THE Lagos State Judicial Panel on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters has secured a three-month tenure extension.
Chair of the panel Doris Okuwobi made this known on Tuesday during the resumed hearing, saying that the panel would continue to hear submitted petitions and make further recommendations until July 19 as against the initial deadline of April 19 by the state government.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State had inaugurated the panel on October 19, 2020, following several days of protests by Nigerian youths against the extrajudicial killings and other misconduct perpetrated by operatives of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other units of the Nigeria Police Force.
Five months of sitting: the journey so far
When the hearing of petitions commenced in Lagos, several police brutality victims narrated painful encounters with trigger-happy police officers.
The victims sought justice before the panel, from unjust killings to illegal detention, bribery, seizure of properties.
The ICIR gathered that the Lagos panel had received 235 petitions from police brutality victims across the state.
During the course of the panel hearings, the Nigerian Army was summoned to appear before it concerning petitions bordering on the shooting of Nigerians at Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2021.
Initially, the Army failed to appear but eventually did before finally disbanding its legal team appearing before the panel.
The Army pulled out of the hearing after Reddington Hospital testified that it treated victims from the #EndSARS protest with bullet wounds on October 20, 21 and 22.
Hearings relating to Lekki shootings have not been concluded.
Division inside the Lagos panel
The panel has been faced with internal clashes due to members’ failure to agree on some decisions.
The disagreement led to the youth’s pull-out and civil society representatives, who were also members of the panel.
This followed the decision of Okuwobi to reopen the Lekki Toll Gate before the conclusion of the hearing.
One of the youth representatives, Rinuola Oduola, said she was not part of reopening the toll gate, noting that a quorum was not formed before the panel chair made the decision.
“It should also be noted that the ruling did not include our dissenting opinions as members of the panel. Five other members of the panel held the view that the toll gate should be allowed to reopen,” Oduola said.
Following her dissonance to the panel decision, Oduola pulled out of the panel, saying that she would not be part of a ‘cover-up.’
Victims receive compensations
The ICIR had also reported that some of the petitioners before the Lagos panel had been awarded monetary compensations.
More than N30 million has been awarded to five victims who petitioned the panel, including a widow, Tolulope Openiyi, whose husband was shot dead by the Nigerian police operatives.
Some other victims who have been compensated were Blessing Esanbor, Felicia Opara, and Tella Adesanya.
The panel awarded N10 million to Openiyi and N 5 million to Esanbor. Opara received N750,000, while Adesanya got N500,000.