#EndSARS: Sanwo-Olu inaugurates judicial panel on brutality, human rights abuses

• Charges members on justice, fairness

Lagos State governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Monday, inaugurated the Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution set up to investigate cases of brutality and human rights violations committed by operatives of the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), as members took the oath of office at the State House, Marina.

The Justice Doris Okuwobi- led panel, immediately after being inaugurated, moved to LASWA Building located at Falomo Roundabout in Ikoyi for the inaugural proceeding.

Governor Sanwo-Olu said the swiftness of the process of the panel members’ composition was an indication of state government’s sincerity towards the quick resolution of the issues that led to the nationwide protests against the policing system.

According to him, the state government selected an unblemished retired judge to head the inquiry tribunal, given the enormity of the task at hand and the need to uphold the tenets of due process and fair hearing in the course of the panel proceedings.

“In the last two weeks, we have witnessed pockets of justified protests by our youth against police brutality. The pain of our young ones has been felt in various parts of Lagos and country as well as in the diaspora. The protesters have spoken in one voice against the unbridled violation of fundamental rights and lives by the disbanded SARS operatives,” the governor said.

“In my engagements with the protesters, they handed me a list of five immediate demands, which I personally presented to President Muhammadu Buhari last Tuesday. Before then, I had taken action on some of their demands, which included the immediate release of all those detained on account of their participation in the EndSARS protests and the raising of N200 million victims fund for compensation to families and individuals who were victimised by officers of the disbanded SARS.

“In response to one of the demands of our youth and in line with the resolution of the National Economic Council on October 15, 2020, chaired by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, the Lagos State government has constituted a Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution under the chairmanship of a retired Judge of the Lagos High Court, Justice Doris Okuwobi. We assure all victims that justice will be served,” he added.

“The tribunal, which will sit for six months, is charged to evaluate the evidence and draw conclusions on the validity of public complaints on police brutality and extrajudicial killings in Lagos, with the aim to determining and recommending compensation for victims and their dependents.

“The tribunal also, in its terms of reference, is mandated to interrogate SARS officers responsible for the abuse of victims and recommend their prosecution,” he further added.

The governor submitted that the panel took its legitimacy from Section 5 of Tribunals of Inquiry Law, Laws of Lagos State, 2015, stressing that the panel had powers to procure evidence and summon any person whether serving police officers or ones already dismissed to attend its proceedings to give evidence or produce any document or other thing in the person’s possession.

He promised the state government would not wait till six months- the period set for the tribunal to sit- before compensating victims as may be recommended by the judicial panel.

He also pledged that the government would comply with and support the manner which with the tribunal members may decide to hold their proceedings.

The State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), said the urgency of setting up the tribunal was an indication of the priority Governor Sanwo-Olu usually accorded to matters bordering on citizens’ interest.

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He said the tribunal fully had the backing of the laws of the state and of the Federal Government to carry out investigative duties and give recommendations for the prosecution of anyone indicted.

Justice Okuwobi, who spoke on behalf of the tribunal members, said the EndSARS protests had proven formidable to elicit positive actions to re-awaken consciousness of the government on the need to address injustice meted out to members of the public by SARS operatives.

“Having been invited to serve on this panel, we view our appointment as scared, demanding our utmost commitment, passion, loyalty and sense of duty in the discharge this assignment.

“No stone will be left unturned. We shall be thorough, objective and transparent in line with the terms of reference and enabling legal instruments. As thorough-bred professionals and legal experts, we remain true to our calling and will ensure that victims of this loathsome abuse and brutality are identified with the society and recommended for due compensation,” she said.

After the swearing-in, the tribunal members proceeded to the venue of its sittings, where the inaugural proceeding was held.

Justice Okuwobi, while urging members of the public not to delay the presentation of their petitions and memoranda, also urged the press to report the proceedings of the tribunal without sensationalism, noting that media houses could do live coverage of the panel activities for transparency.

Mr Segun Awosanya, a Human Rights activist, could not be sworn in with other panel members, as he was held in traffic while coming for the event.

Also, the representatives of the youth in the panel had not been nominated by the protesters at the time tribunal members were sworn as the protesters pleaded for more time to send the names of their nominees, four days after the state government reached out to them to provide their representatives.

Tribunal members who took the oath include; Mr Ebun Adegboruwa (SAN) (representing the Civil Society), Mr Taiwo Lakanu (a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police), Ms Patience Udoh (representing the Civil Society), Mrs Olutoyin Odusanya (Director, Lagos Citizens Mediation Center), and the representative of the Human Rights Commission.

Lagos residents, who have petitioned against SARS and the police, can reach the tribunal’s help desk on the numbers: 0901 051 3203, 0901 051 3204 and 0901 051 3205, while petition can be sent to the dedicated email: judicialpanelonSARS@lagosstate.gov.ng.



#EndSARS: Sanwo-Olu inaugurates judicial panel on brutality, human rights abuses

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