.

The ship had no clearance from relevant Nigerian maritime agencies to navigate in Nigerian waters and all the foreign crew on board the ship had no valid documents to enter the country.

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BIG STORY

BREAKING: Court Orders Arrest Of Maina’s Son, Summons Surety

Peter Okunoren

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The Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday revoked the bail granted Faisal Maina, the son of Abdulrasheed Maina, and ordered his arrest for jumping bail in his trial on money laundering charges.

Justice Okon Abang also ordered that his trial on money laundering charges would proceed in absentia pending when the security agencies would be able to arrest and produce him in court.

The judge also summoned his surety, a member of the House of Representatives, Sani Umar Dangaladima, representing the Kaura-Namoda Federal Constituency of Zamfara State, to appear in court to show cause why he should not forfeit the N60m bail bond which he signed for Faisal.

The order for Faisal’s arrest came barely six days after the same court, on November 18, issued a similar order against his father, Abdulrasheed Maina, a former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team, who is facing separate N2.1bn money laundering charges before the court.

On Monday, Justice Okon Abang, sent Maina’s surety, Senator Ali Ndume, to jail for his inability to produce the fleeing defendant in court.

Earlier on Tuesday, following the judge’s November 18 ruling, Maina’s trial held in his absence with three prosecution witnesses testifying behind him and his legal team.

At the resumed hearing of Faisal’s trial on Tuesday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s prosecution counsel, Mohammed Abubakar, said both the defendant and his surety had not attended court since June 24, 2020.

Neither Faisal, his surety, nor his lawyer was present at the Tuesday’s proceedings.

Abubakar, therefore, applied the revocation of his bail and his arrest citing section 184 of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act.
The prosecution also applied for the court to order his trial in absentia as provided by 352(4) of ACJA.

“My third application is for the issuance of summons on the surety, and for him to show cause why he should not forfeit the bail bond,” Abubakar added.

The judge granted the prayers and adjourned till Wednesday.

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BIG STORY

#EndSARS: CNN Dares Nigerian Govt, Releases Second Report On Lekki Shootings [VIDEO]

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Amid threats of sanction from the Federal Government over its investigative report on the shootings at Lekki toll plaza during the #EndSARS protests, CNN has released a second report on the incident.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had last week described CNN’s report on the Lekki shootings as poor journalism, adding that the network deserved to be sanctioned.

Mohammed also followed up the threat with a letter addressed to the management of CNN in Atlanta.

However, the network on Tuesday did a second report with more damning footage showing soldiers shooting at unarmed protesters on October 20, 2020.

The fresh report also shows the Commander, 81 Division, Brig. Gen Ahmed Taiwo, admitting before the judicial panel in Lagos that his men indeed took live ammunition to the tollgate.

The CNN report also highlights the fact that Brig. Gen Taiwo’s claim is at variance with the minister’s who had claimed last week that the army fired blank bullets.

The fresh report also shows protesters running as soldiers open fire at the tollgate.

The National Broadcasting Commission, which is overseen by the information minister, had last month slammed hefty fines on three Nigerian television stations for daring to use some of the footage which CNN has also used.

The Federal Government has been receiving flak from members of the United Kingdom Parliament and Amnesty International over the killing of protesters.

 

Video Credit: CNN

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