From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
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 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 includes 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 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.
The NPF, through their lawyer, Mr O. M. Atoyebi (SAN), argued in the fresh suit that the state governments lacked the power to constitute the panels to investigate activities of the police force and its officials in the conduct of their statutory duties.
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.
It argued that by virtue of the provisions of 241(1)(2)(a) and Item 45, Part 1, First Schedule to the Nigerian Constitution only the Federal Government had exclusive power to “organise, control and administer the Nigeria Police Force”.
It, therefore, urged to, among others, declare that “the establishment of a panel of enquiries by the governors of the various states of the federation of Nigeria, to inquire into the activities of the Nigeria Police Force in relation to the discharge of her statutory duties is a gross violation of the provisions of Section 241 (1)(2) (a) and Item 45, Part 1, First schedule, 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and Section 21 of the tribunals of inquiry Act, Cap.T21, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004”.
The plaintiff also urged the court to declare that “having regard to the circumstances of this case, the attitude of the governors of the various states of the Federation of Nigeria, in this case, is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever”.
It sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the 3rd to 38th defendants (the state Attorneys-General of the 36 states) “from making or conducting any investigations, sittings, and inquiries and/or from making or conducting any further investigations, sittings and inquiries in respect of matters affecting the Nigeria Police Force, and or further setting up any panel of inquiry in any state whatsoever in the country”.