Anambra End SARS panel yet to conclude assignment with Gov Obiano just less than 5 months in office


By Favour Goodness

One year after the setting up of the Anambra Judicial Panel of enquiry on police brutallty, extrajudicial killings and other related matters, the panel is yet to conclude it’s assignment, even as Gov. Willie Obiano who set it up has less than five months in office.

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Gov. Obiano set up a panel of inquiry on October 20, 2020 and inaugurated a 37-man committee to look into various allegations of police brutality and extra-judicial killings carried out by the defunct SARS.

The members were drawn from various strata of society, including; youths, students, religious and civil society organisations, and chaired by Retired Justice Veronica Umeh. Inaugurating the panel, Gov Obiano promised to continue protecting the life and property of the people of the state in order to ensure sustained peace and security.

Obiano said the panel would receive and investigate the complaints of police brutality relating to torture, high-handedness and extra-judicial killings by SARS and police in the state.

He said the panel would also evaluate evidence, present circumstances and other surrounding issues and draw conclusions as to the validity of the complaints, and also recommend appropriate sanctions and proffer solutions/recommend compensations and other remedial measures, where appropriate, to the state government. The panel was given one month to submit its report.

By the terms of reference spelt out to the panel, the report was supposed to be submitted to the state government on November, 19 2020. But as at October 2021, the report was yet to ready.

The victims of police brutality, who suffered in the hands of SARS operatives have continued to wait for either financial compensation or otherwise.

Obiano, after the inauguration of the panel, also announced N200m as compensation to those involved in proven cases of brutality, according to the recommendation of the panel.

The panel received 311 petitions, the highest in the entire country, and which supposedly will make it difficult to complete its work on time, especially as some members had expressed disenchantment with government over funding and sitting allowances.

A source said the original proposal was for members of the panel to receive stipends at every sitting, but close to one month of sitting, ‘It became clear that the government was not ready to fund the sitting and that was where the rancour began.’

A coalition of youth groups in the panel withdrew from it, accusing government of lacklustre attitude and doubted its readiness to treat the main cause of the EndSARS Protest.

In a press conference in Awka, the youth groups represented by Ifediora Chijioke; Henry Chibuike Ugwu; Mr. Osonwa Chukwuka; Comr. Ebelechukwu Ngini; Comr., and Kas Chibuike Obiwuzie, said they were compelled to resign from the panel over perceived government not having the interest of those killed and brutalized at heart.

Reading an open letter they wrote to Obiano, the youths said: ‘It is imperative to mention that Anambra state, under your (Obiano) watch and that of your predecessor, was the cynosure of police brutality, extortion, and even extrajudicial killings in Nigeria,’ noting that SARS, Awkuzu, and numerous other police outfits in Anambra state, had gained infamy around the world for outrageous, unconscionable, and iniquitous violations of the fundamental rights of Nigerians, including the right to life.

‘We were impressed when the government constituted the panel to investigate cases of police brutality and recommend compensation to victims, among other points, in its terms of reference. Sadly, the sittings of the panel were characterized by inefficiency and poor organization because the Anambra state government failed woefully to adequately provide logistics for anything at all involving the proceedings of the panel. There was no funding to enhance clerical or secretarial functions of the panel; no provision for security or witness protection.

‘We are however convinced beyond peradventure that the Anambra state government has no regard for the victims of the many human rights violations by the police in the state. The government has totally ignored the panel and had simply set up the panel to play to the gallery. Many victims of abuse of police powers and other interested stakeholders have been communicating the panel’s secretariat or its members in a bid to know why the panel is no longer sitting despite more than 250 petitions which have been unattended to. All these inquiries have failed to yield concrete answers and the government, despite being aware of the interest of the public is showing no signs of interest in the activities of the panel. We firmly refuse to be pawns in the game of the government, so we hereby resign our appointments into the Anambra State Panel and completely dissociate ourselves from all the charade,’ they said.

It was gathered that some members of the panel continued, even in the face of the seeming reluctance of government, to fund the panel. A member of the panel who begged not to be quoted said: ‘You were all there when the youths backed out of the panel. I do not blame them because they are youths. As for some of us, we have passed doing things for society only because we will get paid, so we decided to continue.’

On why in spite of being given just one month to submit its report, close to one year after, its report on recommendations were yet to be out, the member said it was true that the governor gave one month to complete the task, but that Anambra had the highest number of petitions because SARS brutality was much prevalent there.

‘So he gave us another one month, and when we couldn’t finish he added another three months. Do not forget also that we had both logistics problems and others. The panel chairman had just lost and buried her father before she was appointed. Then again, she lost her mother, and yet again, her brother. These devastated her and also slowed down our work. You know also that we had to do a lot of investigations about the claims of the petitioners before making recommendations,’ the source said.

The chairman of the panel, Justice Veronica Umeh (Rtd), had revealed that the panel had concluded its work and that the report would be presented to the governor soon.

In a telephone conversation, Umeh said, ‘What you are asking, we will be ready soon. You know we had the highest number of petitions in the country and we had to take time to sit on all of them. So, the report is almost ready, so just wait and we will present it to the governor and it will be ready for all to see.’

She also noted that the panel had powers to make recommendations, but that the report was not final because another white paper committee would be set up to look at the findings and recommendations.

‘Ours is to make recommendations, but government may decide to pay more than we recommended to a particular person or to slash what we recommended. As at now, we already have a draft of our reports and anytime from now, we are submitting it.

‘Also note that some of the atrocities meted on people may not be left like that. The attorney general may have to take it up and prosecute some people, depending on our recommendation.

‘Considering that Chief Obiano has just five months to the end of his tenure, one may want to wonder if his white paper committee could be constituted and recommendation paid to victims of police brutality and erring police officers dragged to court for prosecution before the end of his tenure,’ he said

One name that remained recurring in most of the petitions as far as police brutality in Anambra was concerned was that of CSP James Nwafor, who was the SARS Commander during the period most of the atrocities were committed. Many believed that Nwafor has questions to answer, regarding the disappearance of most people arrested by him during his period as Commander.

When contacted, the Commissioner for Information, Chief C Don Adinuba said that the panel is under the Ministry of Justice, adding that it is the ministry that can say the true position.

The Commissioner for Justice, Bar Uju Nwogu was not in the office to speak on the matter on several visits and failed to pick several phone calls to her



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