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April 12, 2021

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The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS related abuses has awarded more compensations to victims of police brutality in the state.

Doris Okuwobi, the chairperson of the panel, on Saturday gave judgement on six petitions.

Four of the petitioners were awarded compensations in different sums, while the two others received nothing.

A total amount of N16.25 million was awarded as compensation on Saturday. This makes the total amount of compensation so far N43.75 million.

Compensations

In one of the petitions, Felicia Opara petitioned the Nigerian Police Force for arresting and brutalising her during the #EndSARS protests.

Felicia Okpara awarded N750, 000 as compensation.

She had earlier narrated to the panel how she was arrested and beaten by several officers for filming the violence that occurred during the protest at Surulere on October 12, 2020.

Giving judgement on the matter, Mrs Okuwobi, a retired judge, said the panel found that the appropriate authorities were unable to bring perpetrators of the torture and abuses against the petitioner to book.

“The police are aware of the fundamental rights of people guaranteed in the Constitution. The culture of impunity and violence as observed in some officers of the Police Force has given them wrong mentality that brutality and excessive force are fundamental to achieving success in policing in Nigeria.”

The judge recommended an apology letter to the petitioner by the Nigerian Police force, training of officers on human rights laws and enforcement and necessary disciplinary action against erring officers.

“Compensation in sum of N750,000 is hereby awarded to the petitioner,” the judge ruled.

In the second petition, the judge awarded N10 million as compensation to the family of Olusegun Openiyi who was killed by police officers in 2017.

Mrs Okuwobi said based on the evidence given by the petitioner, the panel found that the petitioner’s fact was not challenged and controverted by the respondent and is credible and strong enough for compensation.

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“Medical evidence confirmed death was caused by gunshot from the accused police officer, investigation was not properly conducted,” she said.

The panel recommended a scholarship for one biological child of the victim and the prosecution of the named officer, Jide Akintola.

‘No compensation’

The next petition, of an alleged killing of a physically challenged man, Francis Idum, by police officers at Ajisegiri Street, Ilupeju, however, received no compensation.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the relative of the deceased narrated before the panel how Mr Idum was killed by a bullet allegedly shot by police officers when they came to arrest some cultists at Ilupeju on July 15, 2019.

Giving a ruling on the matter, Mrs Okuwobi said the panel found out that the deceased was killed by an “unidentified person” taking into evidence the testimony of the respondent.

The retired judge said the petitioner did not establish his case by showing that it was a weapon handled by the police that killed the deceased.

“After the deceased has been shot, his corpse was taken away by police officers led by the Area Commander, Area F Command, while the shell of a bullet with serial number BS99m, Lugar pistol was recovered beside the body of the deceased,” she said.

The panel chair said despite several petitions written to the police and the state government on the incident, the police could not carry out the operation they went for on July 15 at Asigeri street due to the overwhelming crowd and volatile situation on the ground.

“There was no direct evidence given as to the exact person who shot the deceased, none of the petitioner’s witnesses that testified in respect of the case were eyewitnesses of the incident as they were not at the scene when he was shot.

“The petitioner could not establish that the bullet whose shell was found near the deceased was from the weapon used by the police. The evidence of the police witnesses and the movement of arms register remain uncontroverted as the police only signed out AK 47 as operational weapons for that day.”

Mrs Okuwobi ruled that the petitioner could not establish his case and the panel is unable to award any compensation.

‘No compensation for multiple slaps’

Also, in the case of Oladoyin Ademola, a petitioner who testified that the multiple slaps he received from police officers at Dopemu checkpoint resulted in him suffering cataract, the panel awarded no compensation.

ALSO READ: #EndSARS: Panel orders arrest of three police officers over alleged killing

Mrs Okuwobi said the panel found that police officers were at the Dopemu checkpoint and the DPO of Dopemu police station ought to be investigated.

“The petitioner did not connect the cataract he suffered to the act of the police. The panel cannot hold the police responsible for the cataract he suffered,” the retired judge said.

Mrs Okuwobi said the panel is unable to award any compensation in his case.

The panel also awarded N5 million compensation to Blessing Omorogie, another petitioner who suffered a deformity on her face as a result of gunshot injuries.

Blessing Omorogie awarded N5million as compensation

“The petitioner led uncontested evidence which was credible enough to be acted upon by the panel. The assailant is still in prison and there is no doubt to her case,” Mrs Okuwobi said.

The judge added that the petitioner’s right to life under Section 33 of the Constitution was threatened but she had no power or means to pursue the enforcement of her fundamental rights.

“The grievous harm done to the petitioner is unlawful, she was inflicted with a grave injury, and requires plastic surgery. N5million is awarded to the petitioner,” Mrs Okuwobi ruled.

Unlawful detention

The last petitioner, Tella Adesanya, received compensation of N500,000 for his unlawful detention in the police custody without being charged to court and the trauma he suffered.

Mr Adesanya had narrated to the panel that he was arrested at a checkpoint in Mushin local government for allegedly hitting someone with his car.

“The petition is uncontested on facts before the panel that the petitioner was arrested, detained for 3 days and not taken to any court,” the judge said.

She added that the panel found out that a bribe was given to the police officer before he was released and the petitioner’s car is still in the custody of the police to date.

She awarded N500,000 to the petitioner for his unlawful detention and trauma suffered, adding that his car should be released immediately.

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