7th December – 12th December 2020
The Judicial Panels of Inquiry set up by the state governments continue sittings in the FCT and 25 states while Oyo, Bayelsa, Kaduna and Kogi States are yet to commence sitting. Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara states are yet to set up their Panels. The Panels remain a sign of hope for petitioners who are demanding justice and the enforcement of their fundamental rights. While the Panels still face a major challenge of lack of cooperation from the Nigeria Police Force, with Police officers refusing to respect the invitation of the Panels to answer to cases brought against them, it is important to note that the number of petitions before the Panels is an indication of the level of trust victims have in the constituted Panels.
As noted in the Weekly Updates on the #EndSARS Judicial Panels of Inquiry – No. 6, Yiaga Africa and Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria strongly condemn the action by the Police to stop the various Judicial Panels of Inquiry probing allegations of rights abuses and police brutality. Again, we call on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to ensure the suit is withdrawn and police officers are instructed to appear before the Panels as necessary.
In the week under review, Yiaga Africa’s independent citizen observers continued to attend the Panel hearings to provide information on the proceedings. Our independent observation of the Panels indicates that while Oyo, Bayelsa, Kaduna and Kogi States are yet to commence sittings, petitions are being received at the Panel Secretariat in Oyo and Bayelsa. It is important that all states establish their Panels and commence sittings to ensure that all victims are able to access justice.
As the Panels continue to sit and receive petitions, Yiaga Africa, Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria and other civic actors will continue to monitor proceedings at the Panels and follow through this process to provide information to citizens and promote accountability. Findings from the week under review include:
- Increase in the Number of Petitions Submitted across States: This week’s observation of the Panels shows an increase in the number of petitions submitted. Data from the panels show the following number of petitions submitted across the states: FCT – 250 petitions, Rivers State – 181 petitions, Anambra State – 260 petitions, Edo State – 147 petitions, Lagos State – 210 petitions, Imo State – 110 petitions, Abia State – 87 petitions, Akwa Ibom State – 159 petitions, Ekiti State – 81 petitions, Katsina State – 61 petitions, Plateau State
– 58 petitions, Cross River State – 61 petitions, Ogun State – 105 petitions, Oyo State – 50 petitions, Enugu State – 72 petitions, Benue State – 51 petitions, Ondo State – 32 petitions, Osun State – 27 petitions, Bayelsa State – 40 petitions, Niger State – 18 petitions, Kwara State – 21 petitions, Nasarawa State – 36 petitions, Delta State – 78 petitions, Ebonyi State – 37 petitions, Taraba State – 14 petitions, Adamawa State – 7 petitions, Gombe State – 15 petitions, Bauchi State – 10 petitions.
- Victims Constitute 60% of Witnesses Approaching Panels of Inquiry for Justice across the States: Reports from the Yiaga Africa observers show that so far, 60% of witnesses that have made submissions are victims of police brutality; 30% are family members of victims of police brutality; 5% are police/security agencies; 2.3% are government representatives; while 2.7% fall into other categories. Yiaga Africa’s findings also reveal that due to the volume of petitions received by the Panels in some states, hearings/sittings last as long as 10 hours.
- More Evidence Presented across Panels of Inquiry: A person with a disability who was the breadwinner of his family was killed by a stray bullet to his head. The bullet was shot by a SARS official on July, 15th 2019 at Ajisegiri Street, Ilupeju, Lagos State. It was testified by a witness that later that day in the evening of the gruesome murder, the victim was carried by the officer who shot him in the company of some of his colleagues. The victim was dropped off in a container in Yaba beside the Military Hospital. The witness also testified that when he went to the container to retrieve the dead body, he was asked to pay ten thousand, five hundred naira (N10,500) after which the body was released and an autopsy was conducted. Evidence provided at the Panel was written evidence, pictures of the victim before and after his death, bullet pellets, autopsy report and forensic report. Other evidence presented across the different state Panels include:
- Pictures of two (2) houses demolished by SARS and a copy of a court judgment in favour of the petitioner requiring SARS to compensate the petitioner were presented in Osun State. The said compensation is yet to be paid by SARS;
- Car ownership documents, pictures of some cars and submission of motorcycle particulars which were seized by SARS officers for unknown reasons and are yet to be released were presented in Ekiti State. Documents and receipt of payment for embalming the body of a victim killed by SARS as well as the death certificate were also presented by a petitioner in Ekiti State;
- Casefile JPPB/MEMO/120 was presented by SARS against a petitioner in Akwa-Ibom State;
- A 60-year old man who lost his sight due to police teargas presented himself as evidence in Edo State.
- A photograph of a victim killed by SARS was also presented in Edo State;
- A photograph of a victim killed by SARS was presented as evidence in Rivers State;
- A fake police file and accompanying documents which was used to detain a man in prison was presented as evidence by a petitioner in Enugu State;
- X-rays, 29 hospital receipts and 3 photographs were presented by a petitioner in Ogun State;
- Pictures of a victim of police brutality were presented by a petitioner in Nasarawa State;
- A copy of the Nigeria Army’s Rules of Engagement was presented by a petitioner in Nasarawa State;
- Pictures of victims of police brutality were presented in Ondo State.
- Non-Compliance by Police Officers to Appear before the Panels: A worrisome trend observed across most of the states is the non-compliance by police officers to the invitations to respond to cases brought against them. This is causing a lot of delays in the Panels’ work and becoming a major threat to justice for the victims and/or petitioners. For instance, in Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ukana raised concerns about the attempts by senior officers of the Nigeria Police Force to berate, frustrate and intimidate appearances of the police legal team. In Benin City, CSP Caro Afegbai approached the state High Court sitting in Benin City praying the court stops the Edo State Judicial Panel of Inquiry from hearing the case against her because the said case is already before a Federal High Court. While Yiaga Africa and Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria encourage petitioners to only present cases of police brutality to the Panels that are not in court, it is important to note that this is an indication of citizens losing faith in court processes that are so prolonged, that they fear they may never receive justice.
Yiaga Africa and Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria note and recommend the following:
- Government Support to the Panels: The primary responsibility of government is the security and welfare of the people which includes ensuring that its citizens are not victimized and brutalised by officers of the law. We call on both the Federal and State governments to provide adequate support and resources needed to ensure the Panels function optimally. In addition, the government at both the Federal and State levels should ensure all states constitute their Panels and commence sittings to ensure the process of justice for victims of police brutality is national and inclusive.
- Police Reform Crucial for Rights-Driven Policing: A major demand of the #EndSARS protest is the need for urgent police reforms that ensures a more sustainable approach to a systematic review of the Nigeria Police Force. We, therefore, call on the Federal Government to commit to the process of police reform. In addition, we specifically demand that the Police Service Commission deploys personnel to observe the sittings of the Panels to properly document reports against officers and commence internal disciplinary procedures for all police officers with cases against them in the Judicial Panels of Inquiry.
- 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) in some states is a threat to the work of the Panels and an abuse of the process. 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 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 IGP on this issue undermines the process and calls the government’s intent to question.
Enough is Enough (EiE)