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Police ask court for order to disband EndSARS panels of inquiry

The Nigeria Police on Thursday filed an application at the Federal High Court, Abuja, asking the court for an order to stop the judicial panels of enquiry set up by the various states to probe allegations of rights abuses by the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police.

President Muhammadu Buhari in October ordered all states, including the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, to probe activities of SARS following #EndSARS protests that rocked the country for 12 days.

Governors were directed to establish judicial panels in their various states to curtail the waves of protests against the anti-robbery squad.

However, in a dramatic move on Thursday, the police through its lawyer, O. M. Atoyebi, asked the court to restrain the Attorneys-General of the 36 states of the federation and their various panels of enquiry from going further with the probe of police’s alleged atrocities.

The force said the action of the governors “is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever”.

It asked the court to restrain the defendants from conducting any further investigation or setting up panels to probe the affairs of the security agency.

The police, in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1492/2020, 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.

The defendants include the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which set up the Independent Investigative Panel sitting in Abuja, the Attorneys-General of the states, and chairmen of the states’ panels.

The plaintiff prayed 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.

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According to the plaintiff, 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.

The plaintiff argued 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”

The police, therefore, urged the court to, among others, 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”.

The plaintiff also 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”.

It sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the 3rd to 38th defendants (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”.

“A declaration that having regard to the provisions of Section a14 (1)(2) (a) and Item 45, Part 1, First Schedule, 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the Federal Government of Nigeria has the exclusive power to organise, control and administer the Nigeria Police Force,” the suit read in part.

“A declaration that the establishment of panel of inquiries 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.

“A declaration 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.

“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 3rd to 38th defendants (the 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,” it said.

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