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#EndSARS: Five panelists resign in Anambra, demand payment of allowances

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Praise Necherem

Five members of the Anambra State Panel on Alleged Police Brutality have pulled out from the exercise, saying the state government had failed woefully to “adequately provide for logistics for anything at all involving the proceedings of the panel” such that “the sittings of the panel were characterised by inefficiency and poor organisation.”

In their resignation letter addressed to Governor Willie Obiano and availed to the press in Awka, the members, who said they represented youths’ interest in the panel, accused the state government of lip service about the cause.

They said, as youths who had a future to protect, they would not want to continue to belong to a lame duck panel which they said had received “no fewer than 250 petitions before it” but “had not received any serious funding from the state government.” They accused the Obiano state government of having “no regard for the victims of the many human rights violations by the police in the state,” saying the state government “totally ignored the panel,” adding that it simply played to the gallery in setting up the panel.

Their resignation letter, read out by their spokesperson, Ifediora Chijioke, a lawyer, stated, “It is imperative to mention that Anambra state, under your (Obiano’s) watch and that of your predecessor, was the cynosure of police brutality, extortion, and even extrajudicial killings in Nigeria.

“The notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Awkuzu and numerous other police outfits in Anambra state have become infamous around the world for outrageous, unconscionable, and iniquitous violations of the fundamental rights of Nigerians, including the right to life.

“Following the “End SARS” protests that occurred in many states in Nigeria in the last quarter of 2020, we felt that perhaps the Anambra state government may have become penitent and was willing to competently take up its duty of securing the lives and properties of its residents.

“We were even impressed when the government promptly constituted the panel to investigate cases of police brutality and recommend compensation to victims, among other points in its terms of reference.

“Sadly, the sittings of the panel were characterised by inefficiency and poor organisation because failed woefully the Anambra state government to adequately provide for logistics for anything at all involving the proceedings of the panel.

“There was no funding to enhance clerical or secretarial functions of the panel, no provision for security or witness protection.

“The Anambra State Panel received the highest number of petitions, 310, against the police in Nigeria even though the timeframe for submission of petitions and complaints against the police was extremely limited.

“The large numbers indicate the resolve of residents of Anambra state to vent their grievances against the violations of their human rights.

“We are, however, now convinced, beyond peradventure, that the Anambra state government has no regard for the victims of the many human rights violations by the police in the state. The government has totally ignored the panel and had simply setup the panel to play to the gallery.

The letter added, “Many victims of abuse of police powers and other interested stakeholders have been communicating the panel’s secretariat or its members in a bid to know why the panel is no longer sitting despite more than 250 petitions which have been unattended to.

“All these inquiries have failed to yield concrete answers and the government despite being aware of the interest of the public is showing no signs of interest in the activities of the panel.

“We firmly refuse to be pawns in the game of the government, so we hereby resign our appointments into the Anambra State Panel and completely dissociate ourselves from all the charade put up to give lip service to the plights of residents of Anambra state.

“We are fully aware that our position expressed in this correspondence may expose us to blackmail and intimidation, but we are determined to say the truth”.

The state government set up the panel in October, last year with a N200m budget mapped out for victim’s compensation.

Meanwhile, The Human Rights, Liberty Access and Peace Defenders’ Foundation (HURIDE), has called on the Anambra state government to immediately provide the State Panel on Alleged Police brutality with necessary logistics for the panelists to complete their assignments.

The group, in a statement signed by its executive director, Dede Uzor A Uzor, also called on the government to extend the sitting period and days of the panel to allow them complete the hearing as well as do a thorough job.

HURIDE said the extension has become necessary following the deluge of petitions which the panel received and which were yet to be attended to.

It implored Governor Obiano to fulfil his promises to the panelists by releasing part of N200 million to enable them tackle some logistic challenges.

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