The Nigeria Police Force has challenged the legality of the various states’ judicial panels of enquiry probing allegations of rights abuses and other acts of brutality perpetrated by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad and other police tactical units.
In a suit (FHC/ABJ/CS/1492/2020) filed before the Federal High Court, Abuja the police 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.
The defendants, totalling 104, who were sued by the NPF, comprised the Attorney-General of the Federation, the National Human Rights Commission which set up the Independent Investigative Panel sitting in Abuja, the Attorneys-General of the states, and chairmen of the states’ panels.
The NPF, through their lawyer, O. M. Atoyebi (SAN), argued in the new suit 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.
According to him, 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.
He further argued that by 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”.
It, therefore, urged 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 concerning 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 also 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 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 will be recalled that the decision to set up the various panels of enquiry was taken by the National Economic Council with members including the 36 state governors and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in the wake of the recent nationwide #EndSARS protests demanding an end to police brutality.