#EndSars: State Govts, FCT To Set Up Judicial Panels On Police Brutality

The Nigerian government, on Thursday, yielded further grounds in the ongoing battle for the reformation of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a Police unit accused of brutality and extra-judicial killing of innocent citizens, mostly youths across the country.

The National Economic Council (NEC), chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, comprising governors of the 36 states of the federation and heads of key ministries, departments, and agencies, agreed on the immediate establishment of State-based Judicial Panels of Inquiry across the country.

Protesters at the #EndSARS protest in Lagos

The panels to be established by the state governments will receive and investigate complaints against the Police unit “with a view to delivering justice for all victims of the dissolved SARS and other police units,” according to a statement by Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, Office of the Vice President.

The panel is to conclude its assignment within a maximum of six months, unless there is “convincing reasons why the State Governor should allow an extension.”

Recall that Nigerians, mostly youths have taken to streets across state capitals in the country to protest what has been code-named #EndSars, and #EndSWAT rejecting overtures by the Federal Government, including an announcement of the dissolution of the SARS, calling instead for a reformation of the Police apparatus. The protests have also received support from across the world, with #EndSARS protest in some major cities in Europe.

“The council specifically resolved that State Governors and the FCT Minister should take charge of interface and contact with the protesters in their respective domains,” the statement added.

The Judicial Panels in each States will be chaired by a respected retired State High Court Judge, with members, selected by the governor, including two representatives of civil society groups, a retired Police officer of high repute, one representative each of youths, students, the National Human Rights Commission, and the State Attorney-General.

The Panel will “receive and investigate complaints of Police brutality or related extra-judicial killings; evaluate evidence presented/other surrounding circumstances, and draw conclusions as to the validity of the complaints; and recommend compensation and other remedial measures, where appropriate.”

“The Council also directed that State Governors should immediately establish a State-based Special Security and Human Rights Committee to be chaired by the Governors in their States, to supervise the newly formed police tactical units and all other security agencies located in the State.

“The idea of the Special Security and Human Rights Committee in all States of the Federation and the FCT is to ensure that police formations and other security agencies in the State consistently protect the Human Rights of citizens.

“Members of the Special Committee would also include Representatives of Youths and Civil Society. The head of Police tactical units in each of the States would also be a member of the Committee,” the statement further added.

The council further directed the setting up of a Human Rights Public Complaints Team of between two to three persons by the Special Committee on Security and Human Rights, to receive complaints on an ongoing basis.

It was resolved that each State Government shall also set up such a Complaints Office to which members of the public can relate by telephone or social media channels. The Complaints Office to liaise with the leadership of security agencies, and attempt resolution of complaints, or otherwise guide the complainants.

Also, NEC equally directed all State Governors to immediately establish a Victims Fund to enable the payment of monetary compensation to deserving victims.

Also at the meeting, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, reported that as of October 14, 2020, Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account balance stood at $72,409,346.76. On that date, she told the council, the balance in the Stabilization Account was N47,193,630,556.96; and Development of Natural Resources Account, N154,330,148,020.34.

The Minister of State for Budget & Planning also presented the 2021-2023 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework and 2021 FGN Budget Proposal, including an adjustment of the official exchange rate, first to N360/US$, and more recently to N379/US$; a projected aggregate revenue inflow into the Federation Account (Main Pool) of N6.77tr, while N1.70 trillion is the projected inflow in the VAT Pool Account.

Of this, FGN is projected to get N3.54tr; while States and Local Governments, N1.8tr and N1.39tr, respectively; just as FGN is projected to receive N255.46bn from the VAT Pool Account; States, N851.52bn; and Local Governments, N596.07bn.