The absence of the Lagos state Commissioner of Police, CP Zubairu Muazu and two other petitioners stalled some hearings in the ongoing state Judicial Panel sittings, on Tuesday.
The Panel was only able to treat one case out of the four cases initially slated to be handled at the first sitting.
The CP Muazu was expected to appear as a defendant in the case of Ndukwe Ekekwere who allegedly suffered police brutality and was taken to the panel sitting in a wheelchair.
HumAngle reports that the panel, which sat on Tuesday, was composed of eight members including two youth representatives – Rinu Oduala and Temitope Majekodunmi.
Their membership of the panel followed their nomination by youths in an online voting.
They took their oath of office alongside the Zonal Coordinator(South-West Zone) – National Human Rights Commission, Mr Lucas Koyejo.
They joined chairperson of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi (Rtd) and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa on the panel.
Other panellists are Mrs Oluwatoyin Odusanya, Director, Lagos State Directorate of Citizen’s Rights and Ms Patience Udoh, a representative of the civil society groups and Mr Segun Awosanya (Segalink) a human rights activist.
The Judicial Panel of Restitution at the Lagos Court of Arbitration will look at the claims against SARS, which was disbanded on October 11 in response to the protests.
The panel will also investigate the Tuesday, October 20 incident at Lekki Toll Gate.
Despite the lateness of some members of the panel to the hearing and the CP’s absence, one case – Okolue Agwu V FSARs was heard where he appealed for the panel to compel the police to obey the courts’ judgement.
He explained that the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was ordered to pay a N10 million damage awarded to him by a Federal High Court.
Okolue Agwu V FSARs
Okolue Agwu, who recounted his experience to the panel, said he was arrested in 2012 by police officers from Ojo Division and handed over to SARS, Ikeja, where he was illegally detained for 47 days on account that he stole money belonging to his former employer.
“I had a brutal experience with SARS in 2012, then I used to work with a company as a manager.
“I worked with the company for about four years, before I resigned and my boss authenticated my resignation.
“After some days, I was called upon for clarification and from there I was arrested by the Ojo Police Division and they handed him over to Ikeja SARS,” he added.
He said that he was falsely accused by his former boss for stolen funds and was arrested by the Ojo police and later taken to SARS station in Ikeja where he was beaten and paraded at the Alaba International market, two of his teeth were extracted.
He later sued the police for violation of fundamental human rights at the Federal High Court Lagos and judgment of ten million naira was given in his favour in 2015.
Agwu explained that since then, the Police have refused to comply with the judgement of the court.
He told the panel that he wants it to compel the police to comply with the judgment of the Federal High court.
‘Panel has my full support’ – Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari has stated that the Lagos State Judicial Panel has his full support, and expressed confidence in the outcomes of other panels set up by states.
The President disclosed this in a social media broadcast late Sunday evening. He said, “The Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up by the Lagos State Government has my full support, as it commences sitting this week.
“I am confident that all the State Panels will help ensure justice is done on behalf of the peaceful protesters and law enforcement agents who sadly lost their lives,” Buhari said on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the chairperson of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi (rtd) has urged other victims of SARS abuse to come forward with their petitions.
She said that the panel is independent of the government and will ensure that individuals with valid complaints of human rights violations will receive justice.
“If their cases are disposed of in a month or two, compensation, if recommended, would go to the victims immediately to assuage their pain
“We are looking forward to memoranda from those affected by the unfortunate incident of the shooting at the Lekki Tollgate plaza by the military,” Okuwobi added.
She said the panel will work with the civil society to assist them with credible evidence of the killings at the Lekki Tollgate Plaza.
“This is to ensure that there will be good evidence to assist the panel make appropriate recommendations in respect of all terms of reference of the panel,” she said.
Earlier, the president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Olumide Akpata who was present at the proceedings said that the NBA will be partnering the judicial panel and will also provide pro bono services to affected victims.
“The NBA is here to help victims of the now disbanded SARS and other human rights violations to properly articulate their petitions to this panel pro bono. This will be done in Lagos and around the country.
“The NBA will participate in observatory capacity to ensure that all goes well and ensure that justice is actually served. Our best hands will be available throughout the sittings of the panel.
“We look forward to justice being done and the recommendations of the panel for those who have been badly treated by institutions that have been set up to protect them,” Akpata said.
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