*Bayelsa, Rivers, Imo top list; 7 northern states fail to raise panels
*2, 458 petitions filed in 19 states on killings, torture, other crimes
By Olalekan Bilesanmi
On October 20, 2020, the devil visited Lagos and some states in the country.
On that day, some soldiers, allegedly enforcing a curfew imposed by government, stormed Lekki Tollgate in Lagos where protesters calling for an end to a police unit called Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) over alleged brutality had camped — #ENDSARS.
Events unfolded rapidly amid claims that the soldiers used live ammunition, killing some of the demonstrators while some were allegedly critically injured.
The outrage that followed spread across Nigeria and triggered more #ENDSARS protests.
In many states, including Plateau, Oyo and Cross River, many protesters resorted to looting the properties of high profile individuals and public properties.
The protest took a turn for the worse in Lagos where properties like public buses and government buildings including the Headquarters of the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) and private properties linked to a popular politician were attacked.
To calm frayed nerves of the protesters, comprising of mostly of youths, the National Economic Council (NEC), headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and state governors as members, met and recommended the setting up of judicial panels to look into cases of police brutality especially by SARS and point the way forward.
Going by an official statement from the office of the Vice President, only 29 states had raised the panels as of August 26, 2021.
And whereas panels in 28 of the 29 states have submitted their reports, the one in Lagos is supposed to wind up its activities this month.
States where no panels were set up and consequently no reports are being awaited from are Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara.
In June, the NEC had announced that it would convene a special session for the implementation of the reports by the judicial panels established by the states.
But as the nation awaits the implementation of the reports and activists appear set to mark the anniversary of #ENDSARS on Wednesday, Sunday Vanguard can authoritatively report that panels in nine states recommended over N25bn as compensations to be paid to victims of police brutality in their reports.
It was also understood that 2, 458 petitions were filed against the police by victims across 19 states for investigation before the panels.
Complaints in the petitions include extra-judicial killings by the police, torture, unlawful detention and destruction of property.
Bayelsa tops the list of states where panels recommended compensations to victims with a huge sum of N21billion to be paid.
Rivers follows with N1 billion. Imo is next with N770, 985,800.
Ondo is paying N755million, Abia N511million, Ogun N218million, Plateau N152million and Lagos N83million while Ekiti is paying N20.8million to 52 victims.
Total compensations across the nine states total N25. 258billion.
On petitions, Anambra has the highest number with 311 complaints filed before the panel sitting in the state.
Lagos has 235 petitions, FCT 200 while 190 were received in Rivers.
170 petitions were filed in Edo, 163 in Oyo, 150 in Akwa Ibom, 147 in Enugu, 145 in Imo, 106 in Ogun, 101 in Katsina, 86 each in Delta and Abia, 85 in Ekiti, 77 in Ondo, 73 in Ebonyi, 50 in Bayelsa, 34 in Osun, 32 in Bauchi and 17 in Niger.
In Lagos, the Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution set up by the state government to investigate cases of brutality and human rights violations committed by the police is expected to complete the hearing of its petitions this month after the state government extended the duration of the panel twice.
But it had, as at the last count, awarded N83 million compensations to 12 petitioners.
235 petitions were received by the panel between October and December 2020.
The petitioners compensated include Adebayo Abayomi, Hannah Olugbodi, and Tolulope Openiyi who received N10 million each.
Whereas Abayomi and Openiyi were compensated for the extra-judicial killings of their loved ones, Olugbodi was compensated for being shot at by an officer, resulting in damage to her leg.
Another petitioner, Chidebere Nwadi, was awarded N7.5 million for spending six years in jail without any offence, while Felicia Opara and Tella Adesanya were awarded N750, 000 and N500, 000 respectively, for harassment, unlawful detention and brutality.
Blessing Omorogie was awarded N5 million as compensation for a deformity on her face after being shot by an officer; N10 million was awarded to the family of the late Rasheed Kareem, who was killed by a bullet shot by the police during the #EndSARS protest and N1 million to another victim of police brutality.
Report filed from Ondo shows that the panel which sat in the state recommended payment of N755.7million compensations to victims after receiving 77 petitions.
The Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality and Other Related Matters, aside the compensations, recommended publication of public apologies by the police particularly where the reputation of victims had been tarnished.
Chairman of the panel, Justice Adesola Sidiq (rtd), told Sunday Vanguard that the petitions were received from public and private persons including organisations.
Sidiq said that the “disheartening aspect of our assignment bordered on human rights violations which date as far back as 2003 and unfortunately remained unresolved until this panel was set up”.
According to him, the panel heard 14 criminal and 63 civil matters in the petitions.
He said properties were vandalised in four Local Government Areas of Akure South, Ondo West, Odigbo and Okitipupa.
“Apart from monetary recommendations which totaled N755, 730, 897.88, the panel recommended publication of apologies in national dailies particularly where the reputation of victims had been tarnished”, the panel chair said.
“Another issue which became thorny was on the cases which had been decided by courts of competent jurisdiction, but were brought before the panel for lack of payment of judgment debts”.
Sidiq called for a review of Section 84 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act (2004) to enable judgment creditors enjoy the fruit of their litigations.
“The panel, after careful consideration of its limitations in line with extant Supreme Court judgments on the powers of Panels of Inquiry to entertain res-judicata cases, suggests that it is high time a review is carried out on Section 84 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act, (2004) to enable judgment creditors enjoy the fruit of their litigations.”
After the panel submitted its report, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu had lamented the worsening security situation in the country since the end of #ENDSARS, saying those who used the protests to settle political scores like the burning of the secretariat of the APC and the PDP in Ondo would bear their cost.
Akeredolu said “ENDSARS was a legitimate protest but it got to a point where hoodlums hijacked it”.
The Oyo State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on police brutality said 152 petitions were treated out of the 163 it received.
The panel was inaugurated on November 10, 2020 by the state government in the wake of the nationwide protests against police brutality.
While speaking with Sunday Vanguard, the Chairperson, Justice Badejoko Adeniji (rtd), said, to some extent, the police had cooperated with the panel, adding that the panel had wide power under the Oyo State Inquiry law, especially Section 7, where people do not want to cooperate, to exercise the power.
Adeniji disclosed that the panel had not made any recommendation because that was not part of its mandate.
On the number of victims and monetary compensations, she said: “Not every petition goes with asking for money for petitioners.
“We divided the cases into four categories: Those that involved death, those that involved serious physical injuries, people whose property have been vandalised and some not too serious event so to say.
“More than enough, from the evidences before us, petitioners have been able to prove their cases. There is evidence of police brutality and extra-judicial killings.
“Some cases were struck out because they are pending in court and we do not have jurisdiction over cases pending in court.
“In cases where the petitioners after several adjournments did not deem it fit to appear before the panel, that means they had abandoned their petitions, we will not keep the petitions pending indefinitely after having been given the opportunity to be heard”.
In Osun State, the panel concluded its sitting on March 27, 2021 after going through 34 petitions submitted before it.
11 of the petitions were struck out due to incompetence while 23 were diligently prosecuted.
In Ekiti, the 10-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry into Allegations of Human Rights Violations by Police Officers, SARS Operatives and Other Persons was inaugurated by Governor Kayode Fayemi on October 22, 2020
According to the Chairman, Justice Cornelius Akintayo (rtd), the panel received 85 petitions out of which compensations were recommended in 50 even as the allegations ranged from loss of lives to physical injury, trauma and loss of property.
The first tranche of compensations to 24 beneficiaries to the tune of over seven million naira was paid in March 15, 2021 even before the panel concluded its assignment and submitted its report on May 7, 2021 while compensations to the remaining 28 beneficiaries to the tune of 13.8 million naira would be paid soon.
Those who were awarded compensations cut across social strata, including policemen, widow, students, market women and artisans.
While receiving the report of the panel, Fayemi used the occasion to announce the establishment of a Citizens’ Complaints’ Center, which would be saddled with the responsibility of receiving complaints and grievances for necessary government action.
The Judicial Panel of Investigation on Police Brutality and Extra-judicial Killings set up by Ogun State government submitted its report to Governor Dapo Abiodun with recommendation of over N218 million as compensation to 42 victims or families.
The Chairman of the panel, Justice Solomon Olugbemi, while submitting the report, said the compensation was recommended for victims or families of victims of brutality and violation of human rights by police and other security personnel in the state.
Olugbemi added that the panel also made recommendations for the investigation, discipline and, where appropriate, prosecution of certain personnel to serve as deterrent and in the interest of justice.
He revealed that the panel received 106 petitions out of which 58 were treated and 48 withdrawn, rejected or abandoned by petitioners.
According to the Chairman, “the 289-page report captured the testimonies and evidences of gory details of torture, unjustifiable shootings, inhumane treatment and other forms of human rights abuses leading to brain damage, spinal cord injuries, permanent disability, death, loss of means of livelihood, unlawful seizure of personal properties and various forms of atrocities”.
He disclosed that most of the police officers that the panel came across were found to be grossly deficient in knowledge and professional training required for efficiency in service, urging government to put machinery in place to address the situation.
Justice Ogola, submitting the Bayelsa panel’s report to Governor Douye Diri, represented by his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, said the panel, which awarded N21 billion to victims of extra-judicial killings perpetrated by police and other security operatives, received and determined a total of 50 petitions and made recommendations based on their findings.
Of the 50 cases, the panel Chairman said 11 police officers were recommended for prosecution, one for dismissal and four for demotion, while eight cases were struck out.
The panel Chair explained that the N21 billion was awarded as damages out of the 40 cases fully determined as well as compensations to communities razed by the Nigerian Army.
The report of the Delta Judicial Panel of Inquiry was submitted to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa by the Chairman, Justice Celestina Ogisi (retd.), who said: “In total, the panel received 86 petitions and 49 were heard on merit while 37 were struck out for various reasons.
“The panel also received 10 petitions which sought the enforcement of judgments of various High Courts of the state against the police for acts of police brutality and extra-judicial killings.
“The panel recommended the payment of compensation to victims and/or their families for various acts of police brutality and extra-judicial killings in Delta State.
“We also recommended the enforcement of all judgment debts awarded against the police, which they have refused to obey till date.
“Police should restrict itself to the performance of their constitutional and statutory duties of preserving life and properties and not go outside the ambit of the law”.
In Cross River State, the #EndSARS and Police Brutality Panel had many high profile cases including that of Senator Victor Ndoma Egba but suspended sitting many weeks before scheduled end date of April 26, 2021 owing to lack of funds.
The panel, inaugurated October, 22, 2020 by Governor Ben Ayade and headed by former Chief Judge of the state, Justice Michael Edem, did not sit till its scheduled date of April 26 before closing shop.
The eight-man panel of inquiry chaired by Justice Ifiok Ukana (rtd) and set up by Akwa Ibom State government to receive and investigate complaints of alleged police brutality, human rights violations and extra judicial killings in the state has since completed its report.
It received 150 petitions.
Chairman of Rivers #EndSARS Judicial Panel of Inquiry, Justice Chukwunenye Uriri (rtd), told Governor Nyemson Wike, while submitting the panel’s report, that they received 190 petitions, struck out 82 for lack of due diligence or jurisdiction and considered 108.
The panel recommended N1 billion to be paid to families of victims of extrajudicial killings in the state.
It advised that those whose vehicles were destroyed, burnt or impounded by the police should be paid the current value of the vehicles.
Those who had their houses destroyed, burnt or damaged are to be given N500 million.
Those who suffered bodily harm, permanent injuries or disability following police torture or brutality were to be compensated with N150 million each.
The panel recommended upward review of salaries and allowances of police officers to discourage the rank and file from collecting illegal fees on the roads and highways.
Governor Godwin Obaseki received the report of the 28-man Edo State Judicial Panel of Inquiry constituted to investigate police brutality, human rights abuses and extra-judicial killings by the disbanded SARS in the state.
Receiving the report from the Chairman of the panel, Hon. Justice Ada Ehigiamusoe, at the Government House, Benin City, the governor hailed the committee members for their commitment, courage and diligence.
Obaseki assured that government will carefully review the report of the panel and ensure that its recommendations are implemented.
Earlier, the chairperson of the panel said they received170 petitions and struck out 25 for lack of diligence, while 10 others were dismissed for lacking in merit, with 135 petitions which were considered to be meritorious.
“10 petitions out of 135 sought the enforcement of judgment of various High Courts against the police for acts of brutality and extrajudicial killings”, Ehigiamusoe said.
“We recommended the payment of compensations to victims and/or their families for the aforementioned acts of the police”.
The Plateau panel recommended N152million compensations to victims of police excesses.
It submitted its final report to Governor Simon Lalong on June 13.
The 11-member panel set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) received over 200 petitions from across the country and was still receiving more.
Its activities were said to have been grounded due to lack of funds from the Federal Government that was said to have promised to fund its sittings.
It was learnt that the panel last sat in April. Members’ allowances and awards made in favour of victims remain unpaid.
The Secretary of the Katsina panel, Alhaji Ibrahim Daku, said the state was the only state in the North-West to set up body to probe police brutality.
“We received cases from Kano but we asked the complainants to go back to Kano,” he said.
Daku stated that the panel had submitted its report to Governor Aminu Masari but did not state how much was awarded to victims.
“We made recommendations for compensations and punishment for those found wanting in the discharge of their duties,” he said.
The panel received 101 petitions, adjudicated on 89 cases and struck out 12.
The Adamawa panel submitted its report to Governor Ahmadu Fintiri but the government did not disclose its findings and recommendations.
The Bauchi panel said it received 32 petitions. The Secretary, Adamu Gumba, said five of the cases were settled out of court while the panel deliberated on the remaining 27.
The Niger panel submitted its report on February 24. The Chairman, Justice Ishaku Usman (rtd), said the panel received 17 petitions.
The governor inaugurated a White Paper Committee headed by Bello Dan-Yahaya to go through the report and make recommendations for implementation.
The Imo panel, headed by Justice Florence Duruoha-Igwe (rtd), began sitting November 3, 2020 and ended on May 4, 2021. It recommended N770, 985,800 as compensation to victims.
The Secretary, Isaac Oguzie, said the panel received 145 petitions and nine memoranda, 45 of which were related to death and permanent disability.
14 petitions, he said, were struck out for want of jurisdiction, adding that eight petitions were dismissed, two recommended for apology and 102 successfully heard.
The Enugu panel report was scheduled to be ready in August, it was learnt.
It was gathered that the panel ought to have concluded its sitting since April but requested an extension due to the number and peculiar nature of the petitions.
The panel received 147 petitions, which bordered mainly on extra-judicial killings of scores of young men by the police.
In Anambra, the Chairman of Civil Society Organisations, Prince Chris Azor, who was one of the members of the panel, said they received 311 petitions which, according to him, were the highest in the country.
He said the panel stopped collecting petitions at some point.
The Abia panel recommended payment of N511million to victims of police brutality in the state.
Its Chairman, Justice Sunday Imo (rtd), said the panel received 86 petitions, 46 of which were heard. The rest were dismissed or struck out.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu promised to study the report.
In Ebonyi, the panel Secretary, Emma Onwe, said they received 73 petitions.
•Additional reports by Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South; Dayo Johnson, Regional Editor, South-West; Adeola Badru, lbadan; Shina Abubakar, Osogbo; Rotimi Ojomoyela, Ado Ekiti; James Ogunnaike, Abeokuta; Sam Oyadongha, Jimitota Onoyume, Festus Ahon, Egufe Yafugborhi, Emma Unah, Chioma Onuegbu, Chinonso Alozie and Ozioruva Aliu.