By Shina Abubakar
OSOGBO — Although some wounds hardly heal but the soothing effect of counsel, sometimes, provides a foundation for permanent healing. Such is the situation with Osun state victims’ of police brutality as Governor Adegboyega Oyetola compensated them for their various losses and trauma.
Osun, against many expectations, filed out over N53 million to victims, families of victims that lost their lives, not as a replacement for their lost ones but as succour for their pains and in some instances a new beginning.
Even the Chairman of the panel that listened to the various grievances of victims, Justice Akinwale Oladimeji (retd), never believed, due to the financial situation in the state, that the Governor could redeem his pledge of paying the money it recommended to the victims.
The Governor, after the EndSARS crisis and in compliance with the directive of the Federal Government, constituted the Judicial Panel of Inquiry against Police Brutality, Human Rights Violations and Related Extra-Judicial Killings.
The Panel, which was headed by the retired High Court, was directed to look critically and painstakingly into cases of assault, illegal arrest, killings, brutality and other forms of rights abuse by the officers and men of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, of the Nigerian Police.
Oyetola further said the presentation of the cheques to the victims was a fulfilment of the financial component of the recommendations of the Panel and that the state had also, in adherence to directive to States, submitted the report of the Panel to the Federal Government.
After its sitting, the Panel in its report recommended the sum of N53,290,000 as compensation to some of the victims, while victims that had secure judgement were passed to the Federal Government for settlement.
Presenting the cheques to the victims as recommended by the Panel on May 12, Governor Oyetola reiterated his administration’s commitment to continuously maintaining peace, guaranteeing the security of lives and property of the citizens and advancing the course of the security agencies through the provision of state-of-the-art security architecture.
We’re redressing the wrongs—Oyetola
Oyetola, who appealed to the citizens to continue to be law abiding and always demonstrate the virtues of Omoluabi ethos that the State is known for, said the State would spare no effort to create an ambience of peace and tranquillity for the citizens across the nooks and crannies of the State.
His words: “Today’s occasion should, therefore, be regarded as a deliberate quest to redress the wrongs of yesterday and set our society on the path of true healing.
“Our decision to pay compensation, which ordinarily is not the responsibility of the State, since the Police is not directly under our control, is a further testament to the commitment of our Administration to peace, and the rule of law.
“Let me however reiterate here that the list of all those that have secured judgement debts have been passed on to the Federal Government for necessary action, in line with the recommendation of the Panel.
“As an administration, we understand that no society can truly progress where the reign of injustice, inequality and lawlessness is encouraged to thrive.
“On behalf of the Government and our people, I passionately appeal to all those who are justifiably aggrieved for the wrongs meted out to them in one way or the other to forgive and allow the next chapter of true and sustainable healing to open up for the good of all.
“I assure you that we are committed to supporting the Nigeria Police Force in fully implementing relevant reforms that would enable it play its role of maintaining law and order.
“Today’s event is a further testament to the commitment of our Administration to peace, and the rule of law. As citizens and officers of the state, let us reciprocate this gesture by continuing to relate with each other with the highest mutual civility, respect and understanding in the interest of sustainable peace and development.
“I salute the leadership of the Civil Society Organisations and youths for their understanding and tolerance over the years. I assure you that we will never let you down as a government in ensuring that we secure your future”, he said.
Panel chairman speaks
Earlier in his remarks, the Chairman of the Panel, Justice Akin Oladimeji (retd), extolled Governor Oyetola for deeming it fit to compensate the victims despite the lean purse of the State.
Oladimeji, who described the gesture as a right step in the right direction, noted that the decision would further register confidence in the minds of the people. He commended Governor Oyetola for implementing the report of his committee, most especially the financial obligation recommended to the government, despite the lean finance of the State.
Justice Oladimeji said: “I seriously doubt if the Federal Government is reimbursing you for the money you will dole out today. I seriously doubt, because those who caused the trouble are the police, an agency of the federal government. But I salute the humanity in the Governor.
“Lagos State is the richest State in the country and they can decide to pay. Delta State is an oil-producing state, they can pay as much as they wish. But here, Osun State is at the lowest ebb of what comes in in terms of allocation. The Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is so low but the Governor is managing it very well. Even some of those oil-producing states still owe workers but the case is different here. So, I can say the Governor deserves commendation.”
The retired judge saluted the Governor for his prudence and financial sagacity, adding that he (Oyetola) deserves commendation from all residents of the State. He further applauded the modest achievements of the Governor across sectors, noting that Osun became the third state to implement the report of the Panel of Inquiry instituted nationwide by the Federal Government, following the END SARS protest that rocked the country in 2020.
Some of the beneficiaries, who narrated their ordeals after receiving their cheques, commended the governor for considering them worthy of the compensation.
I was shot three times—Ibitoye
One of the beneficiaries, Teslim Olakunle Ibitoye said: “The incident happened on April 25, 2017. I and my younger brother, Ibitoye Akeem Olalekan, were mistaken for kidnappers while on a visit to check up on our cousin who was sick. My younger brother died on the spot while I was shot three times.
“Since then, I have been responsible for all the financial costs of the surgeries I had undergone. In fact, there is still a bullet in my spine that the doctors have not been able to remove because of its position.
“So, when the panel was set up, I decided to present my case. Thank God, the Chairman of the panel and every other member listened to us and promised to talk to the Governor on our behalf and here we are today.
“So, I am saying, thank you Mr Governor, thank you every member of the panel. I really appreciate you for listening to us. Thank you very much.”
We were brutalized—Olalekan
Also speaking, Gbadamosi Olalekan said: “I greet our good governor. Your re-election will be easy and you shall emerge victorious. With the mercy you have shown to us, your children too will receive mercy.
“On behalf of all of us that God has helped you to show mercy on, we are grateful and we appreciate you.
“My ordeal in the hands of the policemen was brutal; they tied our hands to the back in the vehicle and poured petrol on all of us to burn us alive. Thank God I escaped through the booth but unfortunately, they succeed in setting the others on fire, thereby killing them. The mark on my body is as a result of the incident.
“We thank God, the culprits were apprehended. Thank you so much our Governor for healing our wounds.”
On her part, Khadijat Adebisi said: “The incident happened in 2020 around LAMECO area on my way to Ifon market in Osogbo. The public vehicle conveying me said he won’t proceed with the journey because of the gridlock owing to the End SARS protest.
“After I alighted, I heard gunshots and in the process of running for cover, a bullet hit me from the back on my left leg. I fell and was in the pool of my blood for like 30 minutes before help came. But I thank God that I am alive today. Thank you Mr Governor for this kind gesture, God will let you emerge for a second term in office.”