Alliance for the Survival of COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), a coalition of 80 civil society organizations, has set up a 7-man independent panel of inquiry to probe the killings of Nigerians including the security operatives and the destruction of properties following the deployment of security operatives in the wake of the #EndSARS protests.
The panel led by Mr. Chino Obiagwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), according to the coalition, is not to counter the panels set up by the tiers of government but to complement and enrich the democratic space.
ASCAB disclosed this on Monday in a statement jointly signed by its General Secretary,
Ade Atambi and Adewale Adeoye, the publicity secretary respectively, saying the panel which has one month to complete its assignment, would be open to all Nigerians without restrictions.
This was just as the coalition said the independent judicial panel would receive information from members of the public and public officers, adding that it would invoke the provisions of the law to obtain vital information from certain agencies.
According to the coalition, the Nigerian people will own the process, saying the outcome of all findings would be made available to all stakeholders, including the Federal and State authorities.
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Speaking further, the coalition said the independent inquiry would conduct a non-partisan and public-interest driven inquiry into the killing of protesters, police and military personnel as well as the so-called hoodlums during the #ENDSARs protests, adding that its work will be assisted by local and international organisations and resource persons drawn from local and international human rights bodies.
ASCAB, while noting that scores of people, including protesters, police and military personnel as well as the so called hoodlums were confirmed killed “in questionable circumstances across the country during the #ENDSARs protests,” said it relied on local and international laws to pursue the independent inquiry.
The coalition, while further justifying the setting up of the panel, said it came into being in view of the controversy surrounding the killings, to receive information from bereaved families and other citizens in exercise of the fundamental right of members to freedom of expression, including freedom to receive and impart ideas and information without interference guaranteed by Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution and Article 9 (1) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.
“The independent inquiry is not to counter the panels set up by the tiers of government but to complement and enrich the democratic space. It is a challenge to those already set up by the government to ensure a transparent approach to all enquiries and to put first the public interests,” it said.
“Since Section 24 (e) of the Constitution has imposed a duty on every citizen to ‘render assistance to appropriate and lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order,’ the report of our investigation will be made available to the relevant law enforcement
authorities with a view to prosecuting indicted suspects in the appropriate courts,” the coalition added.
It noted that if any of the Attorneys-General does not accede to ASCAB requests to prosecute indicted suspects, the report of the investigation would form the basis of the application for the right of private prosecution under the applicable Administration of Criminal Justice Law.
“Without prejudice to the prosecution of indicted suspects, we shall approach the High Court in each state where citizens were killed with a view to securing the enforcement of the fundamental right of the deceased to life in accordance with Paragraph (e) of the Preamble to the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules 2009 which states that ‘human rights activists, advocates, or groups as well as any non-governmental organisations, may institute
human rights application on behalf of any potential applicant,'” ASCAB said.
Other members of the panel are Prof. Affiong Affiong (Secretary), Prof. Adenike Ogushe, Mr Y.Z Yau, former President, Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR); Mr Malachy Ugwumadu and two representatives of youths, Miss Fatima Umar and Mr Olumide Ogele.