After seven-month break, Abuja #EndSARS panel resumes sittings

Nigeria suffering from human rights violations despite democratic progress

The #EndSARS panel set up to investigate cases of police brutality in Abuja will resume sitting on Monday, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said in a statement on Saturday.

This comes nearly seven months after the panel last sat in March.

PREMIUM TIMES had reported that the panel was crippled by lack of funding from the federal government.

The NHRC’s 11-member Independent Investigative Panel commonly referred to as #EndSARS panel, was inaugurated on October 21, 2020 to probe various various forms of rights violations perpetrated by the operatives of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units.

The setting up of the panel replicated in about 29 states and Abuja was spurred by the nationwide #EndSARS anti-police brutality protest led by the youth against brutal activities of men of the defunct SARS in October last year.

The protest ensured SARS was proscribed, with authorities promising broad police reforms and setting up of the judicial panels of inquiry across the states to award compensation to victims.

The Suleiman Galadima-led panel last sat in Abuja on March 24, 2021, when it declared a two-week Easter break, but never resumed.

The hiatus was due to “some logistics challenges,” NHRC’s spokesperson, Fatima Mohammed, said in the commission’s statement, dismissing “insinuations that the panel had fizzled out.”

The panel is expected to take final written and oral addresses in eight petitions, on Monday, signalling the conclusion of the cases and adjournment for the panel’s report on them, the statement added.

55 petitions concluded

According to Mrs Mohammed, the panel has within the first four months when it commenced sitting concluded 55 petitions, while 75 are ongoing at various stages.

The statement disclosed that 33 petitions were ready for the payment of compensations including other legal and administrative remedies in accordance with the relevant laws.

“So far the panel has brought hope to families, survivors and victim of human rights violations by the police given the fact that justice has already been served in a number of cases, thus rekindling people’s hope that the government indeed has not abandoned their Constitutional responsibility of ensuring a safe and secure environment,” the statement read in part.



Lack of funding

However, a report by this newspaper had recently revealed how lack of funds crippled the panel’s sitting, thereby dashing the hopes of 300 petitioners.

The Abuja panel has been crippled by a lack of funding from the federal government, PREMIUM TIMES had confirmed, but it is not a fact the NHRC or members of the panel would publicly admit.

READ ALSO: SPECIAL REPORT: 300 petitioners stranded as lack of funding cripples Abuja #EndSARS panel (1)

Chino Obiagwu, a Senor Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and leader of the team of lawyers engaged by the NHRC to guide and advise the panel, as well as interrogate complainants and witnesses during proceedings, confirmed the crippling impact lack of funds has had on the panel.

Mrs Mohammed did not acknowledge if the NHRC has received funding from the federal government.

The Abuja #EndSARS panel is being chaired by Suleiman Galadima, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, while Hilary Ogbonna serves as secretary of the panel.

Abdulrahaman Yakubu represents the NHRC, representatives of Civil society, Lydia Umar, and Uju Agomoh.

Other members are representatives of the youth, Mubarak Mijinyawa (speaker Nigerian Youth Parliament ), and the representatives of Police Service Commission, Tijani Mohammed.

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