Abiodun OBA

This comes  after about 10 weeks break, the Abuja #EndSARS panel set up to investigate cases of police brutality in Abuja on Tuesday resumed sitting.

It was the second elongated break the panel had had to embark on due to lack of funding. The earlier break which started in March last year lasted for about seven months.

The panel resumed sitting from the earlier seven-month unplanned break in October last year.

Confronted with the funding problem, the panel, sat for about nine months and in December, adjourned some cases indefinitely. It also forwarded unresolved cases to the commission for further investigation.

But Fatimah Mohammed, Deputy Director, Public Affairs of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said in a statement on Thursday, that the panel would continue sitting to carry on the commission’s journey of “restoring human dignity and hold perpetrators of human rights crimes accountable”.

According to Mrs Mohammed, despite that the commission awarded monetary compensation to families and victims of police violence in December 2021 as part of the panel’s recommendations, numerous cases had yet to be probed.

She added that although the panel adjourned indefinitely due to lack of funding, the commission had been able to get some funds for the panel to continue its sittings.

Mrs Mohammed also said the panel would sit for six weeks continuously but with intermittent breaks.

“The panel is expected to sit for an initial period of six weeks with breaks at intervals to hear a total of 92 cases, 29 general cases, 12 part-heard cases, and 51 cases involving judgment debts,” Mrs Mohammed said.

She also called on the support and cooperation of the police as well as other relevant participants to ensure that justice is served accordingly.

“The commission is using this medium to seek the support and cooperation of the police and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that perpetrators of police brutality are made to face the wrath of the law,” she added.

Recall that the Abuja #Endsars panel was inaugurated on October 21, 2020, by the NHRC in the aftermath of the October 2020 #EnSARS police brutality protests in the country.

The panel comprises 11 members and is chaired by Suleiman Galadima, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court.

The panel, like others replicated in 28 states of the federation, was mandated to probe cases of police violations and recommend compensations for victims or their families as well as sanctions or prosecutions for erring police officers.

Most of the panels set up by the state governments have submitted their reports, recommending compensations for victims of police brutality and sanctions or prosecution for erring police officers.

Newsmen had reported in September 2021 how lack of funding crippled the Abuja #EndSARS threatening the hope of about 300 petitioners for justice.

The panel resumed seven months after it last sat in March 2021. It heard cases for about 12 weeks before it again went on another break that lasted about 10 weeks.

On December 23, 2021, the NHRC, in a report, said the panel had concluded 144 cases out of 297 petitions before it.

It also awarded N146 million to the families of 20 victims of police brutality and outright killings by armed operatives.

According to the NHRC’s report, the cases heard by the panel were mostly on extrajudicial killing, illegal arrest and prolonged detention, cruel inhuman and degrading treatment, enforced disappearance, confiscation of property, non-unenforced and non-payment of judgment awards.

Out of the 144 cases the panel probed as of December, 43 were on extrajudicial killing, 57 on unlawful arrest, 46 on torture, cruel and inhuman treatment, 25 were struck out, 12 were withdrawn and one was dismissed.

The financial awards, according to the NHRC’s executive secretary, Tony Ojukwu, are not intended as a replacement for the lives lost or as full compensation for the pains and injustice suffered by victims, but is a way the government can show that it understands and cares about their suffering.

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