Delta State Governor Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, on Wednesday, inaugurated a Committee for the Protection of Human Rights in the state, with a call on citizens to be law-abiding in all endeavours.
Okowa made the call in Asaba while inaugurating the Committee, which is headed by him.
Members of the Committee Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Isaiah Bozimo; Comrade Ifeanyi Egwunyenga, Commissioner for Youths Development; Solicitor-General/ Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Mr Omamuzo Erebe and the Commissioner of Police in the state.
Others are Representative of the Youths, Mr Harrison Gwamnishu; Representative of Civil Societies Organisations, Comrade Israel Joe; Representative of Nigeria Bar Association, Dr Jonathan Ekpenisi; Representative of National Human Rights Commission, Mr Alpheus Ngwu and Permanent Secretary, Directorate of Political and Security Matters, Mr Theophilus Aguonye, who will serve as Secretary.
Okowa said that constitutionthe of the committee was part of the recommendations of the Judicial Panel of Enquiry that investigated complaints of police brutality and extra-judicial killings in the state.
He recalled that a year ago, youths in the country embarked on “ENDSARS”, a protest against police brutality and other issues, adding that the protests which was carried out in major cities across the country “truly shook the foundation of this nation”.
He, however, thanked God for His intervention at that critical period, and said that it was for that that “we are inaugurating this all-important Committee put in place to ensure the protection of the rights of our citizens in this state.
“We saw a lot of our youths come out in anger against so many issues as it concerned the nation but particularly against Police brutality.
“There was a lot of destruction of property as the movements of various civil society groups and youths got hijacked by unscrupulous citizens of this nation.
“We believe that the youths who actually set out at the beginning for the protest meant well for this nation because they were actually there to draw the attention of the leadership of this nation both at the national and at the sub-national levels to the ills in the society.
“They said they were demonstrating against oppressive tendencies of security agencies, which were impinging on their freedom.”
He disclosed that a lot of discussions took place and that in one of the meetings at National Economic Council headed by the Vice President as Chairman, decisions were taken that were far-reaching and they helped to douse the tensions.
According to the governor, these decisions included the need to carry out some enquiry into the issues raised as to police brutality and to also find ways and means of assuaging the nerves of those who may have suffered one loss or the other.
“This state and many other states commissioned panels of enquiry to look into the issues of police brutality and extra-judicial killings.
“The panel itself had finished its sitting and the report was sent to my office and eventually a white paper was prepared from the report and decisions were taken just recently at the State Executive Council meeting.
“We are very mindful of the fact that we cannot pay for lives lost but we have agreed at the Council on the need to show some respect and to also find means of assuaging the nerves of those who have lost loved ones and for those who had to go to hospitals following action from police brutality.
“These decisions have been taken and we look forward that at the end of this month the monies which Exco has approved should be paid to the various families that were affected,” he said.
He explained that the state government was paying the compensations recommended not because it could return the peace of the people and their joy but because the state want to be part of the pains that the people had suffered and to show a sign of love to the families of the victims.
Okowa added that the government had communicated to the office of the Vice President on decisions taken, noting that some actions would be taken at the national level while the state government would also take certain actions on the report.
“Beyond the issues of compensation, it has become necessary to advise the Commissioner of Police and Inspector General of Police to carry out further investigations to ensure further punishment on indicted officers.
“We have also appointed two of our young ones to liasie with the government and the police on a day-to-day basis and to report cases to my office of any infringement on the rights of citizens.
“But, this does not also mean that citizens would take laws into their hands and to do things which they ought not to do.
“The Constitution of our country recognises the need for us to have our rights protected but sometimes what we think is our right may also infringe on the rights of others.
“We expect every citizen of this state to be very mindful of this that we all need to protect our rights but we also need to ensure that we do not infringe on the rights of others,” he added.
He appealed to Deltans to work within the ambits of the law to ensure that they were law-abiding in all they do.
“The ENDSARS has taught us, particularly the police, that we must be civil in our manner of approach while carrying out our work because no man has the right to take the live of another and moreso when it is unjustly done.
“I pray that the lessons learnt will help us to ensure that we have a better nation and that the lessons learnt will also help us to plan our security architecture in such a manner that will become more responsive, more civil without actually forgetting the fact that we have a job to do.
“The Police have a job to do and therefore, citizens also should recognise that they have a job to do but the job must be done in such a manner that is responsible as civil.
“There is no doubt that there are some criminal elements in the society who goal, extent to disobey rules and to be disobedient to the laws of the land but they must realise that the long hands of the law will certainly catch up with them.
“I believe that this Committee will help to advise government on what should be done in each circumstance,” he stated.
The governor said that Delta had remained relatively peaceful and thanked the youths and people of the state for their cooperation in maintaining peace.
He urged the people of to live in peace and to trust the security agencies to carry out their job of maintaining peace and security in the state.
Responding, Commissioner for Youths, Mr Ifeanyi Egwunyenga, thanked the governor for setting up the Committee and assured Deltans of the Committee’s commitment to the task of protecting their rights.
In a related development, Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta on Wednesday inaugurated a six-member Judicial Panel of Inquiry into the protracted intra-communal crisis in Evwreni community in Ughelli North Local Government Area of the state.
The governor, at the ceremony in Government House, Asaba, charged the panel to establish the remote and immediate causes of the conflict in Evwreni community, to ascertain the roles played by various individuals, groups and their sponsors in the crisis and apportion blames where necessary.
The panel is also, according to him, charged to look into and resolve other issues as a means of bringing lasting peace to the community.
The panel has Justice Michael Obi as Chairman and Mr Theophilus Aguonye as Secretary.
Other members are Mr Peter Isibor, Mr Jadin Ebinum, Mr Francis Itua (Representing the Commissioner of Police) and Mr Monday Obol, (Representing the Director, State Security Services).
He said, “It is indeed very disheartening that at a time government is considering various developmental programmes and projects that the administration has brought to Deltans for our overall prosperity, the Evwreni crisis has continued to linger and even degenerate to the point of wanton destruction of lives and property.
“Peace is vital for development and progress of the institution and the distortion of peace in any part of the state is antithetical to the vision of this government.
“Therefore we owe it a duty to take measures to stem the apparent slide into chaos and I expect this panel which has been carefully put together to help us analyse the issues and provide recommendations that will bring an end to the lingering crisis,” he said.
He charged the panel to carry out the assignment with utmost commitment and to discharge their duties without fear of favour and to conclude the assignment within six weeks.
Responding on behalf of members, Justice Obi, thanked the governor for the confidence reposed in them by entrusting them with the assignment.
“We will swing into action immediately and we will discharge our duties diligently and with the utmost sense of responsibility and fairness, and without any fear or favour to bring peace to the troubled community, ” the chairman said.