Canada rejects former SARS operative’s application for asylum


Canada has rejected the asylum request of a former operative of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) Olushola Popoola.

Mr Popoola’s application was rejected by the immigration division of the Immigration and Refugee Board in Canada because he was a member of the defunct unit of the Nigeria Police Force between 2002 and 2015.

Popoola left Nigeria in 2016 for the United States before he travelled to Canada, where he claimed refugee status. His claim was, however, suspended while his case was referred to the immigration division for a determination of his inadmissibility.

Popoola was found “inadmissible pursuant to section 35(1)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, SC 2001, c 27 [the Act]” because “the Nigeria Police Force, and the SARS in particular, have committed crimes against humanity from 2002 to 2015” including “corruption and impunity” as well as “extrajudicial killings”, the Canadian immigration department said.

Popoola later approached the Federal Court of Canada to seek judicial review of his determination of inadmissibility, arguing that he had resigned in 2011 but the Force did not accept his resignation, hence he continued till 2015.

However, the presiding judge Sébastien Grammond on April 8, 2021, dismissed the application for judicial review while upholding the decision of the immigration division.

Grammond also said Popoola resigned for personal reasons, not because he learned of human rights abuses.

“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,” the judge ruled.

Incidents of rights abuses by SARS operatives forced young persons last October to protest across Nigeria in what was tagged #EndSARS.

The unit was eventually scrapped and replaced with the Special Weapons and Tactics Team.