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Judicial panels to probe police brutality in 36 states

The National Economic Council (NEC) has directed the immediate establishment of Statebased Judicial Panels of Inquiry across the country to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra-judicial killings with a view to delivering justice for all victims of the disbanded Force Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) and other police units.

The Council, chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, according to a statement made available to newsmen by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, specifically resolved that state governors and the FCT Minister should take charge of interface and contact with the protesters in their respective domains.

He said the Judicial Panels which would be set up in all the states would include representatives of youths, students, civil society organizations and would be chaired by a respected retired state high court judge. The Council also directed that state governors should immediately establish a state-based Special Security and Human Rights Committee to be chaired by the governors in their states, to supervise the newly formed Police Tactical Unit and all other security agencies located in the state.

The idea of the Special Security and Human Rights Committee in all states of the Federation and the FCT was to ensure that police formations and other security agencies in the state consistently protect the human rights of citizens. Members of the Special Committee would also include representatives of youths and civil society.

The head of Police tactical units in each of the State would also be a member of the committee. Regarding the Judicial Panel of Inquiry, each state government has been mandated to set up the Panel, chaired by a retired High Court Judge, with other members selected by the governor as follows: Two representatives of Civil Society groups; one retired Police Officer of high repute; one youth representative; one student representative; one representative of the State’s Attorney-General and a representative from the National Human Rights Commission were to make up the panel.

The terms of reference for the Judicial Panel, according to the Council, was to receive and investigate complaints of Police brutality or related extrajudicial killings; evaluate evidence presented/other surrounding circumstances, and draw conclusions as to the validity of the complaints; and recommend compensation and other remedial measures, where appropriate.

Its assignment should be concluded within a maximum of six months, unless it shows convincing reasons why the state governor should allow an extension. There would also be Human Rights Public Complaints Team of between 2 and 3 persons to receive complaints on an ongoing basis.

The team would be established by the Special Committee on Security and Human Rights. It was resolved that each State Government shall also set up such a Complaints Office to which members of the public can relate by telephone or social media channels. It shall be the duty of the officers of the Complaints Office to liaise with the leadership of security agencies, attempt resolution of complaints or otherwise guide the complainants.

The NEC also directed the governors to immediately establish a Victims Fund to enable the payment of monetary compensation to deserving victims. Meanwhile, the Inspector- General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Adamu, has vowed to punish any officers of the disbanded F-SARS who violated the rights of Nigerians. Adamu, however, told Nigerians that the Force leadership is irrevocably committed to doing everything within its powers to address the observed ills in the policing system.

“The Force leadership has clearly heard the voice of the people and is irrevocably committed to doing everything within its powers to address the observed ills, punish any offending officers and promote a people- friendly police force,” he said. The IGP warned officers and personnel across the country against the use of force on peaceful protesters.

Adamu’s warning came against the backdrop of ongoing demonstrations by #EndSARS protesters across some major cities in the country. The protests have continued despite the disbandment of SARS by the IGP, and the assurances by the authorities to meet the protesters’ demands.

The police chief’s order was conveyed in a statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba. “The IGP notes that citizens have fundamental rights of freedom of expression, assembly and movement which must always be upheld and protected by the police. “The IGP, however, appeals to protesters to continually conduct themselves peacefully and guide their ranks against infiltration by criminal elements,” Mba said.

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