The Chairman of Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry for Restitution for Victims of SARS related abuses and the Lekki Tollgate Incident, Justice Doris Okuwobi has assured Lagosians of the independence of the panel, saying that it will ensure that individuals with valid complaints of human rights violations will receive immediate compensation.
She therefore urged victims of the Oct. 20 shooting of #EndSARS protesters by members of the Nigerian Army to come forward with their petitions.
Speaking on Monday at its inaugural sitting, the chairperson of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi (Rtd) said that the judicial panel has so far received 15 petitions from abuse victims of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Okuwobi said that the panel is independent of the Lagos State Government and will ensure that individuals with valid complaints of human rights violations will receive immediate compensation.
“If their cases are disposed of in a month or two, compensation if recommended should go to the victims immediately to assuage their pain
“We are looking forward to memoranda from those affected by the unfortunate incident of the shooting at the Lekki Tollgate plaza by the military.
“The panel has received not less than 15 petitions relating to the disbanded SARS.
“We are indeed ready to commence the public sitting. The petitions are here without the petitioners around, the panel will start full proceedings tomorrow (Oct. 27).
“We are relying on the civil society to assist the panel with credible evidence of the killings at the Lekki Tollgate Plaza.
“This is to ensure that there will be good evidence to assist the panel make appropriate recommendations in respect of all terms of reference of the panel,” she said.
Justice Okuwobi said the panel could not begin proceedings immediately because the nominations for the two youth representatives who are to sit as part of the eight-man panel was sent in late.
She noted that the two nominated youth representatives had not yet been sworn-in and could not join the panel for Monday’s proceedings.
“The panel will most definitely sit tomorrow (Tuesday) because they would have been sworn-in and the composition will be complete,” she said.
Mr Olumide Akpata, the president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) who was present at the proceedings said that the NBA will be partnering with the judicial panel and will also be providing pro bono services to affected victims.
“The NBA is here to help victims of the now disbanded SARS and other human rights violations to properly articulate their petitions to this panel pro bono. This will be done in Lagos and around the country.
“The NBA will participate in observatory capacity to ensure that all goes well and ensure that justice is actually served. Our best hands will be available throughout the sittings of the panel.
“We look forward to justice being done and the recommendations of the panel for those who have been badly treated by institutions that have been set up to protect them,” Akpata said.
The panel is made up of the Chairman Justice Doris Okuwobi (Rtd), Mr Ebun Adegboruwa (SAN), Mr Taiwo Lakanu, a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police and a founding member of SARS.
Other panelists are Mrs Oluwatoyin Odusanya, Director, Lagos State Directorate of Citizen’s Rights and Ms Patience Udoh, a representative of the civil society groups and Mr Segun Awosanya (segalink) a human rights activist.
The panel is to sit from 10am to 4pm for six months. The designated sitting days are Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at the Lagos Court of Arbitration, No 1A, Remi Oluwode Street, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.