The Presidential Panel on the Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police has summoned former Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Agyole Abeh, for allocating to himself a car forcefully taken from a Chief Magistrate in Benue State by officials of SARS in Abuja.
Chief Magistrate Issac Faga Ajim had petitioned the panel, alleging a team of SARS officials, led by CSP Fatai Akinyomi, stormed his home in Markudi at midnight in November 2015 and went away with his Toyota Matrix car with registration number: MGN 731 GG and its original documents at gun point, claiming it was a stolen vehicle.
It was while investigating the petition by Chief Magistrate Ajim (who is also the Chairman, Magistrates Association of Benue State and a member of the Justice Sector Reform Committee) that the panel found that CP Abeh, who retired earlier this year, allocated the car to himself while he was the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in charge of SARS in Abuja
At the sitting of the panel on Thursday it was discovered that the claim by the SARS official that the vehicle was a product of robbery, was a lie.
During it proceedings on Thursday, a member of the panel put a call through to CP Abeh, who answered and claimed to currently be in Lagos.
When told about the panel’s finding about the car and instructed to produce the vehicle before the panel within 24 hours, CP Abeh pleaded to be given some time because he was currently in Lagos.
When directed to appear before the panel on Friday with the car, failing which an arrest warrant would be issued, CP Abeh said: “My brother that will be impossible. I cannot make it to Abuja. As I am talking to you, I don’t have money on me. You know I am now retired.
“Please do bear with me. I will bring the car to you as soon as possible.”
The panel member, who engaged in the phone conversation with CP Abeh to the hearing of all, ended the call in annoyance and instructed the panel’s Registry to issue summons against the retired policeman.
In his contribution, a lawyer to the police, CSP James Idachaba Idachaba told the panel he had told CP Abeh long ago to quietly return the vehicle because of the controversy it has generated.
Idachaba said CP Abeh ignored his suggestion and at a time, refused to answer his calls.
Another lawyer for the police suggested to the panel that a report about the case should be written to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), requiring the IGP to compel him to produce the car should he fail to produce it on Friday.
The panel is also expecting former Minister of Interior, Abba Moro to appear before it on January 25 (today) in relation to his alleged complicity in the purported unlawful arrest, detention and extortion of members of Iwewe Community in Benue State SARS’ operatives.
Moro was expected to appear before the panel on January 21 when it scheduled further hearing in a petition by the Iwewe Community, in which it was alleged among others, that SARS’ operatives invaded their community and subjected men and women to unlawful arrest, detention and extortion based on a petition allegedly authored by Moro.
On Monday, Moro failed to turn up but sent a lawyer, Paul Samuel Ikpe, who told the panel that his client was absent because of the burial ceremony of the leader of his political party, slated on January 24 this year.
Ikpe said the burial date coincides with the date the panel requested his client to attend its sitting.
He added his client was interested in appearing before the panel.
He requested the panel to do away with his client’s personal appearance, but instead, allow him to respond to panel’s questions in writing, a request the panel rejected.
Chairman of the panel and Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Tony Ojukwu said such a procedure contravenes the essence of its sitting, which is intended as a public enquiry
Ojukwu said: “The panel would need to conduct some follow up questions that may arise from his testimonies, he needs to be here physically to testify publicly.”
Last Monday was the second time Moro was failing to attend the panel’s sitting. On January 15 this year, his lawyer blamed his absence on some political engagements.
Moro was accused of authoring a petition upon which SARS invaded Iwewe Community in Benue State and allegedly subjected them to Unlawful arrest, detention and extortion.
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