The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for Victims of police-related abuses has awarded more compensation to the tune of ₦16.25 million to victims of police brutality in the State.
Delivering the panel’s ruling in six petitions on Saturday, the Chairman, (Rtd) Justice Doris Okuwobi, said that monetary compensation was awarded to four petitioners in different sums, while the remaining two were not compensated.
She said in Felicia Opara’s petition against the Nigerian Police Force, the petitioner had narrated to the panel how she was arrested and beaten by several officers for filming the violence that occurred during the #EndSARS protest at Surulere on October 12, 2020.
Mrs. Okuwobi said findings by the panel revealed the inability of appropriate authorities to bring perpetrators of the torture and abuses against the petitioner to book, noting that “The Police are aware of the fundamental rights of people guaranteed in the Constitution. The culture of impunity and violence as observed in some officers of the Police Force has given them the wrong mentality that brutality and excessive force are fundamental to achieving success in policing in Nigeria”.
The Panel, according to the Retired Judge, therefore, recommended an apology letter to the petitioner by the Nigerian Police Force, training of officers on Human Right laws and enforcement, necessary disciplinary action against erring officers and awarded ₦750,000 to the petitioner as compensation.
On the second petition relating to the death of one Olusegun Openiyi who was killed by police officers in 2017, the Chairman stated that the totality of the evidence given by the petitioner showed that the petitioner’s facts were not challenged and controverted by the respondent, hence, they were credible and strong enough for a ₦10 million as compensation to the family of the deceased.
“Medical evidence confirmed that death was caused by gunshot, the accused police officer, Jide Akintola’s investigation was not properly conducted”, she added.
Aside from the monetary compensation, the Panel also recommended scholarship for one biological child of the victim and the prosecution of the named officer, Jide Akintola.
Similarly, the Panel also awarded N5 million compensation to another petitioner, Blessing Omorogie, who suffered a deformity on her face as a result of gunshot injuries.
The retired judge added that the petitioner’s right to life under section 33 of the constitution was threatened but she had no power or means to pursue the enforcement of her fundamental right.
She said, “The grievous harm done to the petitioner is unlawful. She was inflicted with a grave injury and requires plastic surgery. ₦5 million is hereby awarded to the petitioner,” the retired Judge ruled.
Another petitioner, Mr. Tella Adesanya, also received compensation of ₦500,000 for his unlawful detention in the police custody without being charged to court as well as for the trauma he suffered.
Mr. Adesanya, a staff of the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service, under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, had earlier narrated to the panel that he was arrested at a checkpoint along LASU-Iba road, for allegedly knocking someone down with his car.
“The petition is uncontested on facts before the panel that the petitioner was arrested, detained for three days and not taken to any court”, the Judge said.
While noting that the Panel found out that bribe was given to the Police Officer before he was released and the petitioner’s car is still in custody of the police to date, the Chairman said ₦500,000 was awarded to the petitioner for his unlawful detention and trauma suffered, adding that his car should also be released immediately.
Meanwhile, the petition of an alleged killing of a physically challenged man, Francis Idum, by Police Officers at Ajisegiri Street, Ilupeju, received no compensation.
Relatives of the deceased had earlier told the Panel how Mr. Idum was killed by a bullet, allegedly shot by Police Officers when they came to arrest some cultists at Ilupeju on July 15, 2019.
Delivering ruling on the matter, the Chairman said the Panel found out that the deceased was killed by an unidentified person taking into evidence the testimony of the respondent, stressing that the petitioner did not establish his case by showing that it was a weapon handled by the Police that killed the deceased.
According to her, “After the deceased had been shot, his corpse was taken away by Police Officers led by the Area Commander, Area F Command, with the shell of a bullet with serial number BS99m and a pistol recovered beside the body of the deceased”.
The retired judge said despite several petitions written to the police on the incident, findings indicated that the police could not execute the operation they went for on July 15, 2019 at Ajisegiri Street due to overwhelming crowd and volatile situations on ground.
She said, “No direct evidence was given as to the exact person who shot the deceased, none of the petitioner’s witnesses that testified in respect of the case were eyewitnesses of the incident as they were not at the scene when he was shot”.
“The petitioner could not establish that the bullet whose shell was found near the deceased was from the weapon used by the police. The evidence of the Police witnesses and the movement of arms register remain uncontroverted as the Police only signed out AK 47 as operational weapons for that day”, she added.
The Chairman, therefore, ruled that the petitioner could not establish his case and the Panel is unable to award any compensation.
Also, in the case of Oladoyin Ademola, a petitioner who testified that the multiple slaps he received from Police Officers at Dopemu Checkpoint resulted in cataract, the Chairman said “The petitioner did not connect the cataract he suffered to the act of the Police. The Panel cannot hold the Police responsible for the cataract he suffered, hence, we are unable to award any compensation in his case”.
Recall that the Panel had earlier awarded a total sum of ₦27.5 million as compensation to two petitioners on 19th February and 12th March, 2021, therefore, with another ₦16.25 million awarded, the total compensation paid so far is ₦43.75 million.