By Bukar Bolori
The Independent Investigation Panel on Human Rights Violations by the defunct SARS and other units of the Nigerian Police (IIP-SARS) on Tuesday presented its report to the National Human Rights Commission after the payment of N438 million to 100 victims in the last 10 months.
The Executive Secretary of the Commission (NHRC), Tony Ojukwu who received the report on behalf of the Chairperson of the Governing Council of the Commission, Dr. Salamatu Suleiman, noted that Justice Galadima-led panel has dedicated the last two years hearing over 200 petitions on human rights violations.
He said: “Today, we are finally closing a chapter in the work of the panel but opening a new one for the Commission and all government institutions that will be charged with the implementation of the report”.
The NHRC Boss stated that the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the Police Service Commission, and the Nigerian Police Force have a huge responsibility to ensure full implementation of the decisions and recommendations of the panel.
Ojukwu observed that payment of compensation is just one step in the road to justice, insisting that there is the need to hold indicted officers of the Nigerian Police accountable for these violations.
He said: “I welcome the decisions and indictments issued by the Justice Galadima Panel and I want to assure Nigerians and victims and their families that the National Human Rights Commission already has an established reputation as a leading voice on Police reforms.”
According to Ojukwu, “We will study these recommendations and will work with the Nigerian Police, the relevant Committees of the National Assembly, civil society, and development partners to implement the recommendations”.
Besides, he commended the panel for its far-reaching recommendations on other spheres of justice delivery and human rights enforcement including, the payment of judgment awards, institutional reforms in medical institutions, compliance with the law of the Compulsory Treatment of Gunshot Wounds, and release of corpses amongst other recommendations.
In his address during the presentation of the final report, the Chairman of the panel, Justice Suleiman Galadima rtd stated, “We have cause to be grateful to the Commission for considering myself and Panel members worthy of undertaking the daunting assignment”.
The former Supreme Court Justice recalled that on two occasions, considering the mood and anxiety of those whose petitions have been concluded, the Commission as a matter of urgency awarded and compensated some victims already, to calm them down and give them hope, not waiting for today’s Report and Recommendations.
He added that the gesture is indicative of the government’s genuine intention in setting the various panels of investigation across the country.
The eminent jurist, therefore, urged the government to look into the report and recommendations with a view to implementing, even as he suggested setting up a Victims Compensation Fund to settle the awards and compensations.
He further urged the National Economic Council which directed the establishment of various Panels on Human Rights Violations to once again direct the National Human Rights Commission to harmonise these various reports of all the Panels and urgently submit the same to the federal government for quick action.
He thanked other members of the Panel, the Head of the Commission’s legal team, Chino Obiagwu (SAN), and the Commission staff for making the panel work a huge success.
Earlier in his remarks, the Secretary of the Panel, Mr. Hilary Ogbonna recalled that the 2020 END SARS protests by the Nigerian youth resulted in the setting up of the panel to address large-scale human rights violations by the defunct SARS and other units of the Nigerian Police.
He disclosed that out of the over 200 petitions that came from 29 states including the FCT, 95 were fully decided, 54 were withdrawn, 33 were struck out, 56 judgment debt, and 57 were referred to the Commission.
He also revealed that 72 Policemen were indicted for various degrees of human rights violations, 28 recommended for prosecution, 25 for dismissal, 15 for different disciplinary actions, and 4 for reduction of rank.
On compensations, the Human Rights Adviser to the Executive Secretary said 39 compensations were paid for extra-judicial killings, 7 for enforced disappearance, 9 for unlawful arrests and detention, 30 for torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, 6 for threat to life, 6 for confiscation/seizure of property and 3 for abuse of office.