Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Delta, Edo, Abia, Plateau get panels on SARS abuses

Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Abia, Delta, Edo and Plateau states on Monday inaugurated panels to probe cases of human rights abuses against the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, while inaugurating the panel, appealed to youths protesting police brutality to vacate Lagos roads and embrace dialogue for resolution of the issues.

He said the government has shown sincerity and willingness to address all concerns raised.

Sanwo-Olu’s appeal came on the heel of violent dimension assumed by the #EndSARS protests in some parts of the state.

According to Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos State government has also established a compensation fund for the victims of police brutality.

He said: “We have shown an unprecedented commitment to the complete overhaul of the Nigeria Police. The inauguration of this Judicial Panel of Inquiry is only the first step in a long line of reformative actions that will lead to a thorough revamp and reorientation of the Nigeria Police. I believe that some of the actions we have taken should, to a large extent, show our sincerity and willingness to address all your concerns.

“Let me reiterate that I am on the side of the young people out there. I understand your pain and I know your concerns are genuine and legitimate. While we are able to immediately acquiesce to some of your demands, some others will require time. We ask you to bear with us as we dutifully work on your demands.

“I will, therefore, like to renew my appeal to you to suspend the protests and create an atmosphere for the resolution of all pending demands. I encourage everyone brutalised by the disbanded SARS, including the families of those who died, to present their case before this tribunal.”

Sanwo-Olu said he believed the task of reforming the police was achievable, but required the input and cooperation of the youth to accomplish.

He commended the cohesiveness of the “resilient” young people who stood their ground in the last two weeks. Their tenacity, Sanwo-Olu said, has made the much-desired change in the policing system become inevitable.

Speaking about the judicial panel, the Governor said he was convinced that its outcome and recommendations would open a new chapter in the police-citizen relationship.

He promised that the State Government would ensure that all wounds are healed, justice served to victims of abuse, and guilty police officers prosecuted.

At the time of the swearing-in of the panel members, the representatives of the youth in the panel had not been nominated by the protesters.

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The government, last Friday, reached out to the protesters to forward the name of their nominees into the judicial panel. The protesters, however, pleaded for more time to send the names of their nominees, four days after the government’s request.

Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun, who also inaugurated the Judiciary Panel of Investigation on SARS atrocities in his office at Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, called on members to make fairness, firmness, dedication and objectivity their watchwords.

Abiodun enjoined the panel to shun all acts which could impact negatively on their assignment, urging stakeholders in the security, peace and conflict resolution processes as well as the mass media to give the Panel the needed support to succeed.

“Needless to remind you all of the import of your assignment to the continued peace and security of our dear State, in particular, and our great Nation, in general. The people of our dear State await the outcome of your assignment. Indeed, I expect you to commence your assignment immediately and hold an inaugural meeting today.

“It is imperative that you make fairness, firmness, dedication and objectivity your watchword. You must shun all acts which could impact negatively on your duty. In the same vein, I enjoin all stakeholders in the security; peace and conflict resolution process; the mass media; and, in fact, all the people of our dear State to give this Judicial Panel of Investigation all the necessary support and cooperation needed for them to succeed.

“Though this panel has six months to conclude this assignment, we will not wait for six months before we begin to implement. They will be taking the reports in phases so we can take immediate action,” he said.

According to the governor, the terms of reference for the Judicial Panel of Investigation are to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality, human right violation or related extrajudicial killings in the state; evaluation of the evidence presented or other surrounding circumstances and draw a conclusion as to “the validity of the complaints and recommend compensation and other remedial measures more appropriate so that cheques can be issued; determine the officers responsible in the abuse of victims and recommend their prosecution, make recommendations to the Ogun State government on how to ensure that Security agencies no longer abuse the rights of our citizens.”

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Aside the Judicial Panel of Investigation on Human Rights Abuses in the state, a Special Security and Human Rights Committee was also set up under the chairmanship of the governor while the Human Rights Complaint Office with an Ombudsman and two other members were also set up.

The Chairman of the Panel, Retired Justice Solomon Olugbemi, thanked the governor for the confidence reposed in him and his team, pledging that the panel would ensure that justice was served to everyone irrespective of social or political standing in the society.

Ekiti State Governor Dr Kayode Fayemi also released the names and terms of reference of the panel to probe abuses by SARS.

Members of the Panel are Justice Cornelius Akintayo (Chairman), Mr. Dipo Ayeni, A RETIRED Commissioner of Police, Mrs. Yetunde Kolawole, State Counsel- (Representing the Honourable Attorney-General & Commissioner for Justice), Mrs. Kikelomo Owolabi, Chairperson, Nigerian Bar Association, Ikere-Ekiti Branch, Mr. Rotimi Ojomoyela, Chair, Nigerian Union of Journalists, Ekiti State Branch, Mr. Jamiu Abiodun Adigun, Representative, National Human Rights Commission, Mr. Adeyinka Opaleke, Representative, Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, Ms. Caroline Fakinlede, Ekiti State Youths Representative, Mr. Abiola Johnson-Ogunleye- Ekiti State Students Representative and Mr. Akin Rotimi, a researcher on Police Reforms.

The panel will receive and investigate complaints of Police brutality or related extra-judicial killings, among others.

In Jos, the Plateau State capital, Governor Simon Bako Lalong inaugurated an 8-member Judicial Commission of Inquiry.

Lalong, while inaugurating the commission of inquiry, at the Government House, urged the members to investigate complaints from aggrieved individuals, victims and groups, who might have been brutalised, killed and humiliated by the SARS.

The governor, in his terms of reference to the Justice Philomena Lot-led panel, urged the panel to also evaluate evidence and draw conclusions on the validity of complaints as well as recommend Compensation and other remedial measures.

Lalong said the commission has six months to conclude its assignment and submit its report to him.

His Edo State counterpart, Godwin Obaseki, urged the state’s panel to within ninety days to look into circumstances surrounding the protests in the Southsouth state.

Secretary to the Edo State Government (SSG) Osarodion Ogie, on Monday in a statement, listed members of the panel as Justice Ada Ehigiamusoe (Chairperson); Bishop Feb Idahosa, representing clerics; Francis Osayi, the representative of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU); Osahon Obasuyi, representing the National Youth Council (NYC); Prest Aigbokhian (civil society); Mrs. Uloaku Uzamere, the National Council for Women Societies (NCWS): Pius Efofan, the representative of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS); Pius Okpere and Kola Edokpayi (#EndSARS Movement); Mrs. Felicia Monyei (Ministry of Justice); unnamed representative of security forces; and Mrs. Joyce Ugbodaga, Secretary to the panel.

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The terms of reference of the panel are: “To receive complaints and petitions from the general public, particularly victims or relatives of victims of police brutality and extra-judicial killings, and to recommend measures, including compensation and restitution, investigation and prosecution, as the circumstances warrant.

“To advise on compensation or restitution to the victims, or – where the victims have been killed – to the family of the victims, based on a condition which shall be clearly laid out by the panel.

“To ensure that compensation is paid within 14 days of the decision to compensate.

“To recommend and direct the Attorney-General to immediately prosecute all persons responsible for the various crimes committed.

“To recommend measures to forestall reoccurrences in the future and to make any other recommendation to the government, in furtherance of the mandate of panel.”

Abia State Governor Dr Okezie Ikpeazu also approved the inauguration of a Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate allegations of extra-judicial killings and brutality by security agents in the state.

The committee, according to the statement by Information Commissioner John Okiyi-Kalu, would be inaugurated on Friday at the Government House, Umuahia.

In Delta, the government said plans were underway to set up a Special Victims’ Support Fund to pay monetary compensation to victims of police brutality or related extra-judicial killings in the state.

Governor Ifeanyi Okowa spoke yesterday in Asaba while inaugurating an eight-member Judicial Panel of Enquiry into police brutality and other human rights abuses in the state.

He said that the constitution of the panel was in line with the directive of the National Economic Council (NEC) headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and charged the body to bring justice to victims.

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