EndSARS: IG Panics over Botched Suit against Panels, Moves to Avert Sanction

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•Files notice to discontinue case, may sacrifice his Head of Legal Section

Charles Ajunwa in Lagos, Kingsley Nwezeh and Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu has spent the last 24 hours struggling to convince top shots in the Presidency that he was unaware of the lawsuit that came up on Thursday asking a court to stop the various states’ judicial panels of enquiry probing allegations of rights abuses and other acts of brutality against the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad and other police units.

The Presidency is said to have been angered that a decision to set up the various panels of enquiry, taken by the National Economic Council, which has the 36 state governors and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as members, was awkwardly challenged by the Adamu-led police.

A source close to the IG said he feared he might be sanctioned or even removed before the end of his tenure next January over the lawsuit which miffed the Presidency, particularly coming from an agency of government. As a result, “he went begging everybody that matters at the Villa to help him reach out to the President about his innocence.”

Yesterday, Adamu, apparently in a bid to please the Presidency, quickly ordered the withdrawal of the suit against the judicial panels. He had earlier on Thursday disowned the suit and queried the Head, Force Legal Section, Tuesday Assayomo, a Commissioner of Police. It was gathered that Assayomo may be fired to send a signal that the IG was not in the know of the lawsuit.

Another source at the Force Headquarters said: “The IG knows there is a plan to deal with him for the embarrassment the police caused the Presidency with the lawsuit. The nature of the sanction is still not clear, but he is aware a big hammer may come very soon if he did not take urgent actions to remedy the situation. “This is why he (IG) has been running up and down to plead for forgiveness on the basis that the lawsuit was a unilateral action by the police Legal Department.

“Of course, those at the Presidency know that a police legal department cannot file a case of that magnitude without the knowledge of the IG. This is what has made his case very bad. The IG ought to have looked for a better excuse. He should simply admit his mistakes. He wanted to protect the image of the police being battered at the panel, but went about it in a wrong way.”

Yesterday, IG Adamu ordered the withdrawal of the controversial case before the court assigned it to a judge.
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 withdraw its lawsuit against all the defendants.”

A police statement said the IGP’s order was sequel to the outcome of investigations into the role played by the Force Legal Section in the institution of the said lawsuit.
“Recall that the IGP had yesterday, 3rd December, 2020, ordered a probe into the alleged involvement of the Force Legal Section in the attempt to halt the ongoing States’ Judicial Panel inquiries into the activities of the defunct SARS”, the statement signed by Force PRO and Deputy Commisioner of Police (DCP), Frank Mba, said.

The IG, in the statement, reassured that the force remained committed to the course of justice at all times and will not allow anybody to constitute a ‘brick-wall’ to the ongoing reform processes of the force.
IG Adamu had earlier on Thursday disowned the suit and directed an immediate investigation into the role of the Force Legal Section, including its head, CP Assayomo.
The IG also expressed the disapproval of the Force Management Team with the matter.

Real Reason the Suit was Filed

THISDAY’s investigation showed that contrary to the IG’s claim, he was indeed aware of the suit and that it was aimed at stopping the negative exposure that put the law enforcement agency in a bad light and could potentially trigger another round of attacks on its personnel.

THISDAY checks showed that the police management was worried about the further negative portrayal of the force through the panels and the potential to set the stage for another round of killing of police personnel and the potential destruction of police assets.

The Botched Case against Probe Panels

The plaintiff had in the suit urged the court to restrain the Attorneys-General of the 36 states of the federation and their various panels of enquiry from going ahead with the probe focussing on police impunity.

The defendants, totaling 104, who were sued by the NPF, comprised the Attorney-General of the Federation, the National Human Rights Commission which set up the Independent Investigative Panel sitting in Abuja, the Attorneys-General of the states, and chairmen of the states’ panels.

The NPF, through their lawyer, Mr. O. M. Atoyebi (SAN), argued in the suit 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.
It argued 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 the court to, among others, declare that “the establishment of 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.”