The Canadian government through the federal court in Ottawa, Ontario has refused to issue entry visa to Olushola Wazzi Popoola, a former Officer of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) a unit of the Nigerian Police, on the grounds that he engaged in crimes against humanity while in service.
According to the Canadian court judgment cited on Tuesday by AllNews Nigeria, all former operatives of defunct SARS intending to travel to Canada have very low chances of acquiring visa as the court upheld findings of the Immigration Department (ID) to the effect that “the Nigerian Police Force, and the SARS, in particular, have committed crimes against humanity from 2002 to 2015”.
Popoola became a member of the Nigerian Police Force in 2002. From 2002 to 2005, he was a member of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad [SARS] in Abuja. He was then transferred to the anti-robbery unit (not to be confused with the SARS) in Lagos until 2009. From 2009 to 2011, he returned to the SARS, this time in Lagos.
In 2011, following the death of his father, Popoola resigned from the Nigeria Police Force. According to his testimony, however, the Force never formally accepted his resignation and he had to continue reporting to work. From 2011, he became an ordinary police officer.
He was later promoted to the rank of Sergeant in 2015 and he left the Force the same year.
In 2016, Poopola left Nigeria for the United States. He then visited Canada, where he claimed refugee status.
Unfortunately, Poopola’s 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.
On October 15, 2019, the ID found Mr Popoola inadmissible pursuant to section 35(1)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, SC 2001, c 27 [the Act].
“The ID reviewed the documentary evidence and found that the Nigerian Police Force, and the SARS in particular, have committed crimes against humanity from 2002 to 2015,” the judge, Grammond, wrote.
The findings of the ID, according to the judge, “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,” the judge added.
Mr Popoola had approached the court after the Immigration Department (ID) of Canada, on October 15, 2019, found him inadmissible pursuant to section 35(1)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, SC 2001, c 27 [the Act].
On October 15, 2019, the ID found Popoola inadmissible according to section 35(1)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, SC 2001, c 27 [the Act].
The judge, Sébastien Grammond, delivering judgment on Mr 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 judge ruled, “The main part of the ID’s decision is devoted to the issue of whether 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,  2 SCR 678 [Ezokola].
“In this regard, the ID considered that 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.”
The court in the judgment delivered on April 8 dismissed Popoola’s application for a review of the Immigration Department’s decision to deny him entry into Canada.