The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on police brutality failed to sit Friday following the absence of lawyers representing the police.

The sitting – the 79th since the panel begin last year -was scheduled to hear petitions from seven families against the Nigerian Police and the Federal Special Anti-Robbery unit of the police.

The petitioners include the family of late Ibrahim Olojede, the family of late Gregory Egwu, Obochi Micheal Owoicho, Mukaila Shobukola, Idris Saula, Segun Ishola, and the family of late Okoronkwo Sylvester Ogbonnaya.

Citing the absence of the police lawyers as the reason the panel would not sit, the Registrar, Moshood Shittu, adjourned the cases to different dates.

Bernard Onigah, head of the National Bar Association (NBA) pro bono team, said the police thought the sitting would not hold because of the public holidays to mark the holy month of Ramadan.

The panel

On October 19, 2020, the Lagos State government set up a nine-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate cases of brutality and human rights violations perpetrated by operatives of the Nigerian Police Force and the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

This was sequel to the directive of the National Economic Council (NEC) that mandated states to set up panels to investigate police brutality in the wake of the #EndSARS protests.

The panel is led by Doris Okuwobi, a retired judge. Other members are Ebun Adegboruwa (representing the Civil Society), Taiwo Lakanu (a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police), Patience Udoh (representing the Civil Society), Segun Awosanya (human rights activist), Olutoyin Odusanya (Director, Lagos Citizens Mediation Center), and Temitope Majekodunmi, a youth representative.

The panel was set up as a response to one of the demands of youth during the #EndSARS demonstration, which started as a grassroots movement to end police extra-judicial killings before becoming a full-blown global outcry.

As part of its priorities, the panel will provide restitution to the victims of police brutality with a N200 million fund earmarked by the Lagos State government as compensation.

The panel was given a six-month timeframe to accomplish its tasks, from October 2020 till April 2021.

However, in March, the judge, Doris Okwobi, announced further extension by three months to accommodate more petitions.

The panel will hear petitions till July 19, 2021.

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