FeatureHuman RightsNews

#EndSARS: Victims Continue To Suffer As Government Delays Compensation

State governments continue to delay payment of compensation that seeks to help ease victims' pain.

On Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2011, Christopher Akarewan, a father of four, was shot and killed unlawfully  by the police officers at Okitipupa, Okitipupa Local Government Area (LGA) of Ondo State, Southwest Nigeria.

Akarewan’s crime was not paying the sum of N50 demanded by police officers at a checkpoint.

The day after his death, members of his family reportedly visited the police station to report the incident formally to the Divisional Police Officer at Okitipupa Divisional Police Headquarters. However, this did not turn out well, as the police denied the family entrance.

In the process, one of the police officers shot the younger brother of the slain Okada rider, Robinson Johnson Okotie, and he died almost immediately.

The case was presented to a Federal High Court sitting in Akure on Nov. 26, 2018, in which a judgment to award the sum of N7.9 million damages against the police for the killing of Akarewan was delivered. The court ordered that the payment should be made within 30 days.

However, Tope Temokun, the litigant to the family of the deceased, noted that the payment has not been made till the time of filing this report.

“We did not re-open our case before the panel. We simply presented our judgment before the panel and prayed the panel to recommend that the judgment be complied with, as we have written to both the commissioner of police of Ondo State and the Inspector-General of Police, demanding compliance, but all to no avail.”

“We had also written to the Attorney-General of the Federation, seeking the consent of the AG to execute the judgment against the fund of the Nigeria Police Force, before the panel came and we saw another public platform to canvas compliance.”

HumAngle has reported how Adeoye Akintunde, a firefighter who was wrongly arrested, detained, and tortured by now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) operatives, was also shortlisted to be compensated by the Ogun State government but this has not been effected.

Effect on family

Two years after the death of Akarewan, his children dropped out of school due to a financial crisis. They were later adopted and sponsored by an individual. 

Temokun noted that the wife has appeared before the panel of enquiry in Ondo to provide evidence but this has not brought any result to her.

After Akintunde was released, he was admitted into a private hospital where he spent about six days receiving multiple treatments on malaria, blood loss, typhoid and bruises sustained during his time in detention.

“It was during the panel sitting I noticed consistent dry cough and pain in my chest. I informed my doctor and he advised me to have an X-ray, where he later detected I had tuberculosis. I am still on tuberculosis medication and my health is not stable.”

“Till now, I am still nursing tuberculosis and I had to take my medication on an empty stomach on many occasions because I must not miss it a day, according to the doctor.”

“I go for a check-up on a monthly basis. The last test they did for me was about three weeks ago and it confirmed that I am still having tuberculosis. So as it is, I am tired and not interested in going for the medication again. The tuberculosis drug is a very powerful one.”

“Until I go through a thorough test in a very good hospital, I can’t say much about my health stability because there are so many symptoms that I can’t identify the meaning but everything requires money.”

Compensating victims

As part of efforts to get justice for victims of police brutality, Nigerian Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, directed all state governments to set up a judicial panel of inquiry which would investigate allegations of brutality and extrajudicial killings against the security operatives.

He directed all governors to immediately establish a victims support fund to enable the payment of monetary compensation to deserving victims.

While the Lagos State government announced the approval of a N200 million fund for the panel to compensate victims, the other 28 states still debate payment of the compensation.

HumAngle reported how 12 victims In Lagos had received a total of N68.25 million in six months.

As state judicial panels began to submit their resolution to the government, a report claimed that there were several disputes between state governors on payment of compensations to victims, as the amount requested was hugged.

However, in a recent development, the National Economic Council (NEC) directed state governments to pay compensation to victims of police brutality across the country.

The NEC resolved that “each state, in collaboration with the Federal Government, shall establish modalities for the settlement of all monetary compensations awarded by the panels. Already, as resolved by NEC, a number of states have set up Victims Compensation Funds, from which several of them have already received payments of sums awarded to them by the panels.”

“Council directed state governors to immediately forward copies of final reports of the panels to their Attorneys-General for prompt arraignment and prosecution of all indicted persons.”

“Where incidents in the reports relate to matters of discipline, in addition to prosecution, NEC urged the Nigeria Police Force to take disciplinary action on the affected officers in line with the provisions of the Police Act 2020.”

Fruitless wait

Akintunde, who had relied on the compensation said: “had I known they would not pay the compensation, I would have used the money I used for the panel sittings to take care of myself. I thought the government would bring us justice but the same government could not implement the panel’s recommendations. It is a pity.”

When HumAngle contacted the Ogun State judicial panel on the reason for the delay, Tosin Ogundele, a member, said, “the report has been submitted to the government. I do not have any authority to make any comment on it again.”

Also, in the case of Akarewan, Temokun wrote to the state government saying, “the precious time and state resources invested in the panel, both by the government and the public, would simply have amounted to a waste of precious time and public resources, if the recommendation, particularly, the deserving cases therein, is not implemented, for the real victims of police brutality to go away fulfilled that justice has been done.”

“We, therefore, call on Your Excellency sir, not to delay further in implementing the recommendation of this historic panel as it relates to police violations of fundamental human rights of your citizens in the state.”

 


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