Judicial panels of inquiry set up to determine the extent of human rights abuses by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) have been turning in their verdicts, with compensations paid to victims in some states.
The National Executive Council (NEC), chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, with state governors as members, had passed a resolution for the setting up of the panels in the wake of the #EndSARS nationwide protest.‘
The panels, which were mostly set up between December 2020 and January 2021, include personnel from the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services (DSS), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), National Human Rights Commission, Ministry of Justice, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and police community relations committees.
The #EndSARS protest, which rocked the country in October 2020, was organised over years of police brutality and extrajudicial killings in most states of the federation while enforcing the law against criminality.
The protest was eventually hijacked by hoodlums, resulting in the loss of lives and property across the federation, forcing at least 28 states to set up the panels.
States that set up the panels include Abia, Adamawa, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Cross River and Enugu. Others are Kaduna, Katsina, Kogi, Kwara, Ekiti, Osun, Ogun, Lagos, Ondo, Oyo, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Bauchi, Gombe, Plateau, Nasarawa, Enugu, Ebonyi, Rivers, Taraba and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
So far, Bayelsa and Lagos panels are near conclusion of hearing and have awarded a cumulative sum of N163 million to victims of police brutality.
The Bayelsa panel awarded a total of N109 million to six families of the victims killed by police and other security operatives in the state.
The panel, which is still expected to give more judgements in the upcoming days, has so far delivered about eight verdits on their findings.
The panel, in May, awarded a total sum of N36million to victims and families of deceased in both police and soldiers’ brutality in the state.
Delivering judgements on the two matters brought before Justice Young Ogola, the panel awarded compensation in the destruction of property in Toru-Ndoro community in Ekeremor Local Government Area and shooting of peaceful protesters at Amassoma community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area in 2018.
According to one of the victims, Mr Agorowei Tukuwei, whose house was razed during the incident about three years ago, soldiers had invaded Toru-Ndoro community in Ekeremor in search of a suspected notorious militant identified as Karowei.
Unable to apprehend the suspect, who was later arrested and killed, the soldiers reportedly resorted to the destruction of houses and other property in the area.
Mr Tukuwei took the case to the Bayelsa State Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality and other Related Matters to seek justice.
Others awarded compensation include N22m to Richman Gburu, N14m to the families of the late Sunday Gbom and the sum of N29mn to the Niger Delta University, Amassoma, over shootings during the protest.
Others awarded include the family of Godgift Odoki, a four-year-old boy shot by the police in 2016 and N31m to Chibuzor Okere; and N13m to the family of a 17-year-old Innocent Kokorifa, who was shot dead by the police in 2016.
In Lagos, N57.25m, out of the N200m fund set up by Governor Babajide Sonwo-Olu, was awarded to victims of brutality by security agencies by the Justice Doris Okuwobi-led judicial panel.
The beneficiaries include the widow of the late Rasheed Olanrewaju Kareem, N10m; Yinka Austin Adebayo, N1m; Adebayo Abayomi and Hannah Olugbodi, N10m.
Others are Mark Nwadu, N7.5m; Mrs. Felicia Opara, N750, 000; Tolulope Openiyi, N10m; Mrs. Blessing Omoregie Esanbor, N5m; Tella Adesanya, N500, 000; Ndukwe Ekekwe, N7.5m; Isaac Adeshina, N3m and Andrew Okon, N3m.
In Kwara State, the Justice Tunde Garba-led panel, in February, received 25 petitions of rights violations by security agencies and has submitted its report to Governor Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq.
However, the government set aside N500m to compensate business owners affected by the #EndSARS protest. Of this amount, a total of N180.7 million was disbursed.
In Rivers State, about 171 petitioners that appeared before the Rivers State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on ENDSARS demanded monetary compensation from the police.
Chairman of the Rivers State Judicial Commission of Inquiry into police brutality and extrajudicial killings, Justice Chukwuneye Uriri, had disclosed that it received 171 petitions at its inaugural sitting in Port Harcourt.
So far, the number of petitions appears to be the highest in the country for torture, murder and violation of human rights by police operatives.
Justice Uriri said the panel would ascertain and identify acts of violence, torture, brutality, murder and violation of fundamental rights of citizens by officers of the Nigeria Police, especially operatives of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
One of the victims of police brutality, Lucky Eze, had asked the panel to compel the Nigeria Police to pay him N20 million as compensation for damaging his ear after sleeping him at his place of work in a Filling Station in Ahoada Town, Ahoada Council Area on January 28, 2018.
Two petitioners had presented demand for compensation amounting to N300 million, a 27-year-old pensioner, Fubara Briggs, who demanded for the sum of N200 million from the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) over the death of his friend identified as Monday Burabari, whom he alleged took ill and died after he was tortured by policemen at the Borikiri Police Division, Port Harcourt.
Festus Osuagwu, told the commission of inquiry how he lost his ability to walk, and his job, and also suffered partial memory loss, after he was allegedly attacked by operatives of the disbanded SARS.
In Ogun State, the Judicial Panel of Investigation on Police Brutality has concluded its sitting after conducting hearing in 58 cases, but it is yet to submit its report to the governor.
The panel chairman, Justice Solomon Olugbemi, while speaking at the end of the six months sitting period, said, “The panel received a total of 106 petitions, out of which 58 were treated and the remaining 48 were either withdrawn, rejected or abandoned wholly or half-way by the petitioners.”
Olugbemi said some were rejected because the petitions were not in line with the terms of reference that the panel was given by Governor Dapo Abiodun.
In Bauchi State, the judicial panel has heard 31 petitions but yet to make the final decisions.
The panels in Benue, Kaduna and the FCT went on break but have attended to petitions. Sources said their decisions would be made known in coming weeks.
Kano State did not set up a panel of inquiry in the aftermath of the EndSARS protest as directed by the federal government.
However, the government set up a 17-member peace committee co-chaired by the the Eze Ndigbo of Kano, Boniface Ibekwe and The Reverend Adeyemi Samuel as representatives from the Christian Association of Nigeria, with the responsibility of ensuring that sanity is restored in Kano following the destruction of many properties in the violence that broke out after the main protest.
In Imo State, the panel received 145 petitions and recommended N770,985,800 to be paid as compensation. The panel’s chairman, Florence Duroha-Igwe made this known in a statement at the end of the panel’s sitting and submission of its report to the state governor, Hope Uzodinma.
Why 7 states did not set up panels
Seven states that did not set up panels on violation of human rights are Borno, Yobe, Zamfara, Kebbi, Jigawa, Niger and Sokoto.
Officials said there was no #EndSARS protest in those states; therefore, there was no need to set up panels.
The Commissioner for Information in Zamfara, Alhaji Ibrahim Dosara, said he could not give reasons why the state did not set up a panel of inquiry, while the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice was unreachable.