#EndSARS: Canada denies ex-SARS operative asylum


By Alao Abiodun

A former member of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force has been denied asylum in Canada for crimes against humanity.

The Nation learnt Olushola Popoola was a member of the notorious unit between 2002 and 2005 in Abuja and 2009 and 2011 in Lagos when he resigned following his father’s death.

A Federal Canadian court in Ottawa, Ontario, affirmed the decision of the Immigration Department to deny the former operative entry into the North American country.

The court upheld the findings of the immigration department to the effect that “the Nigerian Police Force and the SARS in particular, have committed crimes against humanity from 2002 to 2015”.

The judge, Sébastien Grammond, delivering judgment on Popoola’s case, held that by merely handing over suspects “to the criminal investigation department” despite knowing that they “would be subject to human rights violations,” the applicant without necessarily participating directly in the SARS’ crimes had made “a significant contribution” to the unit’s atrocities.

The court in the judgment delivered obtained by The Nation, on Tuesday, dismissed Popoola’s application for a review of the Immigration Department’s decision to deny him entry into Canada.

SARS was dissolved last October following historic nationwide protests against incessant police brutality.

Officers of the tactical unit were alleged of numerous acts of abuse including harassment, extortion, torture, and extra-judicial murder.

The judge ruled: “The main part of the ID’s decision is devoted to the issue of whether Mr Popoola made a knowing and significant contribution to the SARS’s criminal activity.

“A finding that Mr Popoola engaged in crimes against humanity does not require proof that he personally tortured detainees — which he denies. Rather, his contribution to the organization’s crimes must be assessed according to the test laid out by the Supreme Court of Canada in Ezokola v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2013 SCC 40, [2013] 2 SCR 678 [Ezokola].

“In this regard, the ID considered that Mr Popoola voluntarily joined the Nigerian Police Force; that he spent five years with the SARS, a unit known for being especially brutal; that he admitted knowing about the prevalence of torture and mistreatment of detainees in the organization, although he tried to minimise its scope in his testimony; and that he resigned for personal reasons, not because he learned of human rights abuses. As to his contribution to the organisation’s crimes, the ID concluded as follows:

“Since Mr Popoola reasonably knew that when he was a member of the SARS the suspects he handed over to the criminal investigation department would be subject to human rights violations, the tribunal finds this to be a significant contribution to the criminal purpose of the organization since he had the knowledge of what could befall the individual subject to investigation.

“He now seeks judicial review of his determination of inadmissibility. I am dismissing his application, because the decision-maker reasonably assessed the relevant factors for deciding whether Mr. Popoola made a knowing and significant contribution to the crimes committed by the Nigerian Police Force.”

The Nation gathered in 2011, following the death of his father, Mr Popoola resigned from the Nigeria Police Force.

From 2011, he was deployed to Iju as an ordinary police officer.

He was then promoted to the rank of Sergeant in 2015 after which he left the Force the same year.

In 2016, he left Nigeria for the United States. He then travelled to Canada, where he claimed refugee status.

His claim was suspended while his case was referred to the Immigration Division [ID] of the Immigration and Refugee Board for a determination of his inadmissibility.


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