A coalition of 80 civil society organizations has set up an independent Panel of Inquiry to probe the killings of Nigerians including the security operatives and the destruction of properties following the deployment of security operatives in the wake of the #ENDSARs protests.
Nigeria saw a week of rage late last month when soldiers were drafted to put down mass protests across the country over lingering police brutality.
Many Nigerians consider the outcry which snowballed into looting and arson as symptomatic of the country’s gradual collapse of governance, large scale corruption and the lack of provision of the essentials of life for millions of long-suffering Nigerians who are stifled under a corrupt and inept leadership.
The panel was set up by Alliance for the Survival of Covid-19 and Beyond, (ASCAB) made of central labour unions and some 80 civil rights groups spread across the country. ASCAB said the Panel which has one month to complete its assignment, will be open to all Nigerians without restrictions adding that the Nigerian people will own the process and the outcome of all findings will be made available to all stakeholders including the Federal and State authorities.
The seven-member panel is led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN) Mr Chino Obiagwu while Affiong Affiong is the Secretary, Prof Other members of the panel are Professor Adenike Ogushe and Mr Y.Z Yau, former President, Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, (CDHR), Mr Malachy Ugwumadu and two representatives of youths, Miss Fatima Umar and Mr. Olumide Ogele.
A statement signed by the General Secretary Ade Atambi and Secretary for Publicity, Mr Adewale Adeoye said the independent inquiry will conduct a non-partisan and public-interest driven inquiry into the killing of protesters, police and military personnel as well as the so called hoodlums during the #ENDSARs protests. ASCAB said its work will be assisted by local and international organisations and resource persons drawn from local and international human rights bodies.
“ASCAB has confirmed that scores of people including protesters, police and military personnel as well as the so called hoodlums were killed in questionable circumstances across the country during the #ENDSARs protests” the statement signed by Atambi and Adeoye noted.
The coalition said it relies on local and international laws to pursue the independent inquiry.
The group said in view of the controversy surrounding the killings it has decided to set up the independent panel of inquiry to receive information from bereaved families and other citizens in exercise of the fundamental right of members to freedom of expression, including freedom to receive and impart ideas and information without interference guaranteed by section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution and Article 9 (1) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act. “The independent inquiry is not to counter the panels set up by the tiers of government but to complement and enrich the democratic space. It is a challenge to those already set up by the government to ensure a transparent approach to all enquiries and to put first the public interests’ the group said.
ASCAB said in the statement “Since section 24 (e) of the Constitution has imposed a duty on every citizen to “render assistance to appropriate and lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order” the report of our investigation will be made available to the relevant law enforcement
authorities with a view to prosecuting indicted suspects in the appropriate courts.”
It noted that if any of the Attorneys-General does not accede to ASCAB requests to prosecute indicted suspects the report of the investigation will form the basis of the application for the right of private prosecution under the applicable Administration of Criminal Justice Law.
ASCAB said “Without prejudice to the prosecution of indicted suspects we shall approach the High Court in each State where citizens were killed with a view to securing the enforcement of the fundamental right of the deceased to life in accordance with Paragraph (e) of the Preamble to the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules 2009 which states that “human rights activists, advocates, or groups as well as any non-governmental organisations, may institute
human rights application on behalf of any potential applicant.”
The group said it will receive information from members of the public and public officers and that It would invoke the provisions of the law to obtain vital information from certain agencies.