Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Monday swore-in a 7-member Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution into SARS Abuses at the State House, Marina, Lagos.
Asides pacifying millions of the protesting youths who have vowed not to leave the streets, the inauguration of the panel is also aimed at identifying victims of the disbanded SARS in Lagos, compensate them, as well as identify and bring their predators to justice.
Members of the seven-man panel were sworn-in on Monday at the State House, Marina, Lagos. The panel is charged with the task of investigating cases of brutality and human rights violations committed by operatives of the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad, (SARS), in Lagos.
The panel headed by a retired judge, Doris Okuwobi, will sit for six months and is mandated to thoroughly dig into all verifiable claims of abuses and fatalities arising from SARS engagement in the state, with the objective to bring erring officers to justice and get compensation for the victims.
Sanwo-Olu, while swearing in the members of the panel said in the last two weeks, the state had witnessed justified protests of youths against police brutality, saying that the pain of the young ones had been felt in various parts of the state and country as well as in the diaspora.
“They have spoken in one voice against the unbridled violation of their rights and lives by the disbanded SARS. Through the #EndSARS protest, Nigerians from all walks of life have spoken loud and clear on the need for government at all levels to take immediate and concrete actions to secure the lives of innocent Nigerians, especially the youth – many of whom have suffered gross violation of their fundamental human rights.
“Some have even lost their lives under questionable circumstances. In one of my engagements with the protesters, they gave me a list of five immediate demands, which I personally presented to President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja last Tuesday.
“I must, however, state that even before my visit to the president, I had taken action on some of their demands, which included the immediate release of all those detained on account of their participation in the #EndSARS protest and the establishment of a N200 million fund for compensation to families and individuals who were victimised by officers of the disbanded SARS,” he said.
According to Sanwo-Olu, in response to one of the demands of the youths and in line with the resolution of the National Economic Council on October 15, 2020, under the chairmanship of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Lagos State government had constituted a judicial panel of inquiry and restitution under the chairmanship of Doris Okuwobi.
He said the government fully understood the enormity of the task at hand and the need to ensure that it upholds the tenets of due process and fair hearing, which was why government had selected a seasoned and unblemished judge to head this judicial panel of inquiry.
“The panel will sit for six months with the following terms of reference: receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra judicial killings in Lagos State and ensure that victims and their families are able to publicly air their grievances; evaluate evidence and draw conclusions on the validity of the complaints; determine and recommend compensation and other remedial measures where appropriate, and issue cheques in favour of victims or their dependents; determine the officers responsible for the abuse of victims and recommend their prosecution.
“The panel is to make recommendations to the Lagos State government on what must be done to ensure that the police and all security agencies no longer abuse the rights of citizens. Recommend standard operating procedures for the police on relating with citizens while discharging its duties.
“By virtue of Section 5 of Tribunals of Inquiry Law, Laws of Lagos State, 2015, this tribunal has powers to procure all such evidence, written or oral, and to examine all such persons as witnesses as the tribunal may think necessary or desirable to procure or examine and summon any person in Nigeria to attend any meeting of the tribunal to give evidence or produce any document or other thing in the person’s possession,” he added.
Sanwo-Olu stated that government expected the panel to judiciously use its powers to ensure that all necessary parties appeared before it to testify, as the members of the panel had the mandate to ensure that the rule of law prevailed.
Other members of the judicial panel include 1 Ebun Adegboruwa, senior lawyer; Taiwo Lakanu, a retired deputy inspector-general of police; Patience Udoh, Segun Awosanya, human rights activist; Olutoyin Odusanya, director, Lagos Citizens Mediation Centre, and two representatives of the protesting youth and a representative of the National Human Rights Commission.