The #EndSARS panel in Abuja, on Wednesday, expressed disappointment in the Nigerian police over the “gross negligence” and “inadequate commitment” of their officers to the probe being conducted into cases of police brutality.
The Independent Investigative Panel set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to hear cases of human rights violation perpetrated by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units, had, since inception, been forced to adjourn many cases due to lack of cooperation of police officers who are meant to appear to testify.
The chairman of the panel, Suleiman Galadima, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, expressed the panel’s frustrations triggered by the continued absence and lack of commitment of the police officers involved in the cases scheduled for hearing on Wednesday
“We are not happy with the way things are going. This panel will not continue to condone the lack of deligence of the respondents,” he said.
Absenteeism has been a trend at the panel for many months, with many police officers involved in scheduled cases failing to obey the panel’s invitations.
In March, the panel threatened to order the arrest of two police officers attached to the notorious Awkuzu SARS in Anambra State, should they continue to snub invitations to appear.
‘Why police officers are absent’
The leader of the police defence team, James Idachaba, said at the Wednesday’s proceedings that some of the officers involved in the listed cases had retired from the service.
He added that others had been transferred to other states or had been deployed for special operations in preparation for the coming election in Anambra State.
The lawyer, who heads the legal department of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) command of the police force, said the unavailability of the invited police officers was due to one or two of the reasons.
Panel members react
A member of the panel, Garba Tetengi, a lawyer, while expressing displeasure over the poor attitude of the police towards the proceedings, said, “we are disappointed in the continual negligence and lack of diligence of the police institution.”
Another member of the panel, Lydia Umar, representing civil societies, noted that the panel viewed the absentee police officers, as not just individuals, but as the face of the police institution. She said the police institution as a whole needed to commit to the cases.
PREMIUM TIMES had previously reported how a police officer involved in one of the cases ignored the order of the panel.
The panel resumed sitting recently after it was crippled by lack of funding for over six months.
Already replicated in at least 28 ststes, the panel is commonly referred to as #EndSARS panel, a fitting name it was given as a product of the October 2020 #EndSARS protest against police brutality
Most of the panels set up by the state governments have submitted their reports, recommending compensations for victims of police brutality and sanctions or prosecution for erring police officers.