…Charges Panel Members On Justice, Fairness
The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has sworn in a seven-man Judicial Panel of Enquiry and Restitution to investigate cases of brutality and human rights violations committed by operatives of the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in the State.
The panel, which is being headed by retired Justice Doris Okuwobi, will sit for six months and is mandated to thoroughly investigate all verifiable claims of abuses and fatalities arising from SARS engagement with the objective to bring erring officers to justice and get compensation for the victims.
Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the swiftness of the process of the panel members’ composition was an indication of State Government’s sincerity towards the quick resolution of the issues that led to the nationwide protests against policing system.
He said the Government selected an unblemished retired judge to head the inquiry tribunal, given the enormity of the task at hand and the need to uphold the tenets of due process and fair hearing in the course of the panel proceedings.
The Governor said: “I attended a National Economic Council Sub-Committee Meeting in which the major focus was the ongoing EndSARS protests and the necessary steps to take to assuage the feelings of the protesters. In line with the five-point demands of the protesters, we unanimously decided to inaugurate a panel of investigation into human rights abuses.
“A seven-member Judicial Panel of Enquiry and Restitution for victims of SARS-related abuses in Lagos State is now being constituted. This panel will ensure that all those with verifiable cases of SARS brutality or fatality get justice and receive compensation. The panel will be chaired by retired Justice Doris Okuwobi.
“Other panel members are Mr. Ebun Adegboruwa, SAN (representing the Civil Society), Taiwo Lakanu (a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police), Ms. Patience Udoh (representing the Civil Society), Mr. Segun Awosanya (Human Rights Activist), Mrs. Olutoyin Odusanya (Director, Lagos Citizens Mediation Center), as well as a representative of the youth-led protest and a representative of the Human Rights Commission.”
Sanwo-Olu said the panel took its legitimacy from Section 5 of Tribunals of Inquiry Law, Laws of Lagos State, 2015, stressing that the panel had powers to procure evidence and summon any person to attend its proceedings to give evidence or produce any document or other thing in the person’s possession.
The Governor said: “Mindful that complaints may be against serving police officers or ones already dismissed, the tribunal has a mandate to carry out the directives of the Federal Government to enable it discharge its duties without fear or favour.
“We expect the panel to judiciously use its powers to ensure that all necessary parties appear before it to testify: the members of the panel have the mandate to ensure that the rule of law prevails.
“I thank the chairman and members of the Judicial Panel for responding to the call of duty at this crucial time. I am convinced that you all recognise the importance of the assignment, which I believe will open a new chapter in police-citizen relationship. I urge you to approach this task with all sense of responsibility even as Lagos residents look to you for a fair and just outcome.”
Sanwo-Olu promised the State Government would not wait till six months – the period set for the tribunal to sit – before compensating victims as may be recommended by the judicial panel.
He also pledged that the Government would comply with and support the manner which with the tribunal members may decide to hold their proceedings.
Lagos Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, said the urgency of setting up the tribunal was an indication of the priority the Governor usually accord to matters bordering on citizens’ interest.
Sanwo-Olu said the state government has set up a help desk for the public complaints and petitions to the panel. Lagos residents, who have petitioned against SARS, can reach the help desk on the numbers: 0901 051 3203, 0901 051 3204, and 0901 051 3205.
Also, petitions can be sent to the dedicated email: judicialpanelonSARS@lagosstate .gov.ng