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HomeExclusiveJourney so far on the Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution Across...

Journey so far on the Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution Across Nigeria

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By Babajide Okeowo

With the establishment of State Judicial Panels of Inquiry to hear cases of police brutalities that sparked a protest across the country, The Matrix’s BABAJIDE OKEOWO in this report takes a look at the breakdown of petitions submitted at the panel so far.

One of the key demands of the youth during the #ENDSARS protest was the establishment of State Judicial Panels of Inquiry to look into the incidents of police brutality.

While not all states have established Panels and some states are more active than others in sitting and responding to petitions, it has become imperative that Government is seen to be sincere in its commitment to ensuring justice for victims of police brutality and extra-judicial killings through its actions and media engagements.

To this effect, Yiaga Africa, Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria and other civic actors have continued to monitor the Panels and follow through with this process to provide information to the people and promote accountability.

According to reports from the Yiaga Africa monitored from their observation of the Judicial Panels of Inquiry, it has been revealed that as of November 29, 2020, the judicial panels across 27 states and the Federal Capital Territory received a total of 1, 752 petitions.

This week’s observation of the panels showed an increase in the number of petitions submitted. Data from the Panels showed the following number of petitions submitted across the states: FCT – 200 petitions, Rivers State – 171 petitions, Anambra State – 150 petitions, Edo State – 140 petitions, Lagos – 146 petitions, Imo State – 80 petitions, Abia State – 75 petitions, Akwa Ibom State – 92 petitions, Ekiti – 80 petitions, Katsina State – 61 Petitions.

Others were Plateau State – 58 petitions, Cross River – 54 petitions, Ogun State – 102 petitions, Oyo State – 50 petitions, Enugu State – 65 petitions, Benue State – 28 petitions, Ondo State – 26 petitions, Osun State – 24 petitions, Bayelsa State – 20 petitions, Niger State – 18 petitions, Kwara State – 21 petitions, Nasarawa State – 16 petitions.

Delta State – 15 Petitions, Ebonyi State – 37 petitions, Taraba State – 11 petitions, Adamawa state – 5 petitions, Gombe State – 3 petitions, Bauchi State – 4 petitions made up the list.

Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara States remain the states yet to set up their Judicial Panels of Inquiry, as reported last week.

Reports from the Yiaga Africa monitors show that so far, 58% of witnesses that have made submissions are victims of police brutality; 26% are family members of victims of police brutality; 9.7% were police/security agencies; 3.3% were government representatives; while 3% fall into other categories.

Yiaga Africa’s findings also reveal that due to the volume of petitions received by the Panels in some states, hearings/sitting last between 1 hour and 10 hours.

According to a statement by Yiaga Africa, “Nigerians deserve a process that inspires confidence in the Government’s commitment to justice for victims, thus dismissive statements and actions that seem to suppress the voice of citizens must not occur as they undermine the work of the Judicial Panels.

As the Panels sit and receive petitions, Yiaga Africa, Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria and other civic actors will continue to monitor the Panels and follow through this process to provide information to the people and promote accountability. Reports from the Yiaga Africa monitors from their observation of the Judicial Panels of Inquiry revealed”.

Shocking and heart-wrenching tales of police brutality continue to emanate from the judicial panel.

In Rivers State, for instance, a stray bullet shot by a SARS officer that killed a 3-day old baby was presented. The stray bullet had landed into the house of the Petitioner piercing into the umbilical cord of his 3-day old baby which led to her death. Also in Rivers State, medical reports and pictures of a 14year old killed by stray bullets of SARS officers were presented.

Other evidence presented to the Panels across the states include picture evidence of a bullet hole on the right shoulder of a petitioner; picture evidence of a victim killed by SARS accompanied by an autopsy report and death certificate in Rivers State, receipts of a petitioner’s impounded car by the police, car ownership document and corroborating pictures of physical assault by the police and a medical report were presented.

In a dramatic move, a candy was presented by a petitioner which he claimed SARS operatives had tagged as a “hard drug” and beaten him to stupor while collecting the sum of N350,000 from him as a result; pictures of a victim showing bullet holes on their back and a death certificate confirming the death by gunshot in Nasarawa State were also presented.

Yiaga Africa also condemned the failure to establish the #EndSARS Judicial Panels of Inquiry in Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara States and the delay in the commencement of sittings in Bauchi, Bayelsa, Kaduna, Kogi, Ondo and Taraba States in spite of the directive from the National Economic Council (NEC).

Yiaga posited that this move continues to undermine the government’s intent to ensure that citizens get justice from the illegal actions of police officers.

The group also decried the non-appearance by the Nigeria Police Force and the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) in some states describing it as a threat to the work of the Panels and an abuse of the process.

“We recommend that subpoenas be issued to respondents to ensure their appearance at the Panels of Inquiry. We also call on the Nigeria Police Force to ensure their officers are present to defend themselves before the panels. The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) has a duty to ensure officers comply as part of his commitment to police reform and justice for victims of police brutality. The non-compliance with invitations to the Panels should be interpreted as an admission of guilt and the continued silence by the IGP on this issue undermines the process and calls the government’s intent to question” the group stated.

As the panel continues to sit, it is hoped that victims of the brutality of police will find closure and much-needed justice.

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