Nigeria’s corrupt SARS police unit molested, humiliated and extorted a man suspected of being gay
At the ongoing inquiry into the corrupt, brutal SARS police unit in Nigeria, a victim has described being molested, tortured and extorted after allegations that he was gay.
Johnson Eze, a tailor from Benin, told the inquiry in Edo State that he was detained for three days until he was forcefully made to pay 100,000 Nigerian Naira (£200). During this time, he says he was beaten and abused repeatedly.
“[The officers] took me to the police station and forced me to agree that I was homosexual,” Eze said, according to Nigeria’s Punch newspaper.
“I sustained an injury in my forehead and my leg during the beating. They molested and detained me based on accusations that I was gay. I was molested and humiliated for three days.”
During the cross-examination, the police counsel said Eze could not substantiate his claims because he did not obtain a medical report from the hospital.
Eze’s counsel have demanded 10 million Nigerian Naira (£20,000) in compensation for him and two other victims.
In SARS inquiries across Nigeria, testimonies have described harassment, beatings and killings.
Nigeria’s 36 states have all set up judicial inquiries into the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) after widespread police brutality.
The unit was officially disbanded in October. Authorities however continued to target protesters demanding an end to SARS, culminating in a massacre at a toll gate in Lagos which killed at least 12.
According to Amnesty International, “extrajudicial executions, other unlawful killings and enforced disappearances by the police are widespread and go largely un-investigated and unpunished”.
“While there is no conclusive information on the actual scale of extrajudicial executions, hundreds of people, at least, are extrajudicially executed by the police every year,” a report added.
The Lagos state inquiry heard a victim recalling how he had two teeth pulled out, was paraded in public as a criminal and had his belongings sold by SARS officers.
According to Amnesty, the LGBT+ community has been “one of the primary targets of the police”.
Matthew Blaise, a non-binary LGBT+ activist in Lagos, explained to PinkNews earlier in the year some of the tactics employed by SARS – detailing how officers would try to force queer people to give them access to their mobile phones.
“Then, once they trap other gay people on your list, they start exploiting you, blackmailing you, and in most cases they out you to their parents” Blaise said.
“They’re able to get away with this and queer people end up suffering in all aspects, mentally and financially.”
Same-sex sexual relations are illegal in Nigeria. In some states that have adopted forms of Sharia law, the maximum penalty is death by stoning.
However in October, a Nigeria court threw out a case against 47 men charged with public displays of affection with members of the same sex.
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UK government admitted involvement with SARS.
SARS was created in 1992 to tackle armed thefts and similar crimes.
However the unit quickly earned a reputation for human rights violations, unlawful killings and torture, among other illegal activities ignored – or worse – accepted by those in power.
The UK government admitted to providing training and equipment to SARS police in October.
Labour MP, Kate Osamor, said: “The government has now been forced to admit that it not only spent millions training SARS, but also directly supplied them with equipment.
“The government now needs to explain how and why it ever felt it was appropriate to train and equip security forces which were known to have taken part in torture and extra-judicial killings.”