From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Rivers State Executive Council has directed that compensations to victims of acts of violence, torture, brutality, murder and violation of fundamental rights committed by the Nigerian Police should be paid by the police authority or the officers who perpetrated the offense.
The decision was taken after the five-man committee set up by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, to formulate a draft white paper on the recommendations of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry that investigated brutality and violation of fundamental human rights of citizens by the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, FSARS in the State, submitted its report to the Executive Council at the Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Briefing journalists after the council meeting presided over by Governor Nyesom Wike, Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Professor Zacchaeus Adangor, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), stated that compensations to victims of police brutality should be paid by the police authority or the officers who perpetrated the offence and not the state government because the police were not part of the State government.
Adangor explained: “Executive Council has already accepted the conclusion of the white paper committee that compensation payable to victims of police brutality should be paid by police officers who were found culpable or by police authorities because in law, there is no way you can hold the State (Rivers) accountable for the acts of police officers who are not agents of the State.
“And so, as far as the issue of compensation is concerned, any compensation payable should be paid either by the police officer involved in those acts of brutality or by the Nigeria Police Force”.
The Attorney General, explained that the Executive Council also directed his office to liaise with the judiciary in ensuring that quarterly reports are submitted to his office in respect of provision under the administration of Criminal Justice Law.
According to him, some of those provisions require that on monthly basis, the Commissioner of Police should inform the Attorney General about the number of persons held in police custody and the reasons therefore.
Prof. Adangor said council directed that public defenders department should be established in all 23 local government areas and officers posted there in order to make access to justice easier for indigent litigants, who cannot afford to retain services of lawyers.
He said: “The public defender essentially undertakes litigation on behalf of indigent litigants who cannot afford to retain the services of legal practitioners. And so, executive council has directed Attorney General to ensure that counsel in the Rivers State Ministry of Justice are posted to the 23 LGAs to man the office of the public defenders. So, those counsels posted to those LGAs can take up matters by indigent litigants because they can’t afford to retain the services of legal practitioners”.
The Attorney General further explained that the Executive Council directed his office to publish a white paper based on the recommendations of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, and transmit same to Police headquarters and the Rivers State Police Command for necessary action.
Prof. Adangor stated: “The Attorney General has been directed to publish a white paper containing the conclusion of the Governor of Rivers State on recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry and to transmit that white paper to the authorities of the Nigerian Police for necessary action, because the Commission of Inquiry had made several findings implication some police officers in the serial acts of brutality and violence against citizens of this country including the very notorious Akin Fakorode”.
It will be recalled that following the submission of the report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into alleged acts of violence, torture, brutality, murder and violation of fundamental rights of the citizens committed by officers, men and operatives of the Nigeria Police, particularly the Special Anti- Robbery Squad (F-SARS) in Rivers State, Governor Wike, had constituted a five-man white paper committee to study the report of commission and formulate a draft white paper for the consideration of the State Executive Council.