The Federal Government of Nigeria on October 16, 2020, directed that all state governors set up judicial panels of inquiry. The task for the panels is to listen to petitions of members of the public, and recommend actions that should be taken against police brutality, violation of rights of citizens and unlawful killings. As stated, only state governors can by law set up judicial inquiries in their states.
Here in Oyo State, we decided to first get some clarity into the types of cases that this panel of inquiry will be looking into. So, in selecting members of the panel, we will have people who are of sound mind and intellect. And people who have the requisite knowledge and expertise to be objective appraisers of these petitions.
It is, therefore, my honour to inaugurate the Oyo State Judicial Panel of Inquiry into Police Brutality, Violation of Rights of Citizens and Unlawful Killings. This panel is made up of eleven (11) members, drawn from the legal community, the National Human Rights Commission, the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP), the National Youth Council of Nigeria, youth representatives of End SARS protesters and the community. They are men and women of high repute who have shown themselves up to this task.
We have Justice Badejoko Adeniji, as Chairman of the Panel. For those who do not know, Justice Adeniji is a retired Chief Judge of Oyo State, a mother and grandmother. She will be working with other members of the panel, including Mrs Oluwafolake Ogundele, Assistant Director, DPP, Ministry of Justice, who will serve as Secretary.
Also, Prof. Wole Akintayo of the University of Ibadan, is an academic of repute, a public law and human rights advocate and the immediate past Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ibadan Branch; and Mrs Wunmi. Odutayo who is the Regional Director of the Legal Aid Council, Oyo State.
We also have Ms O. Akintayo, who is the selected representative of the National Human Rights Commission, Ibadan; and others such as N. O. Sulaiman and Ms Mary Kolawole both selected representatives of End SARS Oyo State, from Ogbomoso and Ibadan.
I also need to mention Hon. Babs Oduyoye, my Special Adviser on Political Matters and Strategy; Miss Maryam Badmus and Falowo Saheed, selected representatives of the community.
Last but not least, we have Mrs Agbeja Adebobola, Member, National Youth Council of Nigeria, Oyo State Chapter.
This panel is constituted pursuant to the Oyo State Commission of Inquiry Law Cap 32 of the Laws of Oyo State 2000. Section 2 (1) empowers the Governor to set up a commission of inquiry, in this case, ‘into any matter in respect of which, in his opinion, an enquiry would be for the public welfare.’ However, as the scope is beyond Oyo State, we are doing this in collaboration with the Federal Government.
So far, we have received less than fifty petitions. I want to encourage anyone who has faced any type of brutality or human rights abuse in the hands of any of the security forces to use this opportunity to speak out and seek justice. Let me reiterate that those who are responsible for the deaths of Isiaka Jimoh, Ganiyu Moshood Alabi, and Adeoye Taiwo will be brought to book. We all want a society where the rights of the people are protected.
Let me also use this opportunity to address a recent press publication which erroneously stated that Southwest Governors have voted in favour of a clampdown on social media. Let me categorically state that as far as I know, there has been no such communique from Southwest Governors that I am part of. Yes, we did hold a meeting, but our agreement at that meeting was that we already have an existing Cybercrime Act. That is the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act, 2015. So, there is no need for any further duplicity in terms of a specific social media bill, should anyone choose to sponsor such. The Cybercrime Act is extensive enough and covers any issues that any so-called social media bill may seek to address.
Like I have said in various fora, we are fully aware of the trust deficit in the system right now. There is also a prevalence of fake news and click baits, we are not expecting that these things will simply go away. It requires work on everyone’s part. As a government, we are doing our part and setting up these panels of inquiry. Some people have said it will not yield any results. Well, the only way it can produce results is if people present their cases and bring evidence to support them. So that the panels can make their recommendations, which will then be adopted and implemented.
We have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Ibadan to collaborate with the Oyo State Government in the training of Police Officers and officers of other security agencies in Criminal Justice and Human Rights Enforcement to eliminate incidents of police brutality, unlawful killings, extortion and violation of human rights amongst other vices.
We need to be aware of how systems work. Change takes time. We are not being ruled by decrees. On every issue, there will be people on either side, but we all have to meet at a point. When it comes to judicial matters, it’s a matter of evidence.
So, I urge you, members of this panel, to do your work with diligence, without fear or favour and with absolute objectivity no matter whose ox is gored. We expect that when you are done with your work, justice will not only be done but be seen to have been done.
Governor Seyi Makinde, Nov 10, 2020