The ongoing demand for an end to police brutality, corruption and impunity by protesters in Nigeria is taking an interesting new turn in the Niger Delta.
Some of the oil governors have started to institute a judicial panel of inquiry to investigate allegations of abuses by law enforcement agents. In Akwa Ibom State, Governor Udom Emmanuel has raised an eight-member judicial panel to investigate police brutality which ignited a nationwide protest with other demands including the restructuring of the country and good governance.
Protesters who are calling for the end to killings by police have been blocking major roads across the country.
Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Emmanuel Ekuwem, in a statement says the decision was taken at an emergency State Executive Council meeting summoned by Governor Udom.
The panel which is headed by Ifiok Ukana, a retired High Court Judge, has Mfon Edemekong as a secretary while others include representatives of the civil society groups, student unions and representatives of the Human Rights Commission among others.
According to Ekuwem, the terms of reference include receiving and investigating complaints of police brutality, human rights violation and related extrajudicial killings and evaluating the evidence presented /other surrounding circumstances, and draw conclusions as to the validity of the complaints and to make recommendations for compensation.
While the panel has three months to conclude its findings, protesters are blocking major roads in Uyo, the state capital, forcing motorists to make use of alternative routes. They also barricaded the road leading to Ibom Plaza, a popular relaxation spot chanting songs.
They moved from Ikpa Road junction leading to the University of Uyo (UniUyo) campus and marched to Ibom Plaza roundabout popularly known as ” Ibom Connection’ that connects major roads to Uyo metropolis.
Emmanuel John Samuel, a protester said they blocked the road for the government to know that the youths are tired of bad governance in Nigeria. “We are here to tell the whole world that the youths are fading away with the way Nigeria is managed. We need restructuring. We will remain here until our voices are heard by the whole world.”
“We need our Senate to sit up and give us a better government. We can’t afford to remain like this. Our brothers have graduated from school for many years now yet no jobs for them. Therefore we need a total transformation in Nigeria.”
“Youths are the leaders of tomorrow, but if the Government continues to fold its arms and watch the young ones suffering now, Nigeria will continue to be in danger because youths are not given employment. By this, we would turn out to be a nuisance and give the country a bad name”
Protesters are expressing disappointment for failed promises of politicians in the past including President Mohammadu Buhari who promised them change but never fulfilled after many years in government.
Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State has directed the new Acting Chief Judge of the state, Justice Eyo Effiom Ita to set up a commission of enquiry to investigate all the people who have suffered police brutality.
“Let us also work with you, particularly on the directive of the Governor’s Forum meeting and the NEC meeting, where governors have been given the responsibility to take charge of a peaceful end to the ENDSARS protest.
“I am happy the Commissioner of Police is here in person. You have to work with us to see that those whose loved ones were killed, maimed or injured in the cause of their struggle for survival get justice”, Governor Ayade said.
Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State has inaugurated a Judicial Panel of Inquiry that will look into alleged police brutality and related extrajudicial killings in the State with an appeal to the protesting youths on EndSARS and others hurt by the activities of the disbanded formation to take advantage of the Commission to get justice.
He said the inauguration of the commission was in line with the directive from President Buhari and resolve of the Nigerian Governors Forum that respective states should take steps to implement the demands of the EndSARS protesters.
Performing the inaugural ceremony at the Executive Council Chambers in Government House, Owerri, Uzodimma said the recent developments on the now-disbanded SARS with emphasis on brutality and extra-judicial killings did not only attract the attention of the president who disbanded the formation but provided the opportunity to further interrogate the concern of the protesters, not only in Imo State, but in the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
To show concrete evidence that the Government in Imo State is a listening one the governor, therefore, enjoined the Panel to investigate all human rights abuses and brutality as well as extrajudicial killings perpetrated by SARS in the past in Imo State, if any.
While he enjoined the members of the commission to invite and take evidences from all victims of police brutality and extra-judicial killings, including from their families and friends, the governor also advised them to create the friendly atmosphere that will allow the public to come forward and present their grievances, adding that the Panel should on its own compel witnesses in one form or the other to appear before it.
The governor wants them to evaluate all cases presented before them and make recommendations to Government on where compensations should be paid and also determine the appropriate punishment for the Police officer(s) or member(s) of the disbanded SARS that committed such crime, where necessary.
Explaining that the membership of the Panel is comprehensive and accommodates all interest groups such as, the Youth Council, CAN, NLC, NCWS, and others for a better result, he noted that he believes that the public will enjoy the confidence of the Panel.
Governor Uzodimma seized the opportunity to appeal to those protesting to take their grievances to the Panel, noting that the danger in continuing with the protest is the possibility of criminals and hoodlums capitalizing on the peaceful protest to perpetuate their criminal activities.
He emphasized that Governors will not fold their arms and watch such happen considering that they are on oath to protect the lives and property of their citizens and will leave no stone unturned in doing that.
Accepting the appointment on behalf of her members, the Chairman of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry, Hon. Justice Florence Duruoha-Igwe (Rtd) said that “by setting up the Panel, Government has shown elasticity and responsiveness to the yearnings of the masses all over the country.”
She said that “the Panel is only interested in finding out what really happened that is causing pains, sorrow and tears to Nigerians both high and low” and promised that when they conclude they will “lay it open and make credible recommendations to the Government.”
She also “urged all aggrieved persons to sheath their swords and bring their complaints to the Panel,” promising that “with the help of God all shall be satisfied at the end of the day.”
She thanked the governor for finding them worthy to give the opportunity to serve the State and pledged not to disappoint the governor and the people in the execution of their duty.
Earlier, Governor Uzodimma had visited the Imo State Police Command with the Acting Chief Judge of Imo State, Justice Ijeoma Agugua, the Secretary to the Government of Imo State, Cosmas Iwu, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief COC Akolisa, the Chief of Staff, Nnamdi Anyaehie and other key government officials.
During the visit, the Police Commissioner, Isaac Olutayo Akinmoyede, and his key officers conducted the governor and his entourage round the police headquarters Owerri to see things for themselves, including the detention facilities maintained by the disbanded SARS Cells.
It was an opportunity for the governor and his entourage to see the police barracks in their dilapidated forms where the policemen reside at the Shell Camp, Chukwuma Nwoha in Aladimma Owerri, and the new residential building of the Commissioner of Police which Governor Uzodimma initiated the construction.
Addressing the media after the visit, the Governor explained that Nigerians own the Government and that the government must listen to people in a situation we have found ours in with the youths. He said his visit to the police command tells him the Police need a better welfare package to operate maximally.
The panel, however, has 17 members with Isaac Oguzie as Secretary.