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The Nigeria Police Force on Friday applied to withdraw the suit filed challenging the powers of the various judicial panels on human rights violations by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other units of the Police Force.
Following street protests across the country by youths in October, the federal government had announced a disbandment of the special squad and immediately directed the establishment of various judicial panels to look into the allegations of rights abuse and other wrongful conduct of police officers in the course of their duties.
However, few weeks into the works of the various panels across states of the federation, the police claimed that the various judicial panels being establishment by various states government lack powers to investigate into its activities, and asked the Federal High Court to stop them from proceeding any further.
But before the court could assigned the case to a judge and fixed date for hearing, the police, through one of the lawyers in its legal team, Mr Festus I use, on Friday approached the court to withdraw the suit against the panels.
Although no reason for the withdrawal was given in the “notice of discontinuance” cited by THISDAY, but strong criticism had trailed the legal action of the police when the news broke out on Thursday.
The notice of discontinuance dated December 3 and brought pursuant to Order 50 Rule 2 of the Federal High Court read: “Take notice that the plaintiff herein intends to and doth hereby wholly withdraws its suit against all the defendants.”
The defendants, totalling 104 include; the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Attorney General of the 36 States of the Federation as well as chairmen and members of the various states panels.
The police had in the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/1492/2020, prayed the court for a restraining order against the defendants from going ahead with the probe on alleged police impunity.
The Force, in the suit filed on its behalf by Mr O. M. Atoyebi (SAN), claimed that the state governments lacked the power to constitute the panels to investigate activities of the police force and its officials in the conduct of their statutory duties.
According to the plaintiff, the state governments’ decision to set up such panels violated the provisions of section 241(1)(2)(a) and Item 45, Part 1, First Schedule to the Constitution and Section 21 of the Tribunals of Inquiry Act.
The plaintiff submitted that by virtue of the provisions of 241(1)(2)(a) and Item 45, Part 1, First Schedule to the Nigerian Constitution only the Federal Government had exclusive power to “organise, control and administer the Nigeria Police Force”.
It, therefore, urged to, among others, declare that “the establishment of a panel of enquiries by the governors of the various states of the federation of Nigeria, to inquire into the activities of the Nigeria Police Force in relation to the discharge of her statutory duties is a gross violation of the provisions of Section 241 (1)(2) (a) and Item 45, Part 1, First schedule, 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and Section 21 of the tribunals of inquiry Act, Cap.T21, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004”.
The plaintiff also urged the court to declare that “having regard to the circumstances of this case, the attitude of the governors of the various states of the Federation of Nigeria, in this case, is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever”.
It sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the 3rd to 38th defendants (the state Attorneys-General of the 36 states) “from making or conducting any investigations, sittings, and inquiries and/or from making or conducting any further investigations, sittings and inquiries in respect of matters affecting the Nigeria Police Force, and or further setting up any panel of inquiry in any state whatsoever in the country”.