The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry probing allegations of human rights abuses against men of the disbanded police Special Anti-Robbery Squad for the umpteenth time on Tuesday decried the constant requests for adjournment by the police, leading to the stalling of petitions filed by complainants before the panel.
The chairman of the panel, retired Justice Doris Okuwobi, noted that the panel, which has six months to conclude its assignment, had as of Tuesday received no fewer than 210 petitions but had yet to deliver even a single judgment since it started sitting in October.
The panel chairman was reacting to a request by the counsel for the police, Emmanuel Eze, who sought an adjournment to bring a witness in the case of a businessman, Ndukwe Ekwekwe, who suffered a spinal cord injury and is confined into a wheelchair after being allegedly pushed off a two-storey building by SARS operatives in 2018 at the Alaba International Market in Lagos.
The police counsel pleaded with the panel to give him time to look for the policeman involved, whom he said had been transferred from Lagos to Enugu.
But the panel chairman fumed over the request for an adjournment, saying it was the way that matters were delayed in the regular courts.
Justice Okuwobi said, “We cannot continue like this. The panel has an assignment with a timeframe – six months. At the moment, we have 210 petitions and if we keep adjourning, we will be here for two years.”
But Eze pleaded with the panel not to sacrifice justice for speed, noting that many of the policemen mentioned in the petitions filed before the panel had been transferred and were scattered across the country.
Also speaking, the second police counsel, Joseph Ebosereme, said it would require the writing of letters for the policemen complained against to leave their new stations to come and appear before the panel in Lagos.
He urged the panel to give police time.
While conceding to the prayer for an adjournment of Ekwekwe’s case till December 8, Justice Okuwobi said the police must unfailingly bring their witness otherwise the panel would close their case and go on to give a judgment.
The same scenario played out in the case of another petitioner, Olajide Fowotade, whose case had not been able to go on in the last two sittings due to the inability of the police to bring the policeman complained against.
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