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Give The Judicial Panel Of Inquiry Powers To Award Compensation To Victims Of Police Brutality: Constitutional Lawyer Appeals To Gov. Wike To Review Panel’s Terms Of Reference

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Chief (Barr.) Nyesom Ezenwo Wike
The Executive Governor of Rivers State,
Government House,
Port Harcourt,
Rivers State.
Sir,
RE: GOVERNMENT OF RIVERS STATE OF NIGERIA: JUDICIALCOMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO ALLEGED ACTS OF VIOLENCE, TORTURE, BRUTALITY, MURDER AND VIOLATION OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF CITIZENS COMMITTED BY OFFICERS, MEN AND OPERATIVES OF THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE IN RIVERS STATE. NEED TO INCLUDE AWARD OF COMPENSATION TO VICTIMS OF VIOLATION IN TERMS OFREFERENCE.

We are constitutional and human rights lawyers, based in Port Harcourt, and write in the public interest in reaction to your recent inauguration of the above described Rivers State Judicial
Commission of Inquiry and its terms of reference.
Firstly, we hail your bold, and well articulated step in setting up the commission to redress the crude injustice and victimization suffered by the citizenry in the hands of trigger happy, reckless
police officers, especially men and officers of the now proscribed Special Anti-robbery Squad.
The level of violent demonstrations and protestations which have led to its proscription is a pointer to the extent of disgust hardship and pains which their inhumane brutality, cruelty, victimization
have caused the masses. Swiftly, setting up this commission therefore shows you off as a responsive and responsible governor determined to take good governance to the people.

However sir, we observed that the terms of reference for the commission as published on page 10 of the Sun Newspaper of Nov. 2, 2020, (as well as in other national dailies) do not include any award or recommendation of award of compensation to deserving victims of police brutality. It is a settled principle of law that where there is a wrong there must lie a remedy (ubi jus ibi remedium). If all that the commission is set up to do are simply to identify certain details and make certain recommendations (which in any case does not specifically mention award of damages/compensation) then the commission is simply set to embark on an academic journey.

Their terms of reference rather appear to me as an outline for a Masters Degree Thesis rather than a systematic attempt to redress systemic injustice and victims thereof.
As you know the jurisprudence behind chapter iv of the 1999 Constitution, as well as the Fundamental Rights (enforcement procedure) Rules is to help violation victims get compensated or assuaged. If the commission cannot achieve a similar purpose, cases will flood the courts immediately after the commission’s hearing and worsen the case congestion index of the Rivers
State Judiciary. This is because the commission’s hearing will open a can of worms or ‘old wounds’ and flicker the flames of quests for compensatory remedy.

Your Excellency Sir, although it is a commission of inquiry but its effect should be made far reaching. At the end of the commission’s work people must heave a sigh of relief, and proclaim that “a Daniel has come to judgment”. Sir, since our laws provide that where a human right violation exists, that the court shall award damages, the commission should operate in line with
that principle. Curiously, the commission is ‘judicial’. Why should it not award or specifically recommend compensation to victims? We understand Sir that the panel set up by the Lagos State
government as well as the one established by the National Human Rights Commission in Abuja all have powers to award compensation. We propose that Rivers State case should not be any different.

In a nutshell Sir, while we salute your boldness and responsiveness in setting up the Rivers State commission of inquiry, we note that a major deficit exists in their job description.
In view of the above Sir, we pray you to immediately add ‘Award of compensation’ to the terms of reference of the judicial commission for actual, satisfactory operation rather than a vain exercise.

Thank your Sir.
Yours faithfully,
Angus Obinna Chukwuka, Esq.
Managing Solicitor
Cc:

The Chairman
Rivers State Judicial Commission
Inquiry on Police Brutality, etc
rd Room 303, 3 Floor, Point
Block, State Secretariat
Complex, Port Harcourt
Rivers State.

2. PROF. Z. ADANGO
Learned Attorney General
And Commissioner for Justice
Rivers State.

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