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Groups fault composition of panels of inquiry in Cross Rivers, Rivers, others

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Some civil society groups have expressed concern over the manner in which some Panels of Enquiry on Police Brutality were being established in Cross River, Rivers, and other states of the federation, warning that the committees may not achieve the expected results. 

Executive Director of ‘We The People,’ Ken Henshaw, said the decision of some governors to appoint their cronies and friends into the panels indicate that they were still not concerned with the need of Nigerians to police and other security agents’ brutality.

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He said in Cross River State, the panel was constituted without members of civil society groups or any of the #EndSARS campaigners, pointing out that the seven-man panel set up by Governor Ben Ayade comprised three government appointees, a Special Adviser, High Court Judge, retired judge, and two businessmen. 

Also, Chairman of Rivers Civil Society Organisations, Enefaa Georgewill, argued that most members of the state’s Judicial Panel of Inquiry were individuals who have a close relationship with the state government and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Georgewill said the outcome of the panel might be compromised and as such, fail to meet the expectations of members of the public. 

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He advocated that to ensure openness, accessibility, and transparency, Governor Nyesom Wike should reconstitute the panel or expand its membership to include representatives of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the student’s committee as directed by the Federal Government.

On the Cross Rivers panel, Henshaw said, “It is shocking that the government did not deem it appropriate to include any person from the group of agitators or civil society. Similar concerns have been raised about the composition of the Panels of Inquiry in other states,”

They described the decision of state governments in setting up the panels of inquiry on police brutality without representatives of civil society organisations or youths from the #EndSARS movement as ‘sad and unfortunate.’

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Henshaw said a situation where the state governments appointed their friends and cronies, as members of the panels, would only ensure that the investigations defer to the government’s position and produce predetermined outcomes.

“We are concerned that the independence required to ensure credibility, objectivity, and efficiency of the panels may have been lost.” 

He added that another concern was that some of the states limited the panels’ terms of reference to investigating petitions specifically related to infringements committed by SARS, in spite of the Federal Government’s recommendation that the process should cover the entire police force.

“We are concerned that limiting the inquiries to SARS, only shuts out an opportunity to address all abuses by the Nigeria police,” he said, lamenting that Federal and state governments have a poor record of implementing reports of panels of inquiry. 

“Several reports from similar across the country have been neglected. We, however, express the hope that as it relates to the current panels of inquiry, the government will ensure thorough investigations that will be followed by the prosecution of those found to have acted wrongly,” he added.

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