Opinion

Cynthia Mbamalu: EndSARS, A Demand for Justice for Victims of Police Brutality

Today marks exactly one year since the National Economic Council (NEC) chaired by the Vice-President directed the establishment of Judicial Panels of Inquiry by State Governors in Nigeria to investigate complaints of police brutality and extra-judicial killings. The directive was in response to one of the #5For5 demands by young Nigerians demanding the establishment of independent Judicial Panels in all states of Nigeria to investigate police brutality cases and recommend appropriate compensation for victims. The directive which was issued on 14th October, 2020 required the Judicial panels of Inquiries to include representatives of youths, students, civil society organisations and to be chaired by a retired judge.

In compliance with the directive, 29 states and the FCT set up Judicial Panels of Inquiry. Citizens’ observers deployed by Yiaga Africa to the Judicial Panels of Inquiry and the weekly updates reported in partnership with Enough is Enough (EiE) revealed that over 2791 petitions were submitted across the 29 states and the FCT where the Judicial Panels of Inquiry were established.

However, despite the directive, seven states – Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara States – consistently refused to establish the Panels. While these seven states were part of the collective NEC decision, their actions reinforce the notion that the need to engage in meaningful security sector reform is yet to adopt a holistic and joint-partnership approach nationally.

Over the past one year, the Judicial Panels of Inquiry in 25 states – Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Imo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers and Taraba – have concluded sittings.

As we mark one year of the #EndSARS protest we remember the resilience of young Nigerians who over 12 days protested peacefully calling for the disbandment of the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force and an end to police brutality. The youth, in an affirmation of their democratic and constitutional right to peaceful assembly as well as freedom of association, put together the #5For5 demands. The demand for justice for victims of police brutality remains a major part of the demands from the #EndSARS. To ensure this demand is met, the government at both the Federal and State levels must ensure that the decisions of the panels are fully implemented. This includes ensuring that compensations awarded to victims are fulfilled.

With 25 states concluding their sitting, it is quite worrying to observe that the Judicial Panels of Inquiry in 4 states – Anambra, Benue, Enugu, Kogi, and the FCT – suspended sitting for unknown reasons.

So far, of the 25 states, only the reports of Abia, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ekiti, Ondo and Nasarawa State Judicial Panels of Inquiry have been submitted and publicly presented to the state government for implementation of their recommendations. Bayelsa, Ekiti and Ondo state are the only states whose reports are available to the public. Yiaga Africa calls on the other states where the Panels have concluded their sittings to release the Judicial Panels of Inquiry Reports and make it available to the public.

As we mark one year of the #EndSARS protest this October, Yiaga Africa calls on the State Governments where Panels have been suspended to resume sitting and conclude the hearings. We also call on both the Federal and State Government to ensure the full implementation of the 5 for 5 demands which includes key proposals demanding immediate police reform critical to ensuring that police brutality is eliminated.

The conclusion of the sittings of the Panels and the release of the reports will ensure that victims of police brutality access justice.

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Signed

Cynthia Mbamalu
Director of Programs
Yiaga Africa

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