By Benjamin Omoike
Lagos State Government says it has set up a seven-man panel to look into the issue of police brutality in the state.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu made this assertion on Thursday evening at the State House, Marina, while addressing journalists regarding the attack against #EndSARS protesters by some armed thugs.
He said the seven-man panel would be headed by justice Doris Okuwobi, among other members, which will include Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, while a slot had been left for a youth and a human rights activist.
“A few minutes ago, I attended a National Economic Council SubCommittee Meeting at which the major topic was the ongoing protests and the necessary steps to take, to assuage the feelings of the protesters. In line with the five-point demand, we unanimously decided, as a council, to inaugurate a seven-member Panel of Enquiry on the protesters’ demands.
“A Panel of Enquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses in Lagos State is now being constituted. This seven-man panel will ensure that all those with verifiable cases of SARS brutality or fatality, receive compensation. The Panel will be chaired by retired Justice Doris Okuwobi. Other members are: Mr. Ebun Adegboruwa, SAN (representing the Civil Society); Rtd. DIG 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, Citizens Mediation Center); as well as a rep/member of the youth-led protest and a representative of the Human Rights Commission,” he said.
Governor Sanwo-Olu added that the state will also be setting up a help desk for the complaints and petitions to the panel. “As from next week, you can reach the help desk on the following numbers: 0901 051 3203; 3204 and 3205.
“We have, in fact, also set up a N200M victims compensation fund to take care of all compensation due to those verifiable cases of SARS brutality and fatality in the state.”
He said the panel will first work for an initial period of six months, adding that Lagos was committed to take the issue of police misconduct very seriously.
“In Lagos State, we are also taking the issue of police misconduct very seriously. Earlier this week, we recorded an incident of police misconduct at the Area C Command in Surulere. All four erring police officers (Inspector Bagou Michael; Inspector Ekpoudom Etop; Sgt Nnamdi Majura and Sgt. Akinyemi Benson), are facing an orderly room trial, which we are monitoring closely.
“Let me now directly address all protesters who have taken their message to the street to agitate for change and reform of the police. It is now time to ask you all to acknowledge the progress being made and to respond in good faith.
We are starting to record violent incidents as well as the breakdown of law and order. This week we have seen an escalation in incidents arising from the protests. Reports of medical evacuations hindered by the blockage of key roads and the worsening traffic arising from the protests. Lagosians who are unable to go to their workplaces or earn a legitimate living because of the collateral impact of protest gatherings.
“We therefore cannot continue this way. What we need now, and ask for, is for you to sheath your swords, and give us a chance, as Federal and State Governments, to consolidate on these actions being promptly taken to address your concerns. Even as we affirm the constitutional rights of all protesters to peacefully make your grievances known, it is also our duty as a government to ensure that the exercise of one set of rights by one group of people does not in any way constrain the rights of any other group of people.
“We now have no choice but to take every necessary step to restore law and order and to minimise the disruptions being experienced by all law-abiding residents of Lagos State,” he said.
The governor urged the protesters to remember that COVID-19 is still very much prevalent in the country. “We are still amidst a pandemic; we are not out of it yet. As at Wednesday the 14th of October, 2020, Lagos State had recorded a total of 20,394 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of this number, 16,734 have recovered in community, 968 are currently active in community, and 207 deaths have sadly occurred.”
“You might have noticed a sharp rise in the number of cases reported in the last two days, out of step with the numbers we have been daily recording in recent weeks. This is however a wake-up call to jolt us out of complacency. In the last six months we have made tremendous progress in the fight against COVID-19; do not let us, through carelessness or nonchalance, reverse this progress,” he said.