74 victims of police abuse received compensation totaling over N289 million from the Abuja Independent Investigative Panel on Human Rights Violations by the Disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, and Other Units of the Nigeria Police Force, on Wednesday.
Suleiman Galadima, a former Supreme Court Justice who served as the panel’s chairman, decided to provide compensation after the group took into account 297 applications submitted by victims or their relatives.
Mr. Hillary Ogbonna, the panel’s secretary, said that charges in the petitions that were found to be true included extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, cruel/degrading and inhumane treatment by police, lengthy incarceration, misuse of authority, and failure to pay judgment debts.
He bemoaned the fact that some of the victims passed away before the panel could wrap up its two-year-long investigations.
“It is quite unfortunate that some of the petitioners are no more. Some of them died within the last eight months.
“We are however making arrangements with their families and lawyers to ensure that they receive their compensations”, Ogbonna stated.
He said, though 297 petitions were lodged before the panel, only 295 cases were successfully determined by the panel.
“25 of the petitions bordered on extra-judicial killings, 4 of them was on enforced disappearance, 16 on illegal arrest and detention, 4 on illegal confiscation of assets, while 25 petitions bordered on inhumane and degrading treatment.
“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”, he added.
Speaking, the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Mr. Tony Ojukwu, SAN, expressed delight that the panel was able to get justice for victims of police brutality.
He said, “The Commission laboured day and night to ensure that there is some sort of closure for the victims and their families and we thank President Muhammadu Buhari for making funds available for payment of compensation.
“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.
“We have not gotten to where we want to be, but surely, we will get there.”
It will be remembered that on December 23 of last year, the Abuja panel, which had its first meeting in November 2020, had likewise awarded an overall amount of N146 million as compensation to 27 victims of police abuse.