Police team abandons IIP-SARS despite quantum of allegations against institution

~ As NHRC vows to invoke its powers

The police team has abandoned the Independent Investigative Panel on Alleged Human Rights Violations by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad and other units of the Nigerian Police Force since the resumed sitting of the Panel on the 1st of March 2022. This is evident in the near absence of the police legal team at the panel despite proper information and hearing notices following the 2022 resumption of sitting.

A Statement signed by Fatimah Agwai Mohammed, Deputy Director Public Affairs, National Human Rights Commission said, the venue of the resumed sitting of the panel had only one police counsel, Mr. Kenneth Egbuchua who represents the institution, and policemen that are listed as respondents in all the cases before the panel.

When contacted by the Commission, lead counsel to the police at the panel Mr. James Idachaba, who was also not present at the panel, told the Commission that he has detailed members of the police legal team to be at the panel unfailingly as he has an assignment outside his jurisdiction.

The stressful-looking Mr. Ebuchua who goes in and out of the sitting intermittently seems to be overwhelmed with the task he has to single-handedly undertake at the panel. The panel at a point had to wait for him to come back before it proceeds when he went to answer the call of nature. Such a needless vacuum ought not to have been created if the police had taken their duties at the panel seriously in the last couple of days after the panel’s resumption.

It would be recalled that the panel had suffered several setbacks and adjournments due to the lack of cooperation on the part of the police whose counsel has either refused to appear before the panel or refused to send signals to compel its many officers involved in cases before the panel to appear before it.

It should be put on record that the role of the police in the protection of lives and properties of citizens can never be over-emphasized. The panel members have severally warned the police not to frustrate the effort of the panel but this seems not to have made any impact considering their attitude at the resumed sitting of 2022.

Dr. Garba Tetengi who stood in for the panel Chairman, Justice Sulaiman Galadima said “we tend to believe now that the police have abandoned us, they are just leaving one counsel here”

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is therefore using this medium to call on the hierarchy of the police institution to do the needful and take the IIP-SARS panel seriously saying it is determined to fight for the rights and dignity of every person leaving in Nigeria.

In the event that the police fail to heed this call and take the necessary steps to discharge their responsibilities at the panel, the Commission will be left with the option to invoke its powers under the NHRC Amendment Act 2010.

Similarly, another member of the panel, John Aikpokpo Martins also cautioned the police in a case of alleged extra-judicial killing where the police was not forthcoming with the defence of the petition occasioned by the absence of some police officers allegedly involved in the matter.

The panelist who represents the Nigerian Bar Association in the panel told the sole police lawyer when the said case was called up at the panel, Kenneth Egbuchua that it is in the best interest of the affected police officers to appear and assist the panel to arrive at a just decision in the matter.

According to him, it will be “dangerous” for the police not to inform these officers about the cases against them, and ensure that they are available at the panel, because at the end of the day, the panel may recommend their dismissal or prosecution as the case may be.

It will be recalled that during last year’s proceedings at the panel, the police paraded a reasonable number of counsel who barely struggled with the enormous cases brought against them. Now that the police have only one counsel, it logically raises doubt as to the seriousness of the institution concerning the serious human rights allegations against them.


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