Abuja #EndSARS panel indicts 72 police officers for human rights violations

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The #EndSARS panel in Abuja has indicted 72 police officers for various acts of human rights violations and recommended them for prosecution and different degrees of sanctions.

According to the report of the panel officially presented in Abuja on Tuesday, 28 of the police officers were recommended for prosecution, 25 for dismissal, 15 for disciplinary actions and four for a reduction in rank. The secretary to the panel, Hilary Ogbonna, attributed the relatively higher numbers of officers recommended for prosecution and dismissal to the quantum of complaints of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearance petitions received.

Panel secretary, Hilary Ogbonna

Panel secretary, Hilary Ogbonna

“If 28 people have been indicted for prosecution, this actually means … the huge number of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance.

“So it is not by mistake that you are having this high number for both prosecution and dismissal; (it’s) because of the high number of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance.”

Of the 295 petitions of police brutality cases received by the panel, 64 were cases of extra-judicial killings and seven of enforced disappearance, both of which come down to a total of 77 persons either killed or forever missing, Mr Ogbonna said. He said the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has paid a total of N438,884,094 to 100 victims and petitioners. He charged other institutions of government to play their part in implementing other aspects of the report.

“The time now has come for other institutions of government to do their own work. The panel has done its work. And we have to move on to the next stage,” he said.

The names of the indicted police officers are contained in the panel’s report which has yet to be released to the public. Earlier at the event on Tuesday, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Tony Ojukwu, formally received the investigative panel’s report from its chairman, Suleiman Galadima, who is a retired Justice of the Supreme Court. Known officially as the Independent Investigative Panel (IPP) on Human Rights Violations Against SARS and Other Units of the Police, the panel was set up on 21 October 2020 in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests. Nigerian youths trooped out in different parts of the country in October 2020 to protest against incessant cases of police brutality.

The protesters called for the proscription of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a tactical police unit most notorious for the inhuman conduct of its officers. The government had, in response to a demand of the protesters, disbanded SARS and set up the panels of inquiry popularly referred to as #EndSARS panels to recommend compensations for victims of police brutality and recommend sanctions for erring officers. Alongside the NHRC, 29 of the 36 states of the federation also set up similar panels to investigate complaints of police brutality.

#EndSARS protesters’ efforts will not go in vain

Speaking after receiving the report of the panel, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Mr Ojukwu, said “payment of compensation is just one step on the road to justice.”

“There is still the need to hold indicted officers of the Nigerian Police accountable for these violations,” Mr Ojukwu.

The government institutions are expected to play different roles in the implantation of the report, according to Mr Ojukwu, including the Office of the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, the Police Service Commission and the Nigeria Police Force.