By Peter Duru, Makurdi
The Benue State Judicial Panel of Inquiry into Complaints of Police Brutality or Related Extra-Judicial Killings, also known as the #EndSARS Panel, has recommended the payment of the sum of N304.5million to victims of police brutality in the state.
The Panel also recommended various police officers to the Attorney General for discreet investigations with a view to prosecuting them for respective crimes arising from unprofessional conducts.
This was contained in the report submitted Thursday in Makurdi to Governor Samuel Ortom by the panel members led by the Chairman and former Chief Judge of the state, Retired Justice Adam Onum.
Justice Onum stated that the panel during its sittings received 72 petitions stressing that the Panel discovered different levels of police brutality, including instances where some persons were brutally murdered by the police in cold blood, leaving their families without respective heads and bread winners.
According to him, “there were some persons who died in police custody, owing to complications arising from torture and/or other forms of abuse of police powers, including unwarranted denial of rights to bail.”
The Panel Chairman explained that the petitions brought before the panel had cases “where some persons suffered grievous bodily hurts, or nongrievous bodily hurts, as defined under law, in the hands of the Police
“We had instances where some items or property were destroyed by the Police or unjustly seized and confiscated by the Police; where persons were subjected to intimidation, with the sole aim of extorting money from them; and where the Police took advantage of its privileged position to refuse to obey judicial orders, particularly over breaches of fundamental rights.”
He stated that the panel was guided in each case by global best practices as dictated by local and international protocols on human and peoples’ rights, including, in particular, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended), and all other extant laws and rules enabling the Panel in that behalf to ensure the observance of rights to fair hearing to all persons who appeared before it.
According to him, “the Panel recommended compensations in the total sum of N304,535,095.85 to be paid to various categories of victims of Police brutality in the State. And also recommended various police officers to Attorney General for discreet investigations with a view to prosecuting them for respective crimes arising from respective conducts.”
Receiving the report on behalf of Governor Ortom, the Deputy Governor Mr. Benson Abounu who commended the panel for doing a thorough worked said the report would be transmitted to the Federal Government which prompted the inauguration of the panel.
He also appealed to the federal government to put measures in place to implement the recommendation of the panel and not dump it in a waste basket.