By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, ABUJA
The Independent Investigative Panel on human rights violations by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, and other Units of the Nigeria Police Force, has found 72 police officers culpable, even as it okayed 28 of them for prosecution.
While the panel, which was led by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Suleiman Galadima, recommended the dismissal of 25 officers, it asked the Federal Government to initiate various degrees of disciplinary action against 15 others.
It further recommended four officers for reduced rank following their complicity in human rights violations.
Submitting the final report to the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, for implementation, on Tuesday, Justice Galadima, recalled that the panel was inaugurated on October 21, 2020, shortly after youths across the federation protested against rights violations by the defunct SARS.
He said the panel, after its inaugural sitting on November 4, 2020, successfully heard over 200 petitions, despite daunting challenges such as the intervening COVlD-19 pandemics and paucity of funds.
“Here we are today at this epoch-making event to submit the Final Report, after almost two years of hard work and commitments by the Panel.
“It is our fervent prayers that the Federal Government as a matter of urgency look into this Report and our recommendations with a view to implementing it.
“It is suggested that a Victim Compensation Fund be set aside to settle the awards of compensations.
We further urge the National Economic Council which directed the establishment of the various Panels on Human Rights Violations to further direct the National Human Rights Commission to harmonize these various Reports of all the Panel and urgently submit the same to the Federal Government for quick action”, Justice Galadima added.
On his part, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Mr Anthony Ojukwu, SAN, said it was necessary for all the indicted police officers to be held accountable for their involvement in rights abuses.
“In this regard, I welcome the decisions and indictments issued by the Justice Galadima Panel and I want to assure Nigerians and the victims and their families that the National Human Rights Commission will do everything possible to ensure that the decisions are implemented.
“The National Human Rights Commission also welcomes the recommendations made by the Panel on Police Reforms to ensure effective and human right-centred policing.
“The Commission already has established a reputation as a leading voice on police reforms.
“We will study these recommendations and will work with the Nigerian Police, the relevant Committees in the National Assembly, civil society and development partners to implement these reforms”, Ojukwu stated.
Meanwhile, Secretary of the Panel, Mr Hillary Ogbonna, disclosed that a total of 295 petitions were received from 29 states, out of which 54 were withdrawn by the petitioners with 33 others struck out.
Ogbonna added that whereas 57 of the petitions were referred to the NHRC for further action, a total sum of N438million was paid to some of the petitioners as compensation for the gross abuse of their fundamental human rights by police officers.