Weekly Updates on the #EndSARS Judicial Panels of Inquiry – No. 10

18th January, 2021 – 23rd January 2021

In the week under review, 22 states, namely: Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Ekiti, Gombe, Rivers, Taraba, Kwara, Edo, Kaduna, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ondo, Osun, Benue, Cross-River, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Ogun and Plateau, held proceedings at the Judicial Panels of Inquiry on police brutality and other human rights abuses following the recess for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

As the panels start to reach the midpoint of the duration of their sittings, emerging trends from across the country, reported by citizen observers deployed across the states and the FCT show that Oyo and Kogi State remain the only states that have constituted a Judicial Panel of Inquiry but are yet to commence sittings, as petitions continue to be submitted at the Panel secretariat. The refusal to constitute Judicial Panels of Inquiry in Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara States indicate a pattern of response that underlines the Nigerian government’s unwillingness to engage in meaningful security sector reform. While the #EndSARS protests began as protests against a special unit of Nigeria’s Police Force, it morphed into a larger cry against police brutality. It moved from police brutality to bad governance as it became obvious that police brutality was a symptom of a deeper problem. Yiaga Africa and Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE)’s observation of the Panels of Inquiry will continue to provide information to citizens, promote transparency and accountability and build citizens’ confidence in the process.

Findings from the period under review include:

  • Judicial Panels Resumption Dates from Recess: Some states have concluded the process of receiving and hearing petitions. All took a break for the holidays, with some returning in the last week of December 2020 and others early in the New Year. Many states complied with these dates, while some did not. The States and their supposed resumption dates are:

  • Petitions Submitted across the Country: Data from the Panels show the following number of petitions submitted across the country: FCT – 250 petitions, Rivers State – 188 petitions, Anambra State – 310 petitions, Edo State – 164 petitions, Lagos State – 230 petitions, Imo State – 110 petitions, Abia State – 87 petitions, Akwa Ibom State – 159 petitions, Ekiti State – 81 petitions, Plateau State – 58 petitions, Cross River State – 61 petitions, Ogun State – 105 petitions, Oyo State – 50 petitions, Enugu State – 75 petitions, Benue State – 51 petitions, Ondo State – 44 petitions, Osun State – 32 petitions, Bayelsa State – 40 petitions, Kwara State – 24 petitions, Nasarawa State – 36 petitions, Delta State – 78 petitions, Ebonyi State – 37 petitions, Taraba State – 28 petitions, Adamawa State – 14 petitions, Gombe State – 15 petitions, Bauchi State – 10 petitions, Kaduna State – 29 petitions.

Niger and Katsina States have concluded the Panels with 18 and 61 petitions respectively.

  • More Evidence Presented across Panels of Inquiry: At the Adamawa State Judicial Panel of Inquiry, an autopsy report of a victim of Police brutality, Mr. Saleh Bello, who was tortured while in police custody was presented, alongside a medical report from the State Specialist Hospital, Adamawa showing the treatment and drugs administered to the deceased before his death. The Adamawa Police Command confirmed the dismissal of Inspector Abubakar Ibrahim Kaka in 2018 for arresting and torturing the deceased.

Other evidence presented across the different Panels include:

    • A written petition submitted and marked as Exhibit N.S in Taraba State;
    • Pictures of a deceased victim of police brutality and an autopsy report in Gombe State;
    • Pictures and documents of a damaged car were submitted by Sergeant Alonge Olalekan and Yetunde Bamidele; a report of a police investigation; a communique and a copy of the charge sheet were submitted by Inspector Adewusi Adefisayo in Ekiti State;
    • Membership card of the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP); appointment letter as the Chairman of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP); Independent National Election Commision (INEC)’s list of state chairmen of political parties; photographs of injuries sustained at the hands of the police; and hospital receipts of medical treatment received were presented as evidence by the State Chairman of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) after he was severely beaten by police officers in Akwa-Ibom State;
    • X-rays of a dislocated leg and broken molar tooth were presented as evidence by a petitioner who alleged that the police beat him up for 2 hours non-stop in Ogun State;
    • Pictures of a damaged car and car documents were presented in Ekiti State;
    • Pictures of deceased victims of police brutality in Rivers State;
    • A compact disc of a video confession by the brother to a petitioner on his involvement in an armed robbery in Delta State;
    • A death certificate and autopsy report from Federal Medical Center, Yola was presented by a witness as evidence of death caused by police in Adamawa State;
    • Pictures of a deceased victim allegedly killed by SARS in Lagos State;
    • Pictures of a deceased victim of police brutality; and copies of a medical report and receipts of surgery of a victim of police brutality were presented by witnesses in Akwa Ibom State;
    • Truck licence plate and vehicle tracking sheet of a truck seized by police were presented in Ebonyi State;
    • A compact disc containing video evidence of police brutality was presented in Edo State;
    • A police victim’s hospital card was presented as evidence of treatment in Gombe State;
    • Pictures of a victim of police brutality in Nasarawa State;
    • Pictures of a victim of police brutality in Benue State;
    • A medical report and hospital receipts were presented by counsel to a petitioner in Lagos State.

Yiaga Africa and EiE Nigeria note and recommend the following:

  1. Continuous Absence of Security Agencies at Judicial Panels of Inquiry: Yiaga Africa and EiE Nigeria note the continuous absence of security agencies at the Judicial Panels of Inquiry. Specifically, the Lagos State Judicial Panel probing the Lekki Toll Gate incident of 20th October, 2020, warned the Nigerian Army of the consequences of its continued failure to honour summons compelling its appearance. The absence of the Nigerian Army at the Panel represented the third time in a row that the Nigerian Army’s 81 Division would fail to make an appearance through its officers or through a counsel that once represented it. We call on the leadership of the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies to ensure citizens receive a fair hearing in the recommendations the Panels will submit at the end of its sittings, when they submit their findings to the government.
  2. Support, Welfare and Independence of the Judicial Panels of Inquiry: In November 2020, the Judicial Panel of Inquiry in Anambra State went on an indefinite adjournment over ‘logistics’ issues, which resulted in the inability of the Panel to sit. In the week under review, the Anambra Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality, Extra-Judicial Killings and other Related Matters which was billed to resume from its Christmas/New Year break has been indefinitely postponed. The postponement is connected to the delayed provision of “logistical support” from the Government of Anambra State. Similarly, the Panels sitting in Abia and Imo States as well as the FCT have not resumed following the Christmas and New Year holidays. We call on both the federal and state governments to provide adequate support and resources needed to ensure that the Panels function optimally and safely during the sittings especially as Nigeria experiences the second wave of COVID-19. The lack of support and welfare for members of the Panel prevents the Panels from functioning optimally within the allocated time for the hearing of petitions in line with their terms of reference. The provision of adequate resources will enable the Panels to effectively carry out their assignment without interference from the other arms of government. This will ensure the independence of these Panels and build public trust in the process.
  3. Mid-Term Reports on the Judicial Panels of Inquiry: The Judicial Panels of Inquiry were set up in 29 states in line with the demands of young Nigerian citizens, following the #EndSARS protests in October 2020, to set up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police brutality and misconduct. The Terms of Reference for the Judicial Panels of Inquiry provided for the Panels to conduct their assignments for a period of 6 months. As the Panels approach the mid-point of their assignments, Yiaga Africa and Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria note the lack of proactive engagement with media and stakeholders by the Panels. We note the access given to the media and citizen observers and recommend that the Panels through their Secretariats share a Mid-Term Progress Report on the level of work completed, challenges associated with the assignments and recommendations to various stakeholders to ensure timely completion and submission of the Panels’ findings and recommendations to the government for implementation.

Cynthia Mbamalu
Yiaga Africa

‘Yemi Adamolekun
Enough is Enough (EiE)

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