Nigeria: Seven Months After Police Arrest, Driver's Family Demand Whereabouts

The family of Kingsley Tariuwa, a 33-year-old man arrested by officers from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Port Harcourt, has cried out for help over his unlawful detention for more than seven months.

Mr Tariuwa, a heavy duty truck driver with the Nigeria Ports Authority, Port Harcourt, was arrested on January 5 at a popular night club, Boss Lounge, in Port Harcourt and has since not been seen by his family members.

His elder brother, Ezekiel Tariuwa, narrated the ordeal the family has gone through since the arrest.

"My brother was arrested since January, we do not know why he was arrested and we have not set our eyes on him since that time.

"We visited Dan Daura, the then Commissioner Of Police, Rivers State Command, wrote several petitions and also obtained an order of release from the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, but he wasn't released, neither did they allow us to see him," he told PREMIUM TIMES.

Mr Tariuwa had a five-months-old baby when he was arrested and the baby has turned one year, with his wife left to bear the trauma of not having her husband around.

Kingsley Tariuwa's Arrest

A civil society group, Rule of Law And Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), highlighted the incidents surrounding Mr Tariuwa's arrest in a letter to the Inspector-General of Police.

Okechukwu Nwanguma, the Executive Director of RULAAC, said the centre received information about human rights atrocity by operatives of SARS on the arrest of the victim.

In the letter titled 'Enforced Disappearance and Refusal to Comply With a Court Order to Produce a Citizen Arrested by SARS Since January 2020,' RULAAC described the events surrounding the arrest of Mr Tariuwa as tragic.

Mr Tariuwa was arrested alongside two others and the officers who arrested him have been unable to account for his whereabouts.

"RULAAC was informed that the SARS operatives arrived at Boss Lounge at about 8 p.m on January 5, 2020 and were cleared by a Police Mobile Officer identified as Elisha Hassan who was in charge of security at the lounge on the day Tariuwa Kingsley was arrested.

"Another person who was also at the lounge on that day and witnessed the arrrest by the SARS operatives, and who recognised Tariuwa Kingsley and knows his family quickly alerted his brother about his arrest.

The group said the driver's brother immediately called his phone number from around 9 p.m, and it rang many times but no one picked the call.

"He continued to call until about 11:30 p.m. when someone eventually picked the call and he could only hear voices at the background which he believed were the voices of the SARS officers and he heard one of them saying in Pidgin English "Shae una say una finish school, make una write una statement. Abi na we go write statement for una...

"And the SARS officer was saying that repeatedly until the call cut off without him being able to speak to his brother or anyone in particular. Till date, his missing brother's phone has remained switched off," the letter stated.

SARS deny arrest

Ezekiel, the elder brother of the victim, said after many failed attempts to get the police to produce his brother, he went back to the mobile police officer, Elisha Hassan, that cleared the SARS operatives to make the arrest.

"The officer called one of the SARS operatives and told him that the relations of the boys they arrested were with him and demanding his whereabouts," he said.

"Unknown to the SARS officer that the phone was on loudspeaker, he responded; 'Forget them. Dem don come our station today, but commander tell them say no be we arrest the boys. In fact we don travel those boys, shae u understand, we don clear them, no where e reach, nothing go happen.'

The SARS officer was identified as Francis Nwankwo and the family thereafter wrote a petition to the Commissioner of Police, Rivers State in January, demanding the release of their brother.

The victim's brother explained that the case was transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) and all parties, including the management of the Boss Lounge and operatives from SARS, were called for questioning but SARS operatives did not turn up.

He said the matter was later escalated to the Complaint Response Unit (CRU) of the Police and a tracking number; CRU100371 was given for their case.

"Each time you call police complaint response unit, they keep saying the case is under investigation, that we should be patient.

"Seeing that we were not getting any result from the police, the family decided to approach the court. A high court in Rivers State gave an order on the police to release their captive pending hearing on the suit. SARS was served but till date they ignored the court orders," he said.

When PREMIUM TIMES called Nmandi Omoni, the spokesperson of the Rivers State Police Command, he said he was informed of the case and the family needs to come to the legal department of the command.

"Since they said the former Commissioner was aware and he is no longer here, they need to start the process again. They should come to the legal department with the court papers to process the matter," he said.

'Devastated' family

The elder brother of the victim told PREMIUM TIMES that the family was in distress as a result of the matter.

"Our father, Robinson Tariuwa is 75 years now, has developed high blood pressure because of the incident and he is deteriorating on a daily basis.

"My mum is 67 years old now, she is seriously sick because she cries virtually everyday and the matter is getting worse," he said.

When PREMIUM TIMES spoke to the 25-year-old wife of the victim, Favour Tariuwa, she said life has been difficult for her since the arrest of her husband.

"I am not doing anything for now, my baby that was five months when he was arrested is now a year," she said.

The family called on the Inspector-General of Police to order an investigation into the matter and see to the release of their brother.

RULAAC also called on the Inspector-General of Police to ensure that the case is investigated with a view to identifying all the SARS operatives responsible for the arrest and disappearance of the victim.

"They must be made to account for him as well as face the full legal consequences of their unlawful, discreditable and unprofessional conduct. The victim must also be accorded the full remedies and reparations as provided by law," RULAAC wrote.

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