22nd February – 28th February 2021
The Judicial Panels of Inquiry set up across Nigeria to investigate the excesses of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies have continued sittings in the FCT and these 13 states in the week under review: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Benue, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Gombe, Kaduna, Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Oyo and Plateau.
The ongoing Judicial Panels of Inquiry provide an opportunity for the Nigerian government at the federal and state levels to meet major yearnings of Nigerians, which is justice for all victims and survivors of police brutality and implementation of the eventual recommendations of the Judicial Panels.
In the FCT and 18 states, the Judicial Panels of Inquiry have closed submission of petitions, while the Panels in Adamawa, Edo, Niger, Katsina, Kwara and Rivers States have concluded sittings/hearings. The Judicial Panels of Inquiry in Niger and Kwara States have submitted their recommendations to the government for implementation.
On February 24, 2021, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State received the report of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up by the state government to investigate alleged police brutality and abuse of human rights in the state. The report was presented at the Government House Minna, by Justice Ishaku Usman, Chairman of the Panel. Justice Ishaku Usman said the Panel received 17 petitions and 53 witnesses appeared before it. 50 exhibits were tendered which included; three teeth of a young lady, three death certificates, 33 empty teargas canisters, and four bullet shells.
Similarly, on February 24, 2021, the Kwara State Judicial Panel of Inquiry submitted its final report to the Governor of Kwara State, Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq. The report is in three (III) volumes; Volume One (I) is the main report, Volume Two (II) contains the petitions received and adopted by the Panel while Volume Three (III) contains the list of all the exhibits tendered and admitted during the Panel’s proceedings.
The submission and public presentation of the reports are in compliance with Yiaga Africa and EiE Nigeria’s recommendations on submission and presentation of the reports.
Yiaga Africa and EiE Nigeria’s observation of the Panels of Inquiry will continue to provide information to promote transparency and accountability and build citizens’ confidence in the process.
Findings from the period under review include:
- 5 States Complete Panel Hearings, 2 States Submit and Publicly Present Judicial Panel of Inquiry Reports:In the five (5) states where the Panels have completed the hearings – Adamawa, Katsina, Kwara, Niger, and Rivers, our findings indicate that two (2) states, namely Niger and Kwara States have submitted and publicly presented the Final Report to the state government for implementation of their recommendations. However, lack of public access to the Final Reports could potentially prevent citizens from engaging with relevant stakeholders towards the implementation of the recommendations of the Panels. As Panels begin to conclude sittings and prepare their reports and recommendations, we note the importance of ensuring public access to the reports of the Judicial Panels of Inquiry for citizen engagement and advocacy for implementation.
- 9 States Continue with Submission of Petitions, 16 States and the FCT Remain Undecided on End Date for Panel Sittings:Reports from independent citizen observers deployed by Yiaga Africa and EiE Nigeria indicate that nine (9) states, namely Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Ebonyi, Enugu, Kaduna, Osun and Oyo States continue with the submission of petitions at the Judicial Panels of Inquiry, while 16 states and the FCT remain undecided on the end date for panel sittings. Yiaga Africa and EiE Nigeria findings indicate lack of information and official updates from the Panels of Inquiry in the states in relation to the number of petitions submitted, number of cases heard, deadlines for
submission of petitions and expected date which the Panels are to complete their assignments. We call on the Panels in the states to proactively engage with the media to ensure citizens are informed of the work done by the Panels since their establishment. Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara have consistently refused to constitute Judicial Panels of Inquiry, while Kogi State, is yet to hold an inaugural sitting despite the constitution of the panel.
- Petitions Submitted across the Country and Conclusion of Sittings: Data from the Panels show the following number of petitions submitted across the states and the
FCT, while observer reports indicate that the Panels have closed submission of petitions in the FCT and 18 states. In Adamawa, Edo, Niger, Katsina, Kwara and Rivers States, the panels have concluded sittings/hearings and the recommendations of the panels are to be submitted to the government for implementation.
- Uncertainty over End Dates for Panel Sittings: In October 2020, following the #EndSARS Protests across Nigeria and the diaspora, the National Economic Council (NEC), directive to establish Judicial Panels of Inquiry states that the Panel’s assignment should be concluded within a maximum of six (6) months unless it shows convincing reasons why the state governor should allow an extension. The JUSUN strike action which was embarked on in April 2021 has paralysed judicial activities nationwide including the activities of the Judicial Panels of Inquiry. This has created a situation of uncertainty over the end dates for the Panels’ sittings.
Yiaga Africa and EiE Nigeria note and recommend the following:
- Inconsistent Panel Sittings affect Completion of Panel Hearings: Yiaga Africa and EiE Nigeria note the inconsistency in the sitting of the Panels in some states including Enugu and Gombe largely due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ among other reasons. We recommend that the Panels provide timely information to the petitioners, media, observers, civil society groups and security agencies in the event of the Panels’ inability to sit on its set dates. Reports from independent citizen observers emphasize the importance of the process in order to ensure transparency and fairness towards delivering justice to all aggrieved parties. Panels should be consistent with their sittings, and be more open to the media in
order to ensure transparent processes and timely completion of their duties.
- Compliance by the Police/Defunct SARS Officers to Panels’ Invitation and Requests: As noted in previous reports, the non-appearance by the Nigeria Police Force and the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) officers in some states is a threat to the work of the Panels and an abuse of the process. As the time-frame for the assignment of the Panels gradually comes to an end, 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 Nigeria Police Force and the IGP on this issue undermines the process and calls the government’s intent to question.
- Citizen Engagement and Advocacy Towards Implementation of Panel Recommendations: It is important citizens remain active, engaged and advocate to the government to implement the recommendations from the Panels in line with the #5for5 demands on the Nigerian youth. We encourage citizens and organizations focused on good governance, justice, and police reform in the states where hearings have been completed to write to the Panels for a summary of its activities. They should also follow the actions of the
state governments in response to the recommendations of the Panels.
Enough is Enough (EiE)
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