The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has urged state governments to swiftly provide compensation to those grievously affected by the Nigerian Police’s misconduct. This includes brutality, harassment, extortion, and extrajudicial killings. The plea comes in the wake of findings from the recently convened Judicial Panel of Inquiry, which shed light on the harrowing experiences endured by many.
The Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Dr. Tony Ojukwu, emphasised the critical need for state governments to take immediate action to deliver restitution to petitioners who have suffered the loss of cherished family members or loved ones.
”The state government should make it a matter of priority to pay victims and not wait for the federal government to make funds available before administering justice for victims of police brutality,” he stated.
Ojukwu also advocated for the establishment of human rights committees as a preventative measure against future occurrences that could potentially spark another ENDSARS protest, potentially leading to widespread human rights violations.
The comprehensive Judicial Review Report, presented by desk researchers from Yiaga Africa, SBM Intelligence, and Enough Is Enough, scrutinized 29 states with established State Investigative Panels of Inquiry. Focusing on Anambra, FCT, Lagos, and Oyo, the report assessed the effectiveness of these panels in addressing petitions related to police brutality.
A researcher, Ikemesit Effiong, pointed out that a majority of the state panels lacked independence and transparency, with some facing budgetary constraints and having to suspend their proceedings, impacting the efficacy of the hearings. Additionally, some states have yet to act on the recommendations of their panels.
Chairman of the Human Rights Institute of the Nigerian Bar Association and a panellist at the event, Mr. Chinonye Obiagwu, disclosed that a significant number of petitioners were vulnerable individuals, including the indigent and women. He highlighted a substantial demand for justice but lamented the scarcity of supply due to widespread police intimidation and impunity.
Obiagwu decried a lack of political will on the part of the government to address these petitions, which has further emboldened the police force’s behaviour.
Looking ahead, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice affirmed that existing legal frameworks, including the Police Act 2002, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, and the Anti-Torture Act, are in place to safeguard citizens from human rights abuses.
Representing the Minister, Felix Ota-Okojie also commended the Commission for disbursing over N400 million to victims of police brutality, covering cases of enforced killings, unlawful arrests, threats to life, property destruction/confiscation/seizure, abuse of office, and extrajudicial killings.
Okojie called on all stakeholders to actively engage in the implementation of existing legal frameworks and laws that protect the rights of citizens, reinforcing the imperative of upholding justice and human rights for all.