#EndSARS Violence: Panels Begin Work In States

Judicial commissions of inquiries set up by state governments began sitting in some states on Monday.

The Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry for Restitution for Victims of SARS related abuses and the Lekki Tollgate Incident urged victims of the October 20 shooting of #EndSARS protesters by members of the Nigerian Army to come forward with their petitions.

The chairperson of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi (Rtd), said that the judicial panel had so far received 15 petitions from abuse victims of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

Okuwobi said the panel is independent of the Lagos State Government and will ensure that individuals with valid complaints of human rights violations will receive immediate compensation.

“If their cases are disposed of in a month or two, compensation, if recommended, should go to the victims immediately to assuage their pain.

“We are looking forward to memoranda from those affected by the unfortunate incident of the shooting at the Lekki Tollgate plaza by the military. The panel has received not less than 15 petitions relating to the disbanded SARS.

“We are indeed ready to commence the public sitting. The petitions are here without the petitioners around, the panel will start full proceedings tomorrow (Oct. 27).

“We are relying on the civil society to assist the panel with credible evidence of the killings at the Lekki Tollgate Plaza.

“This is to ensure that there will be good evidence to assist the panel make appropriate recommendations in respect of all terms of reference of the panel,” she said.

Okuwobi said the panel could not begin proceedings immediately because the nominations for the two youth representatives who are to sit as part of the eight-man panel was sent in late.

She noted that the two nominated youth representatives had not yet been sworn-in and could not join the panel for Monday’s proceedings.

“The panel will most definitely sit tomorrow (Tuesday) because they would have been sworn-in and the composition will be complete,” she said.

Mr Olumide Akpata, the president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) who was present at the proceedings said that the NBA would be partnering with the judicial panel and would also be providing pro bono services to affected victims.

“The NBA is here to help victims of the now-disbanded SARS and other human rights violations to properly articulate their petitions to this panel pro bono. This will be done in Lagos and around the country.

“The NBA will participate in observatory capacity to ensure that all goes well and ensure that justice is actually served. Our best hands will be available throughout the sittings of the panel.

“We look forward to justice being done and the recommendations of the panel for those who have been badly treated by institutions that have been set up to protect them,” Akpata said.

The panel is made up of the Chairman Justice Doris Okuwobi (Rtd), Mr Ebun Adegboruwa (SAN), Mr Taiwo Lakanu, a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police and a founding member of SARS.

Other panellists are Mrs Oluwatoyin Odusanya, Director, Lagos State Directorate of Citizen’s Rights and Ms Patience Udoh, a representative of the civil society groups and Mr Segun Awosanya, a human rights activist.

The panel is designated to sit for six months. The sitting days are Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 10:am to 4:pm and the venue of proceedings is the Lagos Court of Arbitration, No. 1A, Remi Oluwode Street, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.

Lagos panel member faults governors’ visit to Lekki Toll Gate

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and member of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry into the activities of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, has faulted the Southwest governors’ visit to the Lekki Toll Plaza, saying it is a usurpation of the powers of the Panel.

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In a statement on Monday morning, Mr Adegboruwa contended that since the Panel has been authorised to investigate alleged shooting at the Toll Gate, it is illegal for anyone else to visit the site without the Panel’s approval.

Referencing media reports that a former Lagos State Governor and current Minister of Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola (SAN) discovered and took away a hidden camera, Adegboruwa described the Fashola’s conduct as “illegally tampering with exhibits”.

He appealed to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to allow the Panel the full autonomy and independence it needs to operate.

The statement, titled, ‘Usurpation of powers of the panel of inquiry on SARS abuses’ reads:

“On Sunday, October 25, 2020, it was widely publicised that ministers and governors of the South-West visited the Governor of Lagos State on a sympathy tour of structures affected by the wanton looting and destruction that took place last week.

In the course of their visit, they were led to the Lekki Toll Plaza, to assess the situation thereat.

“It was at the same Lekki Toll Plaza that the incident of the alleged shooting of EndSARS protesters was said to have taken place. And based on public outcry, the Governor of Lagos State added the Lekki Toll Plaza incident to the terms of reference of the Judicial Panel that was set up.

“Since the Panel has been vested with jurisdiction over the Lekki Toll Plaza, I verily believe that it is illegal for anyone else to conduct any visit to the said Lekki Toll Plaza in the absence of and without the authority and consent of the Panel.

“It was reported that in the course of the visit, the former governor of Lagos State and the Honourable Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, discovered a hidden camera, which he took.

“This is a clear case of illegally tampering with exhibits that may become useful to the Panel in the course of its assignment.”

Panel commences sitting in Akwa Ibom, assures petitioners of justice

The Judicial Panel of Investigation on Incidences of Police Brutality in Akwa Ibom, yesterday held its inaugural sitting with a call on interested parties to submit memoranda to the panel.

The Chairman of the Panel, Retired Justice Ifiok Ukana, in his address, assured people with genuine complains of justice.

Ukana said the panel would do a thorough job by addressing the memoranda objectively.

“In the light of the following, this panel has invited memoranda from individuals, corporate bodies, interested development groups to avail themselves of the opportunity presented by setting up of this panel,” he said.

He called on people in the state with genuine grievances to approach the investigative panel and lay their complaints.

The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Akwa Ibom, Mr Uwemedimo Nwoko, promised that the state government would not interfere in the hearings of the panel.

Nwoko expressed optimism that the work of the panel would bring peace to the state and country.

The attorney-general and commissioner for justice promised the public that the submissions from the panel would be implemented by the government.

The Judicial Panel of Investigation on Incidences of Police Brutality in Akwa Ibom has as its terms of reference to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality, human rights violation and extrajudicial killings.

Similarly, the panel would also evaluate the evidence presented/other surrounding circumstances, and draw conclusions as to the validity of the complaints and recommend compensation and other remedial measures where appropriate.

The sitting of the panel was adjourned till Monday, November 16.

Obaseki inaugurates 22-man panel

Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki yesterday inaugurated a 22-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry to look into the circumstances surrounding the #EndSARs protest in the state and country at large.

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It is headed by retired Justice Ada Ehigiamusoe.

According to Obaseki, the panel is expected to look into the circumstances surrounding what has happened as a consequence of the demonstration in Edo over the last few weeks.

“As you are all aware, our youths in the state have been protesting in the streets. The youths across the country have been protesting against the high-handed operation of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

“Our youths have been demanding an end to all forms of police brutality; injustice and arbitrariness meted out by the SARS.

“They have also been demanding for reform in the police, justice and restitution for the victims who have been affected by SARS brutality.

“Edo government fully agrees with the yearnings and the reforms in the Nigeria Police Force, as it is a requirement and a necessity if we are going to have a better Nigeria.

“A better-managed police force will be of a great benefit to the government and people of Edo. People should not be afraid or apprehensive of their police because the police are meant to ensure their safety at all times

“This assurance can only be guaranteed if the policemen who have the constitutional responsibility to protect lives and properties are humane in carrying out their responsibilities in line with international best practices.

“The security agencies in the state have paid a huge sacrifice to protect lives and properties in the state in the last few weeks.

“In the face of destruction, they have had to maintain maximum restraint so that we do not lose any more lives,’’ he said.

Obaseki said the panel’s terms of reference included to receive complaints and petitions from the general public, particularly victims and all relatives, of all forms of police brutality in Edo and extrajudicial killing.

He also said it should recommend measures of compensation to victims and their families.

“The panel is to ensure that compensation is paid within 14 days of the decision to compensate and to recommend and direct the Attorney-General to immediately prosecute all persons responsible for all various crime committed.

“You are to recommend measures to forestall such incidence in the future and to make any other recommendations to government in addition to your mandate. You have 90 days to complete this mandate,’’ he said.

Ehigiamusoe assured the governor that they would carry out the assignment with the urgency it deserved. She appealed to the people of the state to be calm and support the panel.

Ekiti judicial panel of Inquiry begins sitting November 2

Ekiti State Government has disclosed that the judicial panel of inquiry set up to investigate cases of police brutalities and rights abuses in the state would commence sitting on November 2.

The panel added that it would also hold closed-door sittings for those who want their identities veiled during the panel’s sitting for fear of victimisation and other backlashes.

The State government had last week constituted a 10-man panel of inquiry led by a retired Judge of the Ekiti State Judiciary, Justice Cornelius Akintayo, to probe cases of police brutalities and right abuses in the state by men of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Olawale Fapohunda, who briefed reporters in Ado Ekiti, on the activities of the panel, said the sitting would not exclude any member of the society and would sit for six months.

Fapohunda said in view of the enormous interest shown by the public about the panel, said the panel will give the public unfettered right to speak about their experiences for the state to ascertain the depth of the problem.

Fapohunda said the state government had also established a Victims Compensation Fund to facilitate the speedy payment of monetary compensation to deserving victims.

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“There have been some questions on the composition of the Panel. We have deliberately selected members of the Panel to reflect our peculiar situation in Ekiti State. It is no coincidence that we have a large number of youth representatives on the Panel. The presence of representatives of Access to Justice Institutions is also strategic.

“I should also state that the petition does not have to follow any strict format. A simple complaints letter, stating when and what happened to the Petitioner, where it happened and identifying the violator will suffice.

“We deliberately located the Secretariat in the Department of Citizens Rights in the Ministry of Justice so that Petitioners can also get help with writing the petition.

“For example, we are aware of a number of persons that require help with medical costs. We can’t in all fairness ask these persons to wait for too long a period. In addition, without petitions, the Panel cannot sit”.

Marwa: enough of bloodshed, time to embrace dialogue

Former Military Administrator of Lagos State and Chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA) Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa has called on the youths to embrace dialogue and constructive engagement with authorities at all levels of government to achieve their demands and the realisation of Nigeria of their dream.

Gen. Marwa, in a statement, said: “As a former military administrator of Lagos with great bonds and cherished affinity with the good people of the state, I was deeply troubled and worried by the news reports I got about the ugly turn of events at the Lekki toll plaza on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, and the subsequent wanton destruction of public and private assets. This should never have been if peaceful protesters had not been confronted with live bullets and innocent lives lost in the process. The chain reaction that followed and the hijack of that by some other elements, motivated by other motives should serve as a great lesson to all stakeholders in the Nigerian project.”

He also commiserated with Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, APC leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Oba of Lagos Rilwan Akiolu and other state governors.

“No doubt, the demands of the youths have caught the attention of government at all levels and even the international community. As such, I want to implore them that now that their statement had been made loud and clear, they should modify their strategy; embrace the dialogue option, so as to deny fifth columnists the chance to change the narrative of their struggle and tarnish their unblemished agenda,” he added.

The PACEDA chairman said that the spate of violent attacks, mindless destruction, looting and arson across the country underscores and brings to the front burner the urgent need to wage a ferocious war against substance abuse in the country. He explained that the prevalent cases of substance abuse by some hoodlums have aggravated the mayhem in some parts of the country. According to him, “more than ever before, the recent events have again shown that there is the urgent need to expedite all pending actions by the government to tackle and make decisive moves against substance and drug abuse in the country.”

Gen. Marwa called on well-meaning Nigerians, particularly the traditional rulers, religious leaders, civil society organisations, women associations and youth groups, to rally round federal and state governments to restore peace, normalcy and order in the country.

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