Acting on the powers conferred by the Tribunals of Inquiry Law, Laws of Lagos State, 2015, (“the Law”), on 19 October 2020, the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, set up a panel known as the Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for Victims of Special Anti Robbery Squad Related Abuses. The Panel commenced sitting on Monday, 26 October 2020, at the Lagos Court of Arbitration, Lekki.

Since then, the Panel has heard cases or complaints by several victims of police brutality. Apart from the controversies that accompanied the recent ruling by the Panel handing over the management of the Lekki Toll Gate to Lekki Concession Company (LCC), the Panel has determined some cases and even made recommendations. For instance, the Panel recently recommended 10 Million Naira compensation to some victims of police brutality. From the report, victims, Adebayo Abayomi and Hannah Olugbodi, were compensated for the loss and disability they suffered as a result of misuse of firearms by officers of the Nigerian Police Force. Adebayo lost his mother who was the breadwinner at the time (4 April 2017) while Hannah lost her left leg on 6 June 2018.

Interestingly, the Lagos State Government has given immediate effect to the recommendations by presenting the victims with the sum recommended, as shown on their website.

With the above development, the Lagos Judicial Panel served justice quickly like a plate of porridge but the courts will cook it forever. Justice delayed is justice denied. 

A Panel that commenced sitting on 26 October 2020 is already delivering “judgment” in the form of recommendation and implementation (or enforcement) has already taken immediate effect. This is precisely what the public look forward to when they approach the courts to seek redress. But no. Assuming the victims above had filed a case in court either for enforcement of fundamental rights or based on tort, within the first 3 to 5 years, the High Court may not have tried or heard the case, let alone deliver judgment. When you include likely appeals to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, 20 to 30 years may be on the line. After then, the Police may ensure that the fruits of any favourable judgment rottens in your hand like every other fruit. This is by frustrated enforcement procedures and processes.

It is recommended, by way of passionate appeal, that the current Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry should be made permanent by any possible legal instrument. Whatever procedure the Panel adopted to serve the recent sweet justice should be upheld. Breach of citizens rights and police brutality do not appear to be ending any time soon.

Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has worked with a number of startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.
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