Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Canadian judge deems Nigerian police criminal organisation, denies ex-SARS officer asylum

Last October’s abrogation of the notorious squad was not sufficient for Judge Sébastien Grammond to consider Olushola Popoola’s request for asylum.

• April 13, 2021
Force Headquarters
Force headquarters, Louis Edet house Abuja

A judge in Canada has denied asylum to a former member of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad on the grounds of his association with the brutal unit and the Nigeria Police Force as a whole. 

SARS was scrapped last October following a national upheaval about its decades of intimidation, extortion, robbery and extrajudicial murder of over 100,000 citizens. But the abrogation of the notorious squad was not sufficient for Judge Sébastien Grammond to consider Olushola Popoola’s request for asylum, court documents said. 

Mr Grammond reached the decision on April 8 after Mr Popoola requested for a judicial review of the decision of the Canadian immigration department, which had previously found him inadmissible into the country on the grounds of his membership of the Nigeria Police Force.

“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,” Mr Grammond ruled.

The court heard that Mr Popoola served in the police between 2002 and 2015 when he ultimately left the force to travel to the United States. He then crossed into Canada from the U.S. where he has been seeking asylum to permanently settle.

Mr Popoola argued that he did not engage in brutal violence and other forms of criminality that pervaded SARS in the course of his service, saying he should be considered as a civil ex-officer on the grounds of his voluntary exit from the force.

But Mr Grammond said the former police officer could reasonably be assumed to be aware of the murderous and exploitative activities of SARS, even if he did not personally participate. 

“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 judge ruled.

“The tribunal finds this to be a significant contribution to the criminal purpose of the organisation since he had the knowledge of what could befall the individual subject to investigation.”

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