By Babajide Okeowo
Four petitioners were on Saturday granted justice by the Lagos State Judicial Panel on Restitution for victims of Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS, and other related matters.
At the resumed sitting on Saturday, the panel gave decisions in six petitions and found that the four of them were able to prove their cases successfully.
The petitioners, comprising three women and a man, received a total of N16.25 million in total.
A breakdown of the amount shows that the three women received cheques of N10 million, N5 million, and N750,000 respectively, while the man got a cheque of N500,000.
They took turns to receive the cheques from the Chairman of the Panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi.
Following the presentation of the cheques to the petitioners, the panel moved on to the cross-examination of trauma and orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Babatunde Lawson, from Reddington Hospital.
However, the cross-examination of the medical practitioner was stalled because the counsel to the Lagos State government who was meant to take him through the process was absent.
Thereafter, the panel listened to the testimony of another petitioner, Samuel Ashola, who was at the venue of the Lekki tollgate protest in October 2020.
The first petitioner on Saturday, Felicia Opara, was a young woman who was captured in a viral video on Oct 12, 2020, following an alleged assault by some police officers in the Ojuelegba area of Lagos.
Among other things, the panel found that the culture of impunity and violence is rampant among some police officers in Nigeria.
The panel also found that there is sometimes an inability of the authorities to bring perpetrators of torture to book.
The panel, therefore, recommended an apology by the police to the petitioner, Felicia Opara.
The panel also recommended training of the police on human rights law & enforcement as well as the need to make policemen take responsibility for their actions.
The panel then awarded compensation to the petitioner in the sum of N750,000.
The second petitioner, Tolulope Openiyi was compensated with the sum of N10m.
The panel found that she successfully proved that her husband, Olusegun was shot dead in August 2017, by a police officer, Jide Akinola, attached to the Sabo, Yaba police station.
The panel found that there was no contrary evidence offered by the police to her testimony that her husband was shot at a police checkpoint.
The panel also found that though the police authorities arrested the erring police officer, his investigation was not properly conducted as he was later released.
The panel, therefore, recommended the prosecution of the police officer. The panel also recommended a scholarship for one child of the victim.
Other general recommendations made by the panel include public condemnation and immediate sanctioning of police officers where necessary and adequate and speedy compensation of victims and their families with the cost of compensation to be set aside by the Nigerian Government for the police.
The third petitioner, Francis Idum was alleged to be a victim of extrajudicial killing by a SARS officer during a cult clash, sometime in July, 2019
Witnesses who testified in the petition filed by family members of the deceased claimed police officers from Area F police command also took away his body.
In reaching its decision, the panel found that none of the witnesses who testified was an eye witness to the incident as they could not give direct evidence of the person who shot the deceased.
The panel also found that the evidence of the police on its movement of arms register for the day of the incident showed that only AK47 rifles were signed out for use and not a pistol as was allegedly used on the victim.
In the final analysis, the panel recalled that there was a cult clash on the day and the balance of probability and the preponderance of evidence tilted more in favor of the police.
The panel was therefore unable to recommend compensation for the petitioner as it was not proved that the gunshot which caused his death was a weapon handled by the police.
The panel however recommended that the police conduct a better investigation by commissioning an independent outfit vested with the mandate to unravel the circumstances that lead to the death of the petitioner.
In the fourth decision involving Oladoyin Ademola, the panel was also unable to recommend monetary compensation.
The panel held that the petitioner did not connect the cataract he suffers in his eye to acts of assault allegedly perpetrated on him by men of the Nigerian police.
The panel however recommended that the DPO and officers at the Dopemu checkpoint and police station as at the date of the incident should be investigated.
The fifth petitioner, Blessing Omoregie Esanbor was compensated with the sum of N5m.
The panel found that though her police assailant, Emmanuel Okujor was imprisoned for 17 years for the offence, the petitioner still has a permanent disability and requires plastic surgery to fix her face.
The panel also recommended periodic psychological evaluation of policemen especially those who bear arms.
The sixth petitioner, Tella Adesanya, an officer of Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Services under the Min. of Agriculture, was awarded N500,000 compensation for his unlawful arrest for three days, the seizure of his car since 2018 till date, extortion and for the trauma he suffered at the hands of the police officers.
The panel also recommended the immediate release of his car.