The member representing the civil society on the Judicial Panel on Police Brutality and other related offences, Comrade Osmond Ugwu, has declared that Panel work remained inclusive as they were yet to be advised by the Secretary of the status and stages of petitions filed before them, pointing out that it was wrong to declare any matter as concluded or abandoned at this stage.
Comrade Igwu, while reacting to the report purportedly submitted by the panel said, “I wish to dissociate myself from the media report published by the Vanguard Newspaper of August 2, 2021, which source is attributed to News Agency of Nigeria and credited to the Secretary to the #ENDSARS related Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality and Other Related Extra-Judicial Killings in Enugu state, Mr Onochie Obuna Ngwu, on Monda, regarding the state of affairs of the panel as regards to the abandonment of cases by 52 petitioners who submitted petition and information regarding the fact that the panel has concluded sitting.”
He insisted that “As far as I am concerned, the information is very fallacious and misleading. The opinion of the Secretary on these issues do not represent the opinion of the panel and are not true. I am a member of the panel and I represent the Civil Society in the panel. I have shown presence on and participated in all the meetings and sittings of the panel except on two days which I have compelling reasons to be absent from the panel of which I put the chairman on notice.
“The panel members have not decided on the issue of abandoned petitions and have not concluded sitting. As a matter of fact, we are sitting on Monday, August 9, 2021, to hear 5 petitions. Again, information that 35 petitions were transferred to the Administrative Panel and 60 petitions are not in the record of the panel members. We read it on the pages of Newspapers. If I don’t put the record straight, our panel will be seen by the public as operating a double standard, particularly, those who may read from the media that we have concluded sitting and on Monday, see us sitting,” he disclosed.
He added that it would also be tantamount to injustice and denial of opportunity of being heard and fair hearing to those who submitted petitions to the panel and had not received any information from the panel since they submitted petitions.
“When they heard or read that the panel has concluded sitting without inviting, they will look maltreated and frustrated and all their hope of getting justice from the panel will be dashed. There are many of them that the panel members have not seen or received from the Secretary and he will go out and announced that they have abandoned their petitions. Secretary has no power to make such declarations. It is the panel in the session that has such powers and we have not done so”, he insisted.
In a statement he issued, on Thursday, Ugwu reiterated, “As a matter of fact, our panel is a human rights violation investigation panel or commission and every petition, complaints or even ordinary memoranda submitted by anybody must be treated with respect and every seriousness in line with Justice, proper procedures, rule of and due process before any petition is being adjudged abandoned and it is the duty of the panel in a session and not that of the Secretary.”
He explained that “During the meeting of the panel on Thursday, July 29, 2021, the panel directed the Secretary to compile all the memos from number one to 147 as contained in the cause list of the panel and update the panel members both in soft and hard copies, the status of each memo vis-a-vis those adopted with dates, those transferred with date, those on the hearing stage and date of last adjournment and those yet to be mentioned with evidence of communication to the petitioners by the panel through the Registry headed by the Secretary.”
The panel, he added, had resolved that even if there were announcements through radios, it is not enough. “We directed him to write to every member through the addresses they provided in their petitions, he refused, anchoring his reasons on lack of fund despite the huge sum of money approved by the governor for the purpose and released to him, with a Bus fueled by the government for that purpose. When he refused to write to the petitioners acknowledging their petitions and telling them what is expected of them, the panel directed him to send SMS to them using the phone numbers provided by them copying members and forwarding copies to us. But till today, none of us has received any SMS indicating communication with them.”
Comrade Ugwu appealed to the governor “to consider extending further the tenure of the panel at least to another three months to enable the panel to communicate to petitioners as appropriate and give a fair hearing to all as justice demands and enable the panel to hear all the outstanding petitions, investigate the received and adopted petitions, hear witnesses were necessary to arrive at an unbiased conclusion and write reports.”
“Let not the anger of the inefficient Secretariat be transferred to the victims. It is an only further extension of time that can enable the panel to come up with reports and recommendations that will be credible and acceptable to right conscience,” he submitted.
Credit: Nigeria Tribune