#EndSARS: Ebonyi Inquiry Panel receives five petitions, begins sitting

Uba Group

AGNES NWORIE, ABAKALIKI

THE Ebonyi State Judicial Panel of Inquiry, saddled with the responsibility of investigating and prosecuting defaulters of police brutality and human rights violators in the state, in response to the demands of #EndSARS protesters, has officially commenced sitting in Abakaliki, the state capital.

The panel, chaired by the immediate past Chief Judge of Ebonyi State, Rtd Justice Alloy Nwankwo, held its inaugural sitting in Abakaliki, having received five petitions from the public.

Justice Nwankwo vowed to prosecute all violators of human rights, including police officers who allegedly brutalised citizens of the state without fear or favour.

He stressed the panel’s commitment to looking into all cases of police brutality, human rights violation or related extra-judicial killings that took place in the state, even as he said the panel would commence hearing on the cases immediately.

The former chief judge disclosed that the panel was presently at the stage of serving all parties involved to avoid infringing on peoples’ rights, noting that its sitting days would be announced in due course.

Nwankwo said that the panel would give the public unfettered right to speak about their experiences in the hands of security agencies, to enable it to make its findings and recommend appropriately.

He pledged that in determining the cases presented before it, the panel would ensure restitution to those whose fundamental human rights had been or were violated by security agents in the state.

According to him, the panel also resolved to observe all rules of natural justice and accord all parties equal opportunities of hearing.

He said, “We seek the cooperation of everybody to effectively and efficiently discharge this assignment as the panel has a friendly atmosphere that allows the public to present their cases.

“Nigerian citizens enjoy many rights but the inalienable, fundamental rights of citizens are statute-protected by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). The panel had several meetings in order to discuss the ‘modus operandi’ in hearing of petitions/complaints before it.

“The cases received so far are as follows: Emmanuel Nnabuife and others, against the Nigeria Police; Barrister Ugoeze Raphael versus Professor Michael Awoke and SARS; Chief Charles Igwe and others, against Ebonyi State Government and Police; Barrister Christian Chukwukadibia against Ekpeagu and Nigeria police; and Barrister Nwelom Francis against SARS Ebonyi State.

“We will commence hearing this week immediately. We have two branches of this assignment – the ombudsman who sees about investigation of the cases, our own task is more of adjudication.”

On his part, the Head of the Investigative section of the panel, otherwise known as ombudsman section, Emmanuel Obasi, stated, “The state government under His Excellency, Chief David Umahi, set up the state Human Rights Office and part of our responsibility is to investigate all human rights abuses and violations by law enforcement agencies in the state, not just the Nigeria police, but including the Army, Navy, Air force, Civil Defence, DSS, Road Safety, Neighborhood Watch, Task Forces and any other government agency that might have in one way or the other violated the rights of Ebonyians or Nigerians living in the state.

“So, as you rightly pointed out, we investigate all cases, This means that in any area we suspect that people’s rights may have being violated, it is our duty to visit the site to see for ourselves whether there are people whose rights may have been abused and they don’t have the power to cry out. In that circumstance, we will cry out for them by making their cases known and treated accordingly.”