The President of the Nigerian Bar association, Olumide Akpata, has said that Nigerian Governors are well within their rights or the power of the law to set up panels of inquiry to determine if SARS went beyond their boundaries to violate the rights of citizens.
Mr. Akpata disclosed this in an interview with Channels TV on Sunday evening.
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The Vice President of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo, first announced during the #EndSARS protests that the 36 State Governors and the FCT Minister will set up judicial panels of inquiry that will adopt public hearings.
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Lagos State Government inaugurated an 8-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution to investigate cases of police brutality in the state, as the protests continued. The Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, announced that the Judicial panel set up by the state would include the incident at Lekki toll gate.
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President Muhammadu Buhari also stated that the Lagos State Judicial Panel had his full support, and expressed confidence in the outcomes of other panels set up by states.
In Sunday’s interview, the NBA President said it’s lawful for governors to set up panels to determine the scale of violations committed by SARS.
“I think the Governors are well within their rights or the power of the law to set up those panels of inquiry for the purpose of determining whether or not the now-disbanded SARS went beyond their remit.
“Whether or not the claims that we have from various Nigerians as to how they were mistreated or illegally treated by SARS are correct,” he said.
He added that the NBA has not received complaints on the legality of the Panels and has been invited to sit on some panels.
“We are of the view that those panels are well-constituted, and in some states, members of the Nigerians Bar Association have been invited to be on those panels,” he said.
On the powers that the governors have within the panels, Mr. Akpata said that the States have the right to determine if the violations happened and recommend the right steps to take to the Federal authorities.
“In my understanding of these panels, the way they have been constituted is to say ‘Yes, this happened’ or ‘No, that did not happen’ and recommend to the authorities what they think should be done with regard to those persons who are found to have broken the law or breached any provision of the law.
“I don’t think anybody has suggested for a second that these particular panels have the power to punish an individual or to jail anybody. That is not my understanding of these panels or what their remit covers,” he said.
Recall Nairametrics reported that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) condemned the killings of peaceful protesters at the Lekki Tollgate on Tuesday, 20th of October, adding that even if protesters were breaching curfew, such actions did not warrant the use of live ammunition by the Nigerian military.
Akpata, also disclosed in October that the right to protest is a fundamental right recognized by the Nigerian Constitution and upheld by Nigerian courts at all levels, and called for the protection of the rights of citizens participating in the peaceful protests across the country.