AKURE – In line with the directive by the National Executive Council headed by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, in response to the yearnings and nationwide protests by many young Nigerians against incidents of brutality by some bad eggs in the Nigerian Police Force, gave specific directives for a more decisive and deliberate policy action to reform the Nigerian Police Force. The directive was for the constitution of Judicial Panels of Inquiry in all the states of the Federation to look into cases of abuse by the Officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) which has now been disbanded and make recommendations for the compensation of victims.
According to Mr. Lanre Amuda, the secretary of the panel, he said after few days of the directive by the National Executive Council, the Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, pursuant to the powers vested on him under section 2 of the Commission of Inquiry Law, Cap. 32 Vol. 1 Laws of Ondo State 2006, constituted an eight-man panel of inquiry with the following terms of reference; to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related judicial killings by the police in Ondo state, to evaluate evidence and draw conclusions on the validity of complaints, to recommend compensation and other remedial measures and to carry out any other assignment that may be deemed necessary pursuant to the purpose of the panel.
The chairman of the panel retired Hon. Justice Adesola Sidiq in his inaugural address said this eight-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry was constituted on October 20 and November 4, 2020, by the governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, pursuant to the Commission of Inquiry Law of Ondo State 2006 was to ensure that justice is done in addressing complaints of police brutality, extra-judicial killings, and infringement of the fundamental human rights of the great people of Ondo state by some officers of the disbanded SARS.
He further explained that the panel would stick to its terms of reference, which include, receiving and investigating complaints of police brutality, human rights violations, or related extra-judicial killings by the disbanded SARS officers and police officers alike. It will also consider petitions on vandalism of properties and abuse of fundamental rights during ENDSARS protests, evaluate the evidence presented and other surrounding circumstances, draw conclusions as to the validity of the complaints, and recommend compensations and other remedial measures where appropriate, among others.
According to him, the panel has so far received a total of thirty-one petitions from the members of the public and we shall continue to receive petitions as we intend to accord everyone an equal opportunity to attain justice as long as they are ready to pursue it before this panel, he stated.
The membership of the panel includes a retired High Court Judge, Hon. Justice Salisu Adesola Sidiq as the chairman, Mr. Ifeanyi Odili and Mrs. Banke Olagbegi representing civil society groups, Chief Samuel Adetuyi, a retired commissioner of police, Mr. Oluyemi Fashipe representing the youths, Mr. Leo Ologun from the Office of the State Attorney-General, Mr. Sunday Oyewole representing the National Human Rights Commission and Mr. Lanre Amuda, the secretary of the panel.
Meanwhile, The Nigeria Police Force has filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja praying for an order stopping the various states’ judicial panels of inquiry probing allegations of rights abuses and other acts of the brutality of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad and other police tactical units.
According to THE PUNCH, the plaintiff in the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/1492/2020, urged the court to restrain the Attorneys-General of the 36 states of the federation and their various panels of inquiry from going ahead with the probe focussing on police impunity.
The defendants, totaling 104, who were sued by the NPF, comprised the Attorney-General of the Federation, the National Human Rights Commission which set up the Independent Investigative Panel sitting in Abuja, the Attorneys-General of the states, and chairmen of the states’ panels.
The decision to set up the various panels of inquiry was taken by the National Economic Council with members including the 36 state governors and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in the aftermath of the recent nationwide #EndSARS protests demanding an end to police brutality.
The NPF, through their lawyer, Mr. O. M. Atoyebi (SAN), argued in the fresh suit that the state governments lacked the power to constitute the panels to investigate activities of the police force and its officials in the conduct of their statutory duties.