The announcement from Delta State came hours to the first anniversary of the #ENDSARS protests that rocked the country in 2020, leading to the official dismantling of a unit of the Nigeria Police called Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Secretary to Delta State Government (SSG), Chief Patrick Ukah, revealed this in a statement in Asaba. Ukah said the decision to mitigate the pains suffered by some of the victims was based on the consideration of the report by the judicial panel of inquiry.
The judicial panel, which was inaugurated by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in October 2020, received a total of 86 petitions for which it conducted public hearings in Asaba and Warri, with full legal representation for all parties.
The statement said, “Delta State Government wishes to inform all Deltans and residents of the state that government has received and considered the Report of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry that was constituted to receive and enquire into complaints of police brutality and related extra-judicial killings in the state.
“It is worthy of mention that the panel was not able to make recommendations on the entire petitions received by it, as some of these petitions are currently pending in various courts in the state. Hence, making pronouncements on them would be subjudice. In addition, some of the petitions were struck out by the panel during the hearing sessions for various reasons.
“More importantly, the panel was able to establish acts of police brutality in some cases, resulting in death or denial of personal liberty and accordingly awarded monetary compensation for the victims in these cases.
“In the same vein, the panel upheld judgements earlier delivered by High Courts in the state for various cases of police brutality, which judgements have not been complied with till date, including payment of judgement debts associated with them.
“The state government, having considered the panel’s recommendations in these two categories of cases, has accepted to pay the incidental claims recommended for the victims, amounting to the sum of N102,450,000.00 (One hundred and two million, four hundred and fifty thousand naira). This payment would be effected in due course.”
Amnesty International, in a statement, called on Buhari to fulfil his promise of reforming the police. The organisation made the call in a statement titled, “Nigeria: No justice for victims of police brutality one year after #EndSARS protests.”
It alleged that despite promises of reform, police impunity had continued in Nigeria.
The statement by Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Ms. Osai Ojigho, said, “A year on, despite the gravity of these human rights violations, not a single member of the security forces has been prosecuted while judicial panels of inquiry set up to investigate abuses by officers have made little progress.
“President Muhammadu Buhari must fulfil his promise of reforming the police to end the reign of impunity Nigerians have been protesting against for many years. Failure to bring to justice those suspected to be responsible for the torture and killings of #EndSARS protesters on 20 October 2020 is yet another indication that Nigerian authorities lack the political will to ensure accountability for these atrocities, and end police brutality.”
Ojigho also stated, “Under the pretext of restoring order, horrific injuries were inflicted on hundreds of people and at least 56 people were killed, among them dozens of young people lost their lives as Nigerian security forces used unnecessary and excessive force to disperse peaceful protesters across the country.
“It is unacceptable that despite overwhelming evidence, the government continues to deny the use of live ammunition on protesters at Lekki tollgate exactly a year ago.”
Amnesty International argued that investigative panels set up to look into police brutality had so far been marred by prolonged adjournments, intimidation of witnesses by police lawyers, and failure of police officers to appear as witnesses. It alleged that the panels failed to sit in some states, even as others went on indefinite breaks.
It called on the authorities to put words into action and decisively end police impunity.