A former operative of the Special Anti-Robery Squad, SARS, Olusola Wazzi Popoola, has been denied asylum in Canada for contributing to police brutality in Nigeria.

A federal court in Ottawa, Canada, refused the asylum appeal on the rejection of the application of Popoola, a former operative of the SARS, in a judgment delivered on April 8, where the judge, Sébastien Grammond, agreed that the Immigration Division, ID, was right in its decision.

Popoola joined the Nigerian Police Force, NPF, in 2002 and was attached to SARS until 2005. He was later transferred to the anti-robbery unit in Lagos until 2009.

Between 2009 and 2011, he was deployed to the SARS office in Lagos.

But following the death of his father in 2011, Popoola resigned from the force, but his resignation was not accepted. He was thereafter transferred to Iju, where he attained the rank of sergeant before leaving the police force in 2015.

He left the shores of Nigeria for the United States of America, from where he crossed to Canada and claimed refugee status.

His claim was however suspended, while his case was referred to the ID of the Immigration and Refugee Board, for a determination of his admissibility.

But the ID, after a review of documentary evidence, on October 15, 2019, found Popoola inadmissible, pursuant to section 35(1)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The ID insisted that the Nigeria Police Force and SARS, in particular, have committed crimes against humanity.

It said, “This is because mistreatment and torture of police detainees is endemic in Nigeria, for a number of reasons, including corruption and impunity. Extrajudicial killings are frequent.

“The SARS, in particular, is singled out in the documentary evidence as one of the most brutal units of the Force.”

Appealing against his inadmissibility to Canada, Popoola argued that “he spent most of his time with the force in units other than the SARS, and that his five years with the SARS is a relatively short time.”

He argued that his contribution to crimes committed by the police force was not significant.

Popoola told the court that the “ID breached procedural fairness by rejecting his testimony, without providing adequate reasons.”

Butthecourt averred that “a finding that Mr. Popoola engaged in crimes against humanity does not require proof that he personally tortured detainees – which he denies.”

The court further held, “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 minimize 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 organization’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.’

“For these reasons, Mr Popoola’s application for judicial review will be dismissed.”

Recall that during the October 2020 #EndSARS protests, Nigerians in Canada were vocal in their support of the movement.

A Nigerian-born lawyer and Minister of Justice in Canadian province, Kaycee Madu, had backed the protest and encouraged Nigerians to lend their voices to the fight for freedom from police brutality and injustice.

Madu had revealed that his cousin, Chrisantus Korie, was killed by the police in Nigeria in 2013 – and that the murder was not investigated.


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