Weekly Updates on #EndSARS Judicial Panels of Inquiry – No. 12
31st January 2021 – 7th February 2021
In October 2020, following the #EndSARS Protests across Nigeria and the diaspora, the National Economic Council (NEC), directed the establishment of Judicial Panels of Inquiry by governors in Nigeria to investigate complaints of police brutality and extra-judicial killings. Membership of the NEC comprises the 36 state governors, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and other co-opted government officials. The NEC is chaired by the Vice President.
The directive to establish the Judicial Panels of Inquiry was contained in a statement issued at the end of the NEC meeting attended by governors, as part of efforts to deliver justice to all victims of the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police and security units. The statement added that the panel’s assignment should be concluded within a maximum of six (6) months unless it “shows convincing reasons why a state governor should allow an extension.”
NEC also decided that all state governors will set up a Victims’ Fund to facilitate the payment of monetary compensation to survivors of police brutality. However, there is no evidence to suggest that a Victims’ Fund has been opened by the governors. On 27 January 2021, both the Kwara and Adamawa State Judicial Panels of Inquiry concluded hearing the 25 and 14 petitions they had received respectively.
Cracks emerged in the Lagos State Judicial panel on 6 February, 2021 over whether the Lekki Concession Company (LCC) should repossess Lekki Toll Gate, the scene of the alleged shooting on 20 October 2020. Justice Doris Okuwobi, and four other members of the Panel agreed that LCC should take over the toll gate, while the Panel members representing civil society and the youths in the panel were absent when the ruling was delivered. The civil society and youth representatives gave divergent views in their minority rulings when they joined the panel. The Chair of the Panel claimed a quorum had been formed with five members seated. The claims by the Chairperson of the Panel are curious and inconsistent with her earlier decision to halt proceedings in November 2020 due to the absence of the youth representatives following the freezing of Rinu Oduala’s bank account over alleged sponsorship of the #EndSARS protests.
Yiaga Africa and Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE)’s observation of the Panels of Inquiry will continue to provide information to promote transparency and accountability and build citizens’ confidence in the process.