From Godwin Tsa, Molly Kilete, Abuja and Chinelo Obogo
The ongoing judicial panels of enquiry into the activities of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police tactical units has taken a legal dimensions with a suit by the Police Force seeking to stop the panels.
The action of the police authorities is contained in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1492/2020 filed before the registry of the Federal High Court.
The plaintiff specifically urged the court to restrain the Attorneys-General of the 36 states of the federation and their various panels of enquiry from going ahead with the probe focussing on police impunity.
In the suit, which has a number of 104 defendants, the plaintiff, through their counsel, O. M. Atoyebi (SAN), challenged the powers of the state governors to set up panels to investigate the activities of the police and it’s personnel in the discharge of their constitutional powers.
Some of the defendants include the Attorney-General of the Federation, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which set up the Independent Investigative Panel sitting in Abuja, the Attorneys-General of the states, and chairmen of the states’ panels.
The various panels of enquiry were set up following a decision by the National Economic Council (NEC) with members, including the 36 state governors and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in the aftermath of the recent nationwide #EndSARS protests demanding an end to police brutality.
According to the plaintiff, the state governments’ decision to set up such panels violated the provisions of section 241(1)(2)(a) and Item 45, Part 1, First Schedule to the Constitution and Section 21 of the Tribunals of Inquiry Act.
The Inspector General of Police(IGP), Mohammed Adamu, has ordered an investigation into a suit purportedly challenging the legality of the States’ Judicial Panel of Inquiry on allegations by citizens against officers of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, who made the disclosure, in a statement said: ”The Inspector General of Police (IGP), M.A Adamu, has directed immediate investigations into a suit purportedly challenging the legality of the States’ Judicial Panel of Inquiry, investigating allegations by citizens against officers of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
“The IGP, who gave the order on the heels of trending reports in the media, today, 3rd December, 2020, expressed the disapproval of the Force Management Team on the matter and ordered investigations into the alleged role of the Force Legal Section, including its Head. Meanwhile, the Force Legal Officer has been queried and may face further sanctions if found guilty of dereliction of duty.
“The IGP reiterates the commitment of the Force to fulfilling all its obligations with regard to the disbandment of the defunct SARS, the ongoing Judicial Panels and all other police reforms.”
•HURIWA: Suit provocative, unconstitutional
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has described the IGP’s action as an affront on the authority of President Buhari and ‘an unmitigated desecration of the constitution.’
“The decision of the police high command, under the headship of Mohammed Adamu, to institute a suit at the Federal High Court, seeking to abort the proceedings at the different Judicial panels of inquiry in different states of the federation, is disgraceful and a direct affront to the authority of the president of Nigeria, and an unmitigated desecration of the Constitution.
“It is an indescribable disgrace that the IGP wants the court of law to stop the victims of police brutality from ventilating their grievances before the properly constituted judicial panel of inquiry. Why is the IGP scared of the truth that are coming out from the panels of inquiry, and why does he not want the victims of police brutality to obtain justice?”