#EndSARS: Police want court to stop judicial panels

THE Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has asked a Federal High Court in Abuja for an order stopping the judicial panels of inquiry set up by state governors to probe allegations of police brutality and human rights abuses against the Force. 

Following the #EndSARS protests, state governors were directed by the National Economic Council (NEC) to establish judicial panels across the country to deliver justice to victims of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units. 

Joined as defendants in the suit are the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Attorneys-General of the states, and chairmen of the panels set up by the states. 

The police, in the suit numbered FHC/ ABJ/ CS/1492/2020, and filed by its counsel, O.M Atoyebi, argued that the establishment of panels of inquiry by state governors to investigate the activities of the Force violates, “Section 241(1)(2) (a) and item 45, part 1, first schedule to the constitution and section 21 of the tribunals of inquiry act.”

The police said the action of the governors “is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever” and asked the court to restrain the defendants from conducting any investigation or setting up panels to probe the affairs of the security agency.

The police also want, “A declaration that, having regard to the provisions of Section a14 (1)(2) (a) and Item 45, Part 1, First Schedule, 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the Federal Government of Nigeria has the exclusive power to organise, control and administer the Nigeria Police Force.”

The Force wants the court to also declare that the establishment of panel of inquiries by various state governors to inquire into the activities of the Nigeria Police Force in relation to the discharge of its statutory duties is a gross violation of the provisions of Section 241 (1)(2) (a) and Item 45, Part 1, First schedule of the 1999 Constitution.

“A declaration that having regard to the circumstances of this case, the attitude of the governors of the various states of the Federation of Nigeria, in this case, is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever. “An order of perpetual injunction restraining the third to 38th defendants (the Attorneys-General of the 36 states) from making or conducting any investigations, sittings and inquiries and/or from making or conducting any further investigations, sittings and inquiries in respect of matters affecting the Nigeria Police Force, and or further setting up any panel of inquiry in any state whatsoever in the country.”

However, in a surprising move, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has directed immediate investigations into the suit.

In a statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, the order came on the heels of trending reports in the media as the police boss expressed the disapproval of the Force management team on the matter.

Adamu has also ordered investigations into the alleged role of the Force Legal Section, including its Head, as the statement said anyone found guilty of dereliction of duty may face further sanctions.

Meanwhile, the Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up by the Ondo State government to probe and investigate police brutality and abuse of human rights by security operatives on Thursday, said it had received 32 petitions from victims of abuse.

Chairman of the nine-man panel, Justice Adeola Sadiq (retd), who disclosed this in Akure, the state capital, during the inaugural sitting of the panel, said the panel would be transparent in the course of its assignment.

Justice Sadiq, who explained that the panel would be sitting only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, urged members of the public who had suffered any form of abuse from the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) not to hesitate to send their petitions.

Meanwhile, the police on Thursday returned title documents belonging to Mr Gabriel Ofoma, in compliance with the order of the National Human Rights Commission’s panel, sitting in Abuja, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) has reported. The panel investigating allegations of human rights violations against the disbanded SARS in Abuja, had on November 16, ordered the police to appear before it with the said title documents. Ofoma had approached the panel and requested it to order the police to return the Certificate of Occupancy of his land allegedly seized by officers from the Monitoring Unit of the Nigerian Police, FCT Command.

At the resumed hearing on Thursday, the panel officially handed over the said document to Ofoma after it received same from the police authority. Counsel to the police, Mr James Idachaba, told the panel that his client was merely involved in the matter to assist the panel and complainant. He noted that his client had been doing that and would continue to do same, since the said documents did not belong to the police.

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