Nigeria

Court awards N50 million compensation over death of detainee in SARS custody

The Kano High Court in Kano has awarded N50 million damages to the family of a detainee who was tortured to death in the cell of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

Mustapha Muhammad, then 28 years old, died in SARS custody in Kano on September 14, 2019, his brother, Abdulkarim Muhammad, said in the affidavit filed along with the suit.

Delivering judgement on Tuesday, the judge, Y.M. Ubale, granted nine out of the 10 prayers sought by the deceased person’s family.

Although the family sought N100 million damages, the judge awarded N50million compensation in their favour.

The judge also ruled that the act of concealing Mustapha’s death from his family amounted to a deprivation of the deceased’s religious rights, which as a Muslim, required that he be quickly buried.

Mr Muhammad, in whose name the family of the deceased instituted the rights enforcement suit, had in his affidavit evidence told the court that his brother was tortured to death by SARS operatives in Kano.

He, however, said the SARS officers, in a bid to conceal the circumstances of the death, said that Mustapha died of stomachache and went further to procure a fake medical certificate to cover their tracks.

Mr Muhammad added that they falsely claimed that his brother died on September 27, 2019, contrary to the entry in the mortuary’s records showing that he died earlier on September 14, 2019.

According to him, days after the deceased person died, the police refused to inform any member and continued to receive money and food for the days till when the family got to know Muhammad had passed on.

The family’s lawyer, Abba Hikima, in October 2019, sued the Kano Police Command demanding N100 million damages over the killing of Muhammad.

Mr Hikima noted that SARS tortured Mr Muhammad to death and refused to inform the family.

The lawyer sought a declaration that the torture and killing of Muhammad by the police without recourse to the law amount to unlawful, arbitrary and unconstitutional contravention of the fundamental rights of the deceased guaranteed under sections 33 and 34 of the Nigerian constitution.

He also sought an order of the court to award the sum of N100,000,000 as damages payable by the police to the deceased through his family.

The federal government and the 36 state governors had, through the platform of the National Executive Council (NEC) chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, agreed to set up panels of enquiry in the various states in the wake of the nationwide #EndSARS protests against police brutality in October 2020.

But Kano is among the five states in the North-west region, that did not inaugurate the #EndSARS panel probing rights violations perpetrated by SARS and other police units.

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