No fewer than five operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Rivers State Police Command have been arrested for allegedly torturing a radio broadcaster with Nigeria Info, Port Harcourt, Mr Kofi Bartels.
Bartels had suffered a swollen knee after he was hit several times by the policemen in Mgbuoba, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state.
The State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Nnamdi Omoni, said the five SARS officials were invited to the State Police Command for interrogation over the incident that made Bartels to be hospitalised.
Omoni told our correspondent in a telephone interview on Thursday that apart from inviting the erring officials for questioning, the command had also visited the management of the radio station over the matter.
He explained that the command had assured Nigeria Info management that justice would be done in the matter.
Omoni said, “We visited the radio house on Thursday. Five SARS personnel involved in the matter have been invited for interrogation. As of the time I was leaving the office, they were still being interrogated.
“But we have gone to see the management of the broadcast station and we have assured them of justice. We are also employing other ways of resolving the matter. They (Nigeria Info) have also assured us that the incident will not affect the cordial relationship we have built overtime.
“There is no way policing can be done without the media; we invite the media when we have our achievements to showcase and they (Nigeria Info) have been assisting us. Crime fighting is not for the police alone.
“They are worthy partners to us. So, they have agreed to allow us carry out our investigation. We have also assured them that we are going to reach out to Koffi (Bartels) personally to assist with the payment of the medical bills.”
Trouble started on Tuesday when Bartels noticed that the SARS officials were manhandling a boy, whose mother was selling bean cake (akara) along the road.
“I drove out of my compound and saw them (SARS) trying to arrest a boy who lives in the area. His mum fries akara for a living. I went to plead with them, but hesitated at a point and chose to take a picture of their bus and number plate.
“They accosted me and gave the beating of my life. Right on the road, they started by smashing my knees with wooden bars. My left knee is swollen and my right knee is seriously bruised,” Bartels wrote in a text message to our correspondent.
The journalist explained that the policemen took him to their base, where he was thoroughly beaten.
He stated, “I was beaten mercilessly at the SARS headquarters. They took turns to slap, punch and kick me all over. At least, six officers; one swore that he would have wasted me if his team had been the one that picked me up.
“A couple of them told me to watch my back, saying this is my end in Rivers State, due to the human rights issues we treat (on radio) involving SARS and the police generally. It is unfortunate that innocent boys are picked up for ransom by SARS in Rivers State almost on a daily basis.”