From Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
More than one year after the Edo State Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate police brutality on its citizens, human rights abuses and extra-judicial killings by the disbanded police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) submitted its reports, Human Rights Activists, have carpeted the state government for not executing the reports submitted to it by the panel.
Recall that the Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki had on October 26, 2020 inaugurated a 28-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry to look into the circumstances surrounding the #EndSARs protest in the state.
The panel after its assignment, submitted its reports to the state government on July 14, 2021.
In submitting its reports, the panel Chairman, Justice Ada Ehigiamusoe (rtd.) at the Government House, Benin City recommended N288 million as compensation for victims of police’s excesses in the state.
The money was breakdown into N98 million as enforcement of courts’ judgments and N190 million as general compensation for the other petitioners/complainants.
Ehigiamusoe also disclosed that the panel received 170 petitions and struck out 25 for lack of diligence, while 10 others were dismissed for lacking in merit, with 135 petitions considered to be meritorious.
According to her, 10 petitions, of 135, sought the enforcement of judgments of various high courts against the police for acts of brutality and extra-judicial
“We recommended the payment of compensations to the victims and/or their families for the aforementioned acts of the police”, she said.
Speaking on the second anniversary of the protest, Osagie Obayuwana, Patrick Eholor, founder of “One Love Foundation” and Ralph Okhiria who represented the media at the panel, decried that more than one year of the submission of the panel’s to the state government, nothing has been heard of its implementation.
Obayuwana who described the setting up of the panel as a face-saving and time-buying, regretted that after spending much human and capital resources on the panel, the state government was yet to come out with a white paper and implementation of the panel recommendations.
“If the state took the pain to get a retired judge and other prominent citizens to constitute a panel, spent a lot of time and money receiving memoranda and reports and securing the attendance of victims directly and through their lawyers, and series of evidence have been considered and report issued, I think it is the state that has to explain how they have chosen to trivialize an important matter.
“It is very regrettable, it is at a very lowest ebb. Government in general not only Edo State. The confidence is little and it is declining. Our people have expectations and so there is a famous cliché which is All “talking na do” which means when you say something, you carry it out. A man’s word is his bond. It is clearly not excusable that after investigation reports, a white paper is issued. What is the excused?
“Is it that government is too busy with other issues? So I joined the masses in expressing our disappointment. Government should rise up to its duty and make known the important lesson the society is supposed to learn from that incident and come forward with the white paper as soon as possible. And pay compensation to those who have been found deserving”, he said.
On his part, Comrade Patrick Eholor, human rights activist and the founder of One Love Foundation, described the non disclosure of the panel’s reports to the public and non implementations of the panel’s reports as anti-people.
“If the governor was serious, he ought to have known that people lost their lives, properties were destroyed. There would have been a white paper report to conclude investigations and compensate victims, and even go to the extent of creating lasting memories by erecting a monument to immortalize the event.
“It is disgraceful that this state has become a state of retrogression. Those who died will never be forgotten and the federal government should make sure no toll fee is collected at the gate.
“They should also do a monument for those that died and every name, including police officers, civilians should be inscribed on it so that when our children grow up, they will know that people sacrificed for them”, he stated
On his part, Comrade Ralph Okhiria, the former chairman of the Edo State council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and a member of the panel expressed concerns that more than one year after the submission of the panel, the state government was yet to implement the recommendations.
“As one of the member of the panel, I am concerned that the governor is yet to implement the recommendations arrived at for whatever reason which we don’t know.
“As one of those who participated in that panel, I want to appeal to the Edo State government to urgently implement the communique so that the victims can receive succour.
“Some need food, medical care and those were the things we looked into that made us arrive at the decision we took. So, we plead with the government to do something about it so that the people will have something to fall back on”, he stated.