SINCE the constitution of special judicial panels across 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to look into cases of police brutality, some police officers have refused to appear before the panels, frustrating victims’ hope of getting justice. Reports say that the attitude is commonest in Abuja.
Garba Tetengi, member of the Independent Investigative Panel on Defunct SARS and other Units of the Nigerian Police Force, representing chairman of the panel, said the police were trying to frustrate quest for justice for victims of brutality.
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- Tetengi said on Monday during the resumed hearing of petitions that police officers had repeatedly failed to appear before the panel as requested.
According to him, the trend had become ‘worrying,’ making it difficult for the force to execute directives of the panel with regard to appearances in answering allegations levelled against them.
The panel had ordered for the appearance of two police officers Raymond Eku (aka ‘Death’) serving in the Lagos State Police Command and IPO Sylvester in Nassarawa State police command who were both of the defunct SARS.
Asaph Aristole, liaison officer between the Nigeria Police and the IIP-SARS, told the panel that the notice for appearance was sent to the concerned police commands, but the officers chose not to appear on their own personal volition.
Eku and Sylvester were summoned by the panel to answer questions on allegations of unlawful arrest, detention, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment of one Richard Augustine.
Apart from the refusal of the officers to appear before the panels, the representative and counsel of the police in the Abuja panel has also been accused of negligence by the panel.
During the Monday sitting, counsel to the police respondents Malik Taiwo told the panel that the other counsel assigned to a petition was absent at the proceedings, thereby stalling the cross-examination of a petitioner.
Reacting to the counsel’s statement, Tetengi rejected what he deemed as an ‘unserious excuse’ by the police.
He argued that the police was one entity and ordered that it should “either cross-examine petitioner or forego that right and get ready for defence.”
Many police officers refuse to appear before panel
The ICIR gathered that apart from Eku and Sylvester, there have been several other police officers that have refused to appear before the panel.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had, in November, ordered the appearance of James Nwafor, a former commander of the Akwuzu SARS unit in Anambra unit, who was accused of supervising killings of more than five persons. The said Nwafor has since failed to appear before it.
Also, three police officers from Delta State police command have refused to honour the invitation of the panel in the state, thereby stalling the hearing of an alleged case of police brutality.
The police officers include one Sergeant Musa Sunday, Lucky Kehinde and Lucky Okuku who the police had earlier testified were sitting in the same vehicle the day a victim allegedly jumped off a moving van and got injured in the process. However, the panel has ordered the arrest and appearance of the three officers.
The ICIR contacted Frank Mba, spokesperson for the Nigeria police through phone calls and text messages, but he did not reply as of the time of filing this report.