NIGERIA Police Force (NPF) bosses have applied to withdraw the suit they filed to stop judicial review panels set up across the 36 states of the country to investigate human rights abuses by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars) police unit.
Following a month-long nationwide protest against the brutality of the Sars police unit, the Nigerian government was forced to scrap the division. Forced by the weight of public opinion, the government asked state governors to set up panels of inquiries in their states to investigate claims of abuses by the Sars units.
Across most states, these panels have been hearing testimonies of Sars’ victims detailing cases of police brutality, wrongful arrest, extortion, torture and in some cases extra-judicial killings. Last month, however, the NPF filed a court case on November through its lawyer Oyetola Atoyebi, seeking the gets the panels stopped.
This is despite the fact that the panels were established at the behest of President Muhammadu Buhari and the security forces have been testifying before them. With public opposition to the move growing and the inspector-general of police Mohammed Adamu, distancing himself from the legal action, the NPF has been forced to withdraw its suit .
In the notice of discontinuance filed today, by its lawyer to Festus Ibude, the NPF said: “Take notice that the plaintiff herein intends to and doth hereby wholly withdraws its suit against all the defendants. Mr Adamu has asked for an immediate investigation into the lawsuit and the alleged role of the Force Legal Section, including its head, Police Commissioner Tuesday Assayomo.
Police lawyers, led by Mr Atoyebi, had said states had no powers to hear allegations of wrongdoings against police officers, noting that only the NPF could handle personnel issues. Their petition had described the probe as a 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.
However, yesterday, NPF spokesman Frank Mba, disclosed that the force management did not authorise the legal challenge. He disclosed that Mr Assayomo, who had been queried, might face further sanctions if found guilty of dereliction of duty.
Mr Mba said: “The inspector-general of police reiterates the commitment of the force to fulfilling all its obligations with regards to the disbandment of the defunct Sars, the ongoing judicial panels and all other police reforms.” Meanwhile, the judicial panel of inquiry set up by the Ondo State government started sitting in Akure yesterday.