The judicial panel of enquiry set up to investigate acts of brutality and rights violations perpetrated by the operatives of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units has submitted its report in Katsina State.
Similar panel set up by the Kaduna State government concluded its sitting on Saturday, June 26.
Aside from Katsina and Kaduna, the five others in the North-west region, comprising Kano, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara, did not have the panel, PREMIUM TIMES’ findings showed.
The federal government and the 36 sate governors had, through the platform of the National Executive Council (NEC) chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, agreed to set up the panels of enquiry in the various states in the wake of the nationwide #EndSARS protests against police brutality in October 2020.
Nigerians, mostly the youth, in their march against atrocities committed against innocent persons by the various police units, specifically denounced the activities of SARS and called for its disbandment.
The government acceded to the demand for the proscription of SARS, and agreed to set up the judicial panels of enquiry to address the grievances of the victims of inhuman activities of the police.
While many states complied with the NEC resolution for the setting up of the panels, now popularly referred to #EndSARS panels, some others, like five of the North-western states refused to.
Katsina panel submits report
While submitting its report on February 2, 2021, the chairman of the #EndSARS panel in Katsina State, Abdullahi Bawale, said his panel established some cases of rights violations, unlawful arrests, illegal detentions, and other forms of constitutional breaches perpetrated by identified members of the disbanded SARS.
He explained that the panel received 100 petitions and complaints, out of which 25 were struck out due to non-appearance of the petitioners.
The panel sat in the three senatorial districts of the state, namely, Daura, Katsina, and Funtua, to enable petitioners to have easy access.
The state governor, Aminu Masari, while receiving the report, said he would immediately set the process of implementing the report in motion by constituting a White Paper committee.
“The highlights of the report and recommendations have indicated that the commission has conducted thorough investigation and made far-reaching recommendations for consideration.
“I will therefore, with immediate effect, set up a white paper committee to come out with the modalities of implementing the recommendations that affect Katsina State and forwarding to the presidency and the Police Service Commission (PSC) the aspect of the recommendations that affect them appropriately,” the governor said.
Also, in Kaduna State, the panel of enquiry concluded sitting on Saturday, June 18.
The chairman, David Wyom, said the next stage was for the members of the panel to prepare their report which would be submitted to Governor Nasir El-Rufai for further action.
He assured that the panel would be fair and just to every petitioner with substantiative evidence.
While, Kaduna, Katsina remain the only states in Nigeria’s North-west states that have set up the panel of enquiry, the rest of Kano, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara, refused to.
About 190 civil society and community-based organisations, in November last year, petitioned Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, asking him to set up the judicial panel of enquiry to check cases of police brutality in the state.
The group called for the setting up of the panel in its petition co-signed by its chairperson, Ibrahim Waiya, and secretary, Peter Tijani.
According to the coalition, the constitution of the panel will help address the grievances of the victims of SARS and police brutality, and abuse of power.
“Although, Kano did not experience so much from the #EndSARS protests, we however feel that there is an imperative need to establish such panel in Kano, for the simple reason that, Kano State is strategic and critical, which most at times serves as a pacesetter in all national issues of public concern,” their letter had read in part.
The coalition urged the governor to put the state among others that had set up the panels of enquiry to address “the alleged violations of human rights by the disbanded SARS and to equally restore such rights and sanction the violators if found.”
The Kano State Commissioner for Information, Muhammad Garba, did not pick PREMIUM TIMES’ repeated calls. He also did not reply a text message sent to him by our reporter asking for his comment on the non-constitution of the panel in the state.
The Zamfara State government too did not set up an #EndSARS panel.
The governor’s media aide, Zailani Baffa, told PREMIUM TIMES he had not received any briefing on the constitution or otherwise of the panel. He promised to revert to our reporter as soon as he got information on the issue. But he had yet to do so as of the time of filing this report.
It will, however, be recalled that Zamfara State government had earlier opposed the disbandment of SARS.
As many Nigerians took to the streets last year denouncing the activities of SARS operatives, Governor Bello Matawalle, on October 11, 2020 said he “has strongly endorsed the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police as a vital necessity towards attaining peace and tranquility in our country.”
Mr Matawalle, quoted in a statement by his media aide, added, “Here in Zamfara State, we cannot afford to do without their immense contribution to the success of our peace initiatives against banditry and other criminality.”
He stated further that those that were against SARS “have more questions to answer from Nigerians”.
The Jigawa State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Musa Aliyu, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that the state had yet to establish the #EndSARS panel.
Mr Aliyu, however, said he would not rule out the establishment of such panels in the future.
It will be recalled that PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the youth in their hundreds staged a pro-SARS rally in the state October 15, 2020.
The government-backed demonstrations convened by Musbahu Basirka, under the auspices of Human Rights Network, was staged to rally support for then newly created Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) that succeeded the disbanded SARS.
They also called for better funding of the police and improved welfare package of their personnel to be able to fight banditry in the troubled North-west region.
Sokoto, Kebbi States
Sokoto and Kebbi States too did not establish the panels.
When contacted by our reporter, the Kebbi State Commissioner for Information, Rakiya Tanko-Ayuba, declined to comment.
However, an official of the Ministry of Information, who pleaded not to be named because he was not permitted to speak to the media, told PREMIUM TIMES that the state did not establish the panel because the #EndSARS protest did not hold in the state.
The Sokoto State’s Commissioner for Information, Bajini Galadanchi, did not respond to our reporter’s calls and text message asking for comment on why the #EndSARS panel was not set up in the state.
A former chairperson of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Dutse branch in Jigawa State, Baffa Alhassan, said states in the North-west were reluctant to set up the #EndSARS panels because of the low record of police brutality cases in the states in the region.
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