By Jethro Ibileke
Yiaga Africa and Enough is Enough (EiE), on Tuesday said that failure by some state governments to establish #EndSARS Judicial Panels of Inquiry, in spite of the directive from the National Economic Council (NEC), continues to undermine government’s intent to ensure that victims get justice from the illegal actions of police officers.
They listed such states to include Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara.
This is even as they lamented delay in commencement of sittings by the panels in Bauchi, Bayelsa, Kaduna, Kogi, Ondo and Taraba states.
The citizen-led non-governmental organizations made this known in their weekly updates on the #EndSARS judicial panels of inquiry across the country, signed by Cynthia Mbamalu and ‘Yemi Adamolekun for Yiaga Africa and EiE respectively.
While encouraging victims of police brutality to seek justice at the panels, Yiaga Africa and EiE however explained that matters that are currently before the courts cannot be heard by the panels, as witnessed in some states.
“This is because the act of the judicial panel entertaining such cases is objectionable and seen as interfering in an ongoing court process and the functions of the court.
“While encouraging petitioners to present cases of police brutality to the panels that are not in court, it is important to note that this is an indication of citizens losing faith in court processes that are so prolonged, that they fear they may never receive justice.
“Yiaga Africa and EiE call on different states to give additional time to citizens to present
their petitions to ensure more people are given the opportunity to seek justice for abuse
They frowned at the non-appearance by the Nigeria Police Force and the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS), in some states, describing it as threat to the work of the Panels and an abuse of the process.
According to them, “The non-compliance with invitations to the panels should be interpreted as an admission of guilt, and the continued silence by the IGP on this issue undermines the process and calls the government’s intent to question.
“We recommend that subpoenas be issued to
respondents to ensure their appearance at the Panels of Inquiry.
“We also call on the Nigeria Police Force to ensure their officers are present to defend themselves before the panels.
“The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), has a duty to ensure officers comply as part of his commitment to police reform and justice for victims of police brutality.”
The groups however commended members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), for providing support and free legal representation to the victims of police brutality in Ebonyi, Enugu and many other states.
“We encourage the national NBA to make this
a standing order to provide free legal representation for victims of police brutality in all states,” the report concluded.