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Weekly Updates on the #EndSARS Judicial Panels of Inquiry – No. 21

1st – 31st May 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 these 4 states in the month under review – Abia, Cross River, Lagos, and Oyo. This is an additional month to the 6 months officially stipulated by the National Economic Council (NEC), after the directive to establish Judicial Panels of Inquiry across Nigeria to investigate complaints of police brutality and extra-judicial killings, which ended in April 2021.

As of May 2021, sixteen (16) states from among the twenty-nine (29) states and the FCT where Judicial Panels of Inquiry have been established had completed their hearings –
namely Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Imo, Katsina, Kwara, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Plateau, Rivers and Taraba. However, only two (2) states, namely Kwara and Niger, have submitted and publicly presented the report of the Panel to the state government for implementation of their recommendations. A total of 2,791 petitions have been submitted across the 29 states and the FCT, with only Kogi State still accepting petitions.

On Saturday, May 22nd, a witness of the alleged Lekki shooting presented his testimony to the panel. According to him, he saw men of the Nigerian Army open fire on the protesters.
He counted no fewer than 10 dead bodies, which the men of the Nigerian Army carted away in a van. He further presented an X-ray result, alleging that he was shot in the chest. This evidence was admitted by the Panel.

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:

  • Complaints over Size and Progress of Compensation: According to information from Yiaga Africa and EiE state-deployed observers, victims of police brutality have consistently given specific amounts for compensation, and demanded that the state pays them the amount. Due to that, there has been outrage over the differences between the amounts quoted by petitioners and the eventual amount paid by the Panel. A petitioner at the Lagos state Judicial Panel of Inquiry was awarded the sum of 7.5 million naira as compensation. However, the petitioner refused to collect the sum, stating that he was unjustly treated by the Police Force, after which he was forced to sell his lands, all properties and goods. To him, it was a ‘paltry sum’ and was ‘ridiculous’.
  • #EndSARS Supporters Continue Facing Intimidations:It is notable that 6 months after the #EndSARS protests, the establishment of Judicial Panels of Inquiry, and the promise by the government to grant the #5for5 demands, supporters continue to face intimidation and censorship. For example, some bank accounts are still frozen. A petitioner who was recently released after a 41-day detention by the State Security Service, told the Lagos state Judicial Panel that he is still being ‘frustrated’ by the SSS. These clampdowns negate the essence of the establishment of the Panels, as it conveys a lack of commitment by the government to uphold their end of the bargain.

 

  • Uncertainty over End Dates for Panel Sittings:Reports from the Panels across 29 states and the FCT show a lack of certainty about the 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 Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) strike which started in April 2021 has paralysed judicial activities nationwide including the activities of the Judicial Panels of Inquiry. For example, states such as Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Enugu, Nasarawa and the FCT have been on an indefinite break for months now.

 

Yiaga Africa and EiE Nigeria note and recommend the following:

  1. Welfare for Judicial Panels of Inquiry, Demand for Autonomy for the Judiciary: Yiaga Africa and EiE Nigeria note the worrying trend in these 6 states – Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Enugu, Nasarawa and the FCT. Federal and state governments must provide adequate support and resources needed to ensure that the Panels in the FCT and across the states function optimally. Yiaga Africa and EiE Nigeria note that the strike by JUSUN has led to disruptions in the timeline for completion of the Panels. Yiaga Africa and EiE Nigeria also recommend a suspension of the strike to allow courts and Panels to deliver justice on pending/outstanding hearings. In the same vein, the lack of support and welfare for members of the Panels prevented the Panels from carrying out their assignment within the allocated 6 months, which is now past.
  2. Public Access to Final Reports and Implementation of Recommendations: In the sixteen (16) states where the Panels have completed the hearings – Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Imo, Katsina, Kwara, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Plateau, Rivers and Taraba, only 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. Yiaga Africa and EiE Nigeria however, note that none of the Reports are publicly accessible. This situation could potentially prevent citizens from engaging with relevant stakeholders towards the implementation of the recommendations of the Panels. We recommend that the Final Report of each Panel be made available for citizen engagement and monitoring of the implementation of the Panels’ recommendations.
  3. Implementation and Further Adjustment to Size of Compensation: Yiaga Africa and EiE Nigeria note the inconsistency in the award of compensations, as well as the accompanying grievances expressed by victims. We recommend that petitioners be adequately compelled to present evidence of material loss, and the Panel tries to award compensation that equates or almost covers what the victim has lost. We reiterate that while monetary compensations do not begin to make up for the loss suffered by citizens, the award should at least be tangible enough to cover loss.

Signed
Cynthia Mbamalu
Yiaga Africa

‘Yemi Adamolekun
Enough is Enough (EiE)

 

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