The last two weeks have witnessed young Nigerians taking to the streets to demand an end to police brutality in Nigeria with the hashtag #EndSARS trending across all social media platforms. To this effect, several states across the country have set up judicial panels to carry out investigations into all reported cases of police misconduct in the state as part of the fulfilment of one of the demands of the protesters which were the establishment of an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of the reported cases.
On the 19th of October, 2020, a day before the tragic events at the Lekki tollgate, Lagos, the Governor of Lagos state announced the Inauguration of an 8-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution to investigate cases of police brutality in the state. He cited Section 5 of Tribunals of Inquiry Law, Laws of Lagos State, 2015 as a legal justification to set up the panel. He also stated that the panel will be joined by two youth representatives and a member of the human rights commission. Other states have also set up similar panels.
One week after the Lekki tollgate events, the panels of inquiry have started to take evidence in relations to the incident and other cases of police misconduct as the Governor of Lagos state announced that the scope of the panel’s powers has been expanded to include reports regarding the shooting that took place on the 20th of October,2020. Although the panel began sitting on Monday 26th October 2020, the public hearing commenced on Tuesday 27th October 2020.
So what are the expectations of Nigerians with regards to this panel?
According to the 5-point demand of the youths, the panel should carry out its functions with complete transparency and in fact, there should be a constitution of the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to ensure the legitimacy of the panel. They also demand that all officers indicted by the panel should be suspended pending the prosecution of the cases.
The set up of the panel is a ray of hope for Nigerians in these dark times as we are all hoping for the best outcome at the end of the investigations. For now, fingers are crossed as we continue to follow the public hearings.