How ex-SARS officer was denied entry into Canada

For being a member of the proscribed police department SARS, Olushola Popoola, who resigned from the police many years ago, was refused entry into Canada.

A federal Canadian court in Ottawa, Ontario, on April 8 insisted the decision of the Immigration Department to deny Popoola a visa was in order.

Delivering the judgement on Popoola’s suit against the ID and minster of public safety and emergency preparedness filed in 2019, the court said the complainant didn’t have to personally commit rights abuse for which members of SARS were notorious.

Justice Sébastien Grammond 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.

“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.”

Popoola resigned from the police in 2011, and his department is believed in human rights circles to have violated human rights and committed crime against humanity from 2002 to 2015.

The October ENDSARS protest that led to its proscription snowballed into violence that brought the attention of countries around the world to the Nigerian police.