Kogi, Plateau Inaugurate Panels on Police Brutality

Simon Lalong

* Lalong denies calling for return of SARS

Chinedu Eze in Lagos, Seriki Adinoyi in Jos and Ibrahim Oyewale in Lokoja

Following recommendation of the National Economic Council (NEC), for the establishment of judicial panels of inquiry by the governors to hear complaints and ensure accountability in the operations of police units in their states, Plateau and Kogi states have set up the judicial panels on police brutality.

Plateau State Governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, who approved the appointment of members of the panel to investigate complaints of police brutality and related extra-judicial killings in the state, also denied calling for the return of dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), insisting that he was misunderstood.

Lalong said that the constitution of the panel was with a view to delivering justice for all victims of the dissolved SARS and other police units.

The panel, which will be headed by a retired Judge of the Plateau State High Court, Justice Philomena Lot, has other members as: Commissioner of Police Garba Patrick (rtd); Mr. Ezekiel Dauda Daschen (youth representative); Mrs. Rauta Dakok (representative of Attorney General’s Office); and Mrs. Kyempia Mafuyai (representative of Human Rights Commission).

The committee has six months to complete its assignment and submit its report.

The terms of reference, according to the governor, are to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra-judicial killings; evaluate evidence and draw conclusions on validity of complaints; as well as recommend compensation and other remedial measures.

While congratulating members of the committee on their appointment, the governor challenged them to be “thorough, diligent and fair to all those that will appear before them in order to ensure that justice is served to all parties without bias.”

Meanwhile, Lalong has denied that he advocated on behalf of the Northern Governors Forum for the return of the scrapped SARS, adding that he was misunderstood.

He explained that “there was no way the Northern Governors will call for the resurrection of an already scrapped SARS as approved by the president and announced by the Inspector General of Police.”

Lalong said that he only told the State House correspondents that “there was a need for deeper and holistic reform of the entire policing architecture in the country,” where he stressed the fact that despite the condemnable atrocities by some members of the dissolved SARS, there were some among them that are good and performed their duties diligently, and as such should not be a blanket condemnation.

He added that he cited the examples of some northern governors who testified that the disbanded SARS contributed significantly to the fight against insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other violent crimes in their states to drive home the fact that there were some good ones among them.

The governor reiterated that he has “deep support for the agitation of a holistic reform of the policing architecture which has commenced with the scrapping of SARS”.

In a related development, the Kogi State Government has inaugurated 10-man Human Rights Special Intervention Group (HRSIG) committee to help respond to the legal needs of victims of human right abuse to enable them have access to justice.

The Director General, Office of the Public Defender and Citizens Rights Commission (PDCRC) in the state, Mr. Abdullahi Zakari who inaugurated the committee in Lokoja, noted that the inauguration was to address the persistence violations of the rights of Kogi residents and the inability of the vulnerable to access justice.

Zakari explained that the committee’s inauguration was a timely response by the pro-youth and pro-poor , Governor Alhaji Yahaya Bello, to ensure that human rights of residents and citizens of the state is secured.

He said that due to the #EndSars protest, the governor has identified with the youth and promised to set up a special Committee to handle the brutality of the law enforcement officers, which culminated in this inauguration.

He noted that the committee members were drawn from relevant agencies based on their track records.

He enjoined them to respond to issues of domestic violence.

He added that the committee would respond to illegal arrests and detention by law enforcement officers, and submit monthly report to PDCRC; and to carry out assignments that may be assigned from time to time by the commission.