Nigeria: #EndSARS – Victims Groan As Ogun Fails to Implement Report One Year After

More than one year after the Judicial Panel of Investigation on Police Brutality and Extra-Judicial killings set up by the Ogun State submitted its report, Governor Dapo Abiodun has failed to implement its recommendations, leaving victims in endless wait for compensation, Daily Trust reports

Deaths, brain damage, spinal cord injuries, permanent disability, loss of means of livelihood and many more; these were multidimensional predicaments that befell the 42 victims who filed petitions and testified before the Justice Solomon Olugbemi panel which probed serial cases of Police Brutality and Extra-Judicial killings in Ogun State in 2020.

The panel set up by Governor Dapo Abiodun was a fall-out of the #EndSARS protest that rocked Nigeria’s major cities in 2020 following a decision by the National Economic Council.

Abiodun was one of the first governors to set the machinery in motion. He inaugurated the 9-member panel in October 2020 where he told the members that the people of the state were awaiting the outcome of their assignment.

Chilling stories

The panel began its sitting on November 5 and was given six months to turn in its report.

While the sitting lasted, petitioners told stories of horror which had sent many victims into oblivion. The dead victims’ stories were told by the relatives who filed the petitions, while others, battling disabilities, appeared before the panel to testify.

Olasunkanmi Fagbemi, appearing on a wheelchair, recounted how he was hit by the bullet of the police collecting N20 bribe on the road. The development left him crippled.

Seyi Akinade, a student of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) was said to have killed himself after losing N7 million in forex trading following his arrest and illegal detention by SARS operatives, his mother, Funmilayo told the panel. The mother, in her petition, said Seyi became depressed and drank a poisonous liquid later confirmed by a medical doctor to be the insecticide brand “sniper.”

A widow, Adebimpe Sobowale, told the panel that her husband was ‘tortured to death’ in police detention over a N200 airtime allegedly traced to her phone.

A weightlifter, Oluwasola Oladunjoye, recounted how a police officer, Gbenga Olajide, ‘slapped and stabbed’ him on his neck. Oladunjoye, who came fourth in the 69kg weightlifting category while representing Nigeria in a competition in India in 2008, said the injury he suffered from the incident prevented him from participating in a 2017 weightlifting festival in Cuba

Panel submits report after nine months

On July 9, last year, Abiodun received the report of the panel with an assurance to implement the recommendations of the panel.

Olugbemi had disclosed that the panel after its findings recommended a total payment of over N218 million as compensation for 42 victims or their families for brutality and violation of human rights by police and other security personnel in Ogun State.

The chairman added that the panel also made recommendations for the investigation, discipline and where appropriate, prosecution of certain personnel to serve as a deterrent and in the interest of justice.

Olugbemi revealed that the panel received a total of 106 petitions, out of which 58 were treated and the remaining 48 were withdrawn, rejected or abandoned wholly or half-way by the petitioners.

“The 289-page report captured the testimonies and evidence of gory details of torture, unjustifiable shootings, inhumane treatment and other forms of human rights abuses leading to brain damage, spinal cord injuries, permanent disability, death, loss of means of livelihood, unlawful seizure of personal properties and various forms of atrocities,” he said.

Abiodun thanked the panel members for their selfless efforts and contributions towards the successful completion of the task.

“I believe that the implementation of this report will end the gory experience often encountered by residents of the state”, the governor said.

However, more than one year after receiving the report, the government has failed to fulfill its promises, leaving a number of the victims to lick their wounds.

Tales of woes by victims

One of the victims, battling spinal cord injury, Olasunkanmi Fagbemi, told Daily Trust that despite spending over N10 million on the treatment, the government has failed to compensate him.

“I can’t tell the exact amount I have spent, but it’s over N10,000,000. You know it was not a one-off payment. I was in India, University College Hospital, Ibadan, and other expensive clinics for therapy and all that,” he told our correspondent.

Fagbemi lamented that he no longer has the money to go for a regular medical check-up as he used to do, describing it as disturbing.

“I appeal to the governor to please show us mercy and fulfill the promises he had made most especially the implementation of the report. If we are able to get the compensation, we will be able to do something better with our lives again,” he said.

On his part, Oladunjoye, who is a former weightlifter, said he is at the verge of being thrown out of his apartment over lack of funds to renew his rent.

He also said he had spent over N7 million on his treatment at the hospital.

The former weightlifter said he has still not fully recovered. “I still need medical attention based on my profession because I can’t do what I know how to do best since the Nigerian Police have ruined my career.

“And more so, I can’t afford to pay for house rent where I reside. I have been given a quit notice six months ago. I can’t provide good education for my kids too since the terrible incident happened,” he said.

A legal expert, Benjamin Ogunmodede, expressed concern that the state government failed to implement a report of a committee it set up.

He added that the government’s body language did not show it would compensate the victims.

“The panel must have been set up out of the pressure of necessity. I don’t think they are committed to it.

“In any case, it may be a matter of paucity of funds. I don’t think that it’s good enough not to compensate them because a number of them have suffered as a result of serial police brutality and under the rule of law they have to be compensated adequately.

“But maybe because the election is around the corner, the power-that-be in the state may rush to pay. They are in injury time now and I see them running around,” he said.

Government keeps mute

When contacted, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Communications, Remmy Hazzan, declined to comment.

“There is no fact before me to speak on the matter,” he told our correspondent.

Also, efforts to get comments from the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Oluwaseun Ogungbade, proved abortive. When our correspondent called him on the phone several times, he did not pick; only to send a text message which read: “please, send a text message.”

He, however, did not respond to the text message. The same message which was sent to his WhatsApp was read by him, but there was no response.

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