The Lagos State Judicial Panel on Restitution for Victims of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) related abuses has frowned at attempts by the police to continue to stall its proceedings.
Speaking on Friday during the continuation of sitting in the Lekki area of the state, the Chairman of the Panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi warned that it will not continue to indulge the police by granting adjournments at their instance if they fail to bring their officers to testify in the petitions filed against them.
Two petitions listed for hearing by the panel today were abruptly terminated owing to the absence of the police officers who allegedly committed the assaults.
At the last proceedings of the panel on the first petition, a 34-year-old trader, Ndukwe Ekekwe, had narrated how he broke his spine sometime in 2018 when some policemen allegedly attached to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad threw him off a two-storey shopping complex at Alaba Market in the Ojo area of Lagos.
As a result of that incident, the petitioner said he ended up in this wheelchair.
However, today’s proceeding was for the police to cross-examine him and to put in their own side of the story.
Under cross-examination, the petitioner restated his earlier testimony of how the incident occurred, was emphatic that he knew at least one of the officers involved and even went a step further to produce a photograph of the Investigating Police Officer, Hamza Aruba who allegedly led the policemen to his shop in Alaba. He also supplied the officer’s telephone number.
With no objections from the parties before the panel, the picture was admitted in evidence as an exhibit.
The police counsel, Emmanuel Eze, requested a brief break at this point, the expectation was that upon resumption, the police officer mentioned by the petitioner or any of the officers involved in the matter would be called to testify and put in their side of the story.
But this did not happen as the counsel instead asked for a short adjournment.
Following objections raised by the counsel to the Lagos State Government, Olukayode Enitan, SAN on the propriety of granting the adjournment, the police counsel explained that with the disbandment of SARS, it had become difficult to get the police officers accused of committing the alleged human rights abuses against the petitioner.
He also said that the number supplied by the petitioner could not be reached.
This was the exact same situation which played out in the second petition listed for hearing by the panel.
In that petition, a building contractor, Olajide Fowotade had claimed that a policeman, simply identified as Ayo, had beaten him up and knocked out two of his teeth.
He said the officer accused him of attempting to knock him down with his vehicle.
Mr Olajide mentioned DPO Akpan of Ketu Police Station, former police spokesperson, Dolapo Badmus, and the AIG Zone 2 Command, Kayode Aderanti as other officers who were aware of the case.
Again, the police counsel claimed that he could not reach any of these officers, neither could he find any case file for the petitioner on the statements he claimed to have made at the Zone 2 Police Command.
Eze, therefore, asked for an adjournment to enable him to conduct more search and produce the policemen.
Justice Okwuobi did not like this development especially as she noted that the second petitioner had mentioned more than one police officer.
“It does not augur well that the respondent has not contacted the concerned Police officers. The panel will no longer entertain any more excuses from the police,” Justice Okwuobi warned.
She, however, said in the interests of justice and fair hearing, the cases will be adjourned.
Further proceedings have been fixed for Dec 1st and 9th.