ENDSARS: RULAAC Advocates Ample Time For State Panels Of Inquiry

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The various State Judicial Panels of Inquiry on Police Brutality, Extrajudicial Killings and Other Related Matters should grant an extension of time to allow as many victims as possible to utilize this opportunity to submit their petitions, complaints and memoranda.

This is according to a Rights Group, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC).

The Federal Executive Council and the State Governors had decided to set up Judicial Panels of Inquiry in the various states in the aftermath of the #ENDSARS protests by the Nigerian youth across the country.

In Anambra, the Secretariat of the Panel inaugurated on the 20th of this month, had on Tuesday, published its call for submissions which must be concluded within two weeks of the publication of the call.

Some families of SARS victims who spoke with TNC correspondent in Awka on the condition of anonymity revealed that they are still putting together their submissions, which requires swearing of an affidavit.

The Executive Director of RULAAC, Okey Nwanguma in an interview in Onitsha on Thursday, observed that the decision to set up panels of inquiry- is a major success and victory achieved by the campaign of the youth to end police brutality and entrench a culture of accountability.

He said the affected persons should make the best use of the opportunity and derive the most possible benefit from it.

According to him, “This is important, not just for the youths who have been the major targets and victims of police brutality, but for the entire society which has for many years yearned and cried for justice and an end to impunity. We note that some states have already set up their judicial panels of inquiry with various terms of reference and deadlines given and this is commendable.”

Nwanguma, however, noted that many victims would be denied this opportunity to seek justice if the deadlines for submission and the time frame given to the panels to conclude their work and submit their reports are not extended to reasonable periods of time.

“For example, we have seen the Anambra State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality, Extrajudicial Killings and Other Related Matters which was inaugurated on Tuesday, October 20. The Secretariat of the Panel published its call for submissions two days ago – on 27/10/20. The secretariat requires all submissions to be made within two weeks of the publication of the call. The panel has 1 month from the date of its inauguration to submit report to the state government.  9 days have gone and virtually extinguished by the respective curfews imposed by state governors in their states, which make it impossible for petitioners and victims to access courts to depose to affidavits verifying the facts stated in their respective petitions,” he observed.

The RULAAC boss also noted that some of the conditions attached to the submission of memoranda or petitions are too cumbersome, complicated and prohibitive for majority of the victims who are poor.

“We call for an extension of time to allow as many victims as possible to utilize this opportunity. Giving short duration for the submission and for the conclusion of work by the panels would be like placing obstacles to justice. Further, some of the conditions attached to the submission of memoranda or petitions are too cumbersome, complicated and prohibitive for majority of the victims who are poor. The requirement by some states to submit 15 copies is needless. We believe that the Secretariats can receive one copy and make duplicates as they may require. Provisions for online submissions should also be prioritized. We must remove conditions that place obstacles to justice.

“We call for government sincerity in this process. We call on victims to make the maximum use of this opportunity. We call on civil society organizations who have, for many years, been leading this struggle against police brutality and for the entrenchment of police accountability, to be on hand to assist as many victims as possible to derive maximum benefit from this opportunity. RULAAC is working with a team of public interest lawyers to present petitions and represent some victims at some state panels,” Nwanguma advised.

On the arrest and treatment of suspected rioters, Nwanguma urged the police to resist the temptation to act with malice and vengeance toward the persons, noting that the job of the police is a higher calling that demands the highest standard of conducts at all times.

“Considering the needless violence, vandalism and arson, and particularly, the unfortunate attacks on police stations and police officers by rioters across the states, some police officers may be tempted to act with malice and vengeance toward persons arrested in connection with the riots. This must be resisted. The job of the police is a higher calling that demands the highest standard of conducts at all times.

“Lessons must be learnt from the #ENDSARS protests which remained peaceful until the military intervened violently, leading to the escalation of the situation into violence by hoodlums who took advantage to perpetrate condemnable acts of criminality.

“While RULAAC supports efforts by the police to identify and arrest actual perpetrators of violence, the opportunity should not be converted to one for reprisals. While those arrested should be properly and professionally processed to isolate and free the innocent ones, even those suspected to be actually involved, should be treated humanely and promptly charged to court. No detainee should be subjected to inhuman treatment as is being suggested by videos of some of the persons arrested and paraded in different states,” Nwanguma said.

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