The Nigerian Police Force has initiated a tussle to stop the various states’ judicial panels of enquiry probing allegations of rights abuses and other acts of brutality against the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police tactical units.
The plaintiff in the suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1492/2020, which was instituted at the Federal High Court in Abuja is urging the court to restrain the Attorneys-General of the 36 states of the federation and their various panels of enquiry from going ahead with the probe focusing on police impunity.
The defendants, totalling 104, who were sued by the NPF, comprised the Attorney-General of the Federation, the National Human Rights Commission which set up the Independent Investigative Panel sitting in Abuja, the Attorneys-General of the states, and chairmen of the states’ panels.
The decision to set up the various panels of enquiry was taken by the National Economic Council with members including the 36 state governors and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in the aftermath of the recent nationwide #EndSARS protests demanding an end to police brutality.
The NPF, through their lawyer, Mr. O. M. Atoyebi (SAN), argued that the state governments lacked the power to constitute the panels to investigate activities of the police force and its officials in the conduct of their statutory duties, arguing that the panels violated the provisions of section 241(1)(2)(a) and Item 45, Part 1, First Schedule to the Constitution and Section 21 of the Tribunals of Inquiry Act.
It averred that by virtue of the provisions of 241(1)(2)(a) and Item 45, Part 1, First Schedule to the Nigerian Constitution only the Federal Government had exclusive power to “organise, control and administer the Nigeria Police Force”.
In their statement of claim, the police declared that “the establishment of a panel of enquiries by the governors of the various states of the federation of Nigeria, to inquire into the activities of the Nigeria Police Force in relation to the discharge of her statutory duties is a gross violation of the provisions of Section 241 (1)(2) (a) and Item 45, Part 1, First schedule, 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and Section 21 of the tribunals of inquiry Act, Cap.T21, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004”.