By Seun Adeuyi
The Nigeria Police Force has filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja asking for an order to stop the various states’ judicial panels of enquiry probing allegations of rights abuses and other acts of brutality of the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police tactical units.
Recall that in the wake of widespread protests by aggrieved and concerned Nigerian youths against Polce brutality and later culminated into bad governance, the National Economic Council (NEC) of Nigeria directed State Governors to set up judicial panels of inquiry (tribunals of inquiry) to look into the allegations of human rights violations orchestrated by the Nigeria Police Force and more particularly by its “defunct” SARS unit.
In the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/1492/2020, the plaintiff urged the court to restrain the Attorneys-General of the 36 states of the federation and their various panels of enquiry from going ahead, saying the probe focuses on police impunity.
The defendants, totalling 104, were sued by the NPF. They 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 plaintiff, through its lawyer, Mr O. M. Atoyebi (SAN), argued in the suit that the state governments lacked the power to constitute the panels to investigate activities of the police force.
The NPF argued that the state governments’ decision to set up such 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.
According to the NPF, 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”.
The plaintiff urged the court to declare 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”.
Also, it urged the court to declare that “having regard to the circumstances of this case, the attitude of the governors of the various states of the Federation of Nigeria, in this case, is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever”.
The plaintiff sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the the state Attorneys-General of the 36 states “from making or conducting any investigations, sittings, and inquiries and/or from making or conducting any further investigations, sittings and inquiries in respect of matters affecting the Nigeria Police Force, and or further setting up any panel of inquiry in any state whatsoever in the country”.