Amaechi Okonkwo, Port Harcourt.
……. receives 171 petitions.
The Rivers State Judicial Commission of Inquiry into alleged acts of police brutality held its inuagural sitting on Tuesday in Port Harcourt, with the chairman of the commission, Justice C. Uriri saying that the commission has received 171 petitions.
Named the “Rivers State Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Acts of Violence, Torture, Brutality, Murder and Violation of Fundamental Human Rights of Citizens by Officers, Men and or Operatives of the Nigerian Police Force in Rivers State”, the commission is to sit daily for 60 days with only 4 days of recess to allow members observe the Christmas break.
According to the Chairman, the reason for the daily sitting is to meet up with the timeline for the submission of report to the state governor, Nyesom Wike within 60 days.
He said; “By the virtue of the terms of reference, time is of the essence. Consequently the panel shall sit on daily basis, precisely at 10 am”.
Justice Uriri stated that the vision of the Commission is “to do justice at all times to all manner of persons, irrespective of colour, age, religion, culture and tribes, downtrodden or not”.
He explained that the panel is a fact finding body separate and distinct from regular courts of law but with the ultimate responsibility to humanity adding, “it is enjoined by law to make its own rules for the effective administration of justice”.
“The rules of the court are necessarily relaxed provided the old time practice of seniority at the bar is not diminished. So there shall be no strict adherence to the rules of evidence, the panel shall admit evidence, written and oral in so far as such is useful to humanity.
Nevertheless, the panel reserves the power to contempt which is sine qua non for effective administration of justice”, he stressed.
In his comment at the inaugural sitting, Chairman of the Port Harcourt branch of the Nigeria Bar Association NBA, Prince Nyekwere expressed happiness that the state government set up the panel saying the immediate cause for it was the EndSARS Protests organised by Nigerian youths and was unfortunately hijacked midway by hoodlums.
“But that EndSARS protest, if we look at it critically was not only targeted at the police and SARS, it was actually a protest targeted at bad governance and we just hope that the commission will give the seriousness the assignment deserves”, he stated.
Nyekwere added: “As members of the NBA Port Harcourt branch, we have promised to partner with them to ensure that the mandate is achieved. Nigerians were really under siege by SARS and police and we want them not to play games with this mandate. We want it to be said as it happened, what they saw.
And we also want the government to have the political will to to implement whatever recommendations that the will be made because we are bringing evidence of things that had happened that nobody had heard before”.
The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike after initially rejecting the instruction of the Federal Government to states to set up Commission of Inquiries in their states to investigate the demand of the EndSARS protesters later inaugurated the panel.
Rives State was one of the states where the EndSARS protests held and later hijacked by hoodlums, who turned it into an orgy of violence with Oyigbo local government area of the state still living with the consequences of the attendant violence.