Amid the controversy over the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry report recently released, legal practitioners in the country have said the state took the right step by constituting the panel to look at general cases of police brutality that ignited the #EndSARS protest and the alleged Lekki shooting incident on 20, October, 2020.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday in Lagos, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) said the panel did not breach any law and has the powers to summon, investigate and indict the army and police on human rights abuses.
He said; “As far as the law is concerned, the Okuwobi Judicial Commission of Enquiry did not breach any law in recommending that military and police officers be sanctioned for engaging in the egregious infringement of human rights of innocent people in Lagos State.
“The military and police officers who are dissatisfied with their indictment may wish to approach the High Court for legal advice.
“But it is going to be a tough legal battle since the indicted officers had denied themselves the opportunity to defend themselves against allegations of involvement in the brutal murder of 99 citizens,” Falana argued.
Also reacting to the controversies surrounding the panel’s report and the White Paper released by the Lagos State government, a former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) vice president, Monday Ubani, said the law was on the side of the panel.
Ubani said; “It remains an undisputed fact that the investigation of police brutality is designed to promote the welfare of the people.
“Indeed, majority of the allegations of police brutality pertain to extrajudicial killings or murders, attempted murder, false imprisonment and assault occasioning harm which offences are created and penalised under the criminal code or penal code are applicable in southern and northern states respectively.
“To that extent, governors of states across Nigeria have the powers to cause these complaints to be investigated to prevent police brutality in all its ramifications within their states.
“The power of the judicial commission to summon police and military personnel as well as other officers in the public service of the federal government to testify in respect of allegations of human rights abuse cannot be questioned on solid legal grounds.
“Indeed, it is in the interest of all persons accused of violating the human rights of citizens to defend themselves in the exercise of their fundamental right to fair hearing guaranteed by Section 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as Amended).
“So many panels have been set up known to us in history in Plateau, Rivers and many other states of the federation and the police and army were invited and they testified in them all,” he stated.
Mohammed Abney (SAN) argued that the Lagos State government was right when it stated that it could not sanction the indicted security operatives.
He said; “Lagos can recommend to the federal government that some officers were indicted in the report. It is left for the federal government to sanction them.
“In addition, those who lost relatives can sue the police or army. That is notwithstanding whatever position the federal government will take. The report can act as a stimulus for families of the deceased persons to sue the police or army.
“On whether there will be sufficient evidence, that is a different thing”, Abney said.