Finally, justice and relief have been served as the Independent Investigative Panel on human rights violations by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad, and other Units of the Nigeria Police Force (IIP-SARS), sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday awarded compensations to 100 victims of police brutality, to the tune of about N431, 884,094 million.
The Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Governing Council Dr. Salamatu Hussaini Sulaiman disclosed that the panel heard a total of 294 cases out of which decisions were made on 292. She made this disclosure during the symbolic presentation of cheques to the families and victims of police brutality at the Headquarters of the (NHRC) in Abuja.
She used the opportunity of the award ceremony to express the Council’s appreciation to Nigerians who trusted the Commission by filing petitions to the IIP-SARS, adding that the act shows their belief in the human rights mechanisms of Nigeria.
The Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Fatimah Agwai Mohammed, stated this in a statement released to Peionews in Abuja.
According to the statement, the NHRC chairperson further stated that “as an independent National Human Rights Institution, the Commission will continue to exercise its mandate to promote and protect the human rights of every Nigerian, using various constituted mechanisms under the National Human Rights Commission Act (as amended)”.
She assured that “the Commission will work towards putting in place a permanent mechanism through which we will address cases of police brutality and other associated human rights violations arising from law enforcement and security operations”.
The Panel Chairman, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Suleiman Galadima (CFR), who brought his wealth of experience to bear throughout the panel sitting, expressed appreciation to all who made the IIP-SARS a success.
While urging state governments with similar panels to harmonize their report for appropriate actions, Justice Galadima rtd. advised them to set aside funds for the panels to carry out their functions.
The Executive Secretary of the NHRC who believes that there cannot be impunity in Nigeria forever expressed delight that the Commission was able to get justice for victims of police brutality.
He thanked the Buhari-led administration for making funds available for payment of compensation saying “the Commission laboured day and night to ensure that there is some sort of closure for the victims and their families”.
Stressing the need for accountability for human rights violations, the learned silk said, “The ceremony today is to tell you that we have acknowledged the violation of your rights and we are putting this forward in good faith to say we are sorry”.
“The amount paid today will not solve all the problems but to ensure that where there is a violation of rights, there must be a remedy.”
“This is a clear indication that we should not take the laws into our hands. The course of Justice may be slow, but surely we will get there and what happened today is an indication that Nigeria will be better” he affirmed.
Secretary of the panel and the Senior Human Rights Adviser to the Executive Secretary, Mr. Hillary Ogbonna, disclosed that allegations in the petitions that were determined, bordered on extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, cruel inhuman and degrading treatment by police officers, prolonged detention, abuse of power, as well as non-payment of judgment debts.
He lamented that some of the victims died before the panel could conclude its investigations that spanned for a period of two years.
“It is quite unfortunate that some of the petitioners are no more. Some of them died within the last eight months”. He said, ” We are making arrangements with their families and lawyers to ensure that they receive their compensations”.
On what happens to the indicted police officers, the Panel Secretary has this to say: “some of you may be wondering, what about the police personnel who perpetrated these violations? The panel has also made recommendations on what should be done to some indicted police officers. The report will soon be submitted to the appropriate authorities”.