June 14, 2021

Police ask court to stop panels of enquiry probing its abuse

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Nigeria Police Force has filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja seeking an order to stop the judicial panels of inquiry.

The panels of inquiry were set up by state governors to probe allegations of police brutality and human rights abuses of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad and other police tactical units.

The inauguration of the panels was directed by the National Executive Council (NEC), headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, during the heat of the EndSARS movement in October.

“The immediate establishment of State-based Judicial Panels of Inquiry across the country to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra-judicial killings with a view to delivering justice for all victims of the dissolved SARS and other police units,” the NEC said in its resolution after a meeting in October.

But the police authorities, through their lawyer, Mr O. M. Atoyebi, argued in the suit that the action of state governors is “unconstitutional, illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.”

It added that the state governments lacked the power to constitute the panels to investigate activities of the police force and its officials in the conduct of their statutory duties.

The police urged the court to restrain the Attorney-Generals of the 36 states of the federation and their various panels of inquiry from going ahead with the probe focusing on police impunity.

According to the police the state governments’ decision to set up such panels violated the provisions of 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 argued that by virtue of the provisions of 241(1)(2)(a) and Item 45, Part 1, First Schedule to the Nigerian Constitution only the Federal Government had exclusive power to “organise, control and administer the Nigeria Police Force”.

The case formerly scheduled for December 3, has been rescheduled for December 18 as the federal high court in Abuja did not sit.

The panels are led by a retired judge from each state including members from civil society groups, the Human Rights Commission, Citizens Mediation Centre, and two youth representatives.

The Lagos judicial panel has received over 110 petitions and is expected to hear all complainants with their legal representatives and witnesses in attendance.

The eight-member panel that commenced sitting on 27 October will sit for six months to investigate claims of police brutality with the aim to bring erring officers to justice and recommend compensations for victims.

Vanguard

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