L-R: Members of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS-related Abuses in Lagos State, Ms. Patience Udoh, representing the Civil Society; Mrs. Olutoyin Odusanya, Director, Lagos Citizens Mediation Center; Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), State Attorney General/Commissioner for Justice; Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, Deputy Governor; Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Retired Justice Doris Okwuobi, Chairman of the Panel; Mr. Ebun Adegboruwa (SAN), representing the Civil Society and Mr. Taiwo Lakanu, Rtd. Deputy Inspector General of Police, during the inauguration of the Judicial Panel at Lagos House, Marina, on Monday, October 19, 2020.

The Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for Victims of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) Related Abuses in Lagos State, on Monday, said that it was waiting for the two nominated representatives of the youths to begin proceedings.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that earlier in the day, Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu had inaugurated the panel at the State House, Marina, Lagos.

The panel is made up of the Chairman Justice Doris Okuwobi (Rtd), Mr Ebun Adegboruwa (SAN), Mr Taiwo Lakanu, a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police and a founding member of SARS.

Other panellists are Mrs Oluwatoyin Ogunsanya, Director, Lagos State Directorate of Citizen’s Rights and Ms Patience Patrick-Udoh, a representative of the civil society groups.

The panel of inquiry is scheduled to sit daily (Mondays to Fridays) from 10 am to 4 pm for the next six months.

Addressing individuals at the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) Yard, Ikoyi, Lagos, the venue slated for the hearings, Okuwobi said the start of inaugural hearing was being hindered by the absence of the nominated representatives of the youths.

“Please do not take it that we are not ready, we are very ready anything holding us back now are the youth members.

“Once they are with us, we will work out the modalities of the public hearing,” she said.

Okuwobi enjoined the media to give an accurate representation of the public hearings in order not to heat up the polity.

She noted that if details of the proceeding are “overblown” by the press, they may be prevented from covering proceedings.

Speaking, Lakanu pledged his dedication in ensuring that the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) undergoes the much-needed reforms.

He noted that the disbanded SARS had derailed from the purpose for which it was initially created.

“I assure you that I will give you my true cooperation. Apart from looking at the issues on ground, we will also look at the plight of the NPF.

“I will contribute to the total eradication of the brutality of the NPF.

“I was one of those who started SARS in 1992 and was a very critical part of the NPF, but this was not our dream,” the retired DIG said.

Meanwhile, the Attorney-General of Lagos State, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN) on behalf of the government and people of Lagos, thanked the members of the panel for accepting the responsibility of hearing cases of alleged abuses by the police.

The AG assured all citizens of Lagos particularly the protesting youths that the panel is the first step to reforming the police.

“With this panel, we are inviting anybody who has ever suffered any form of abuse under the disbanded SARS to come forward before the panel.

“They can come forward in whatever manner either orally, electronically, hard or soft copies to air their grievances.

“The panel has absolute powers at its absolute discretion to award compensation to deserving victims and their families.

“The panel also will recommend for prosecution, any member of the Nigeria Police Force found wanting.

“Lastly, the panel will also recommend to the state government the reforms which will ensure that the police will conduct themselves in such a way that they will not breach the rights of the residents of Lagos State going forward.

“We await earnestly, the representatives of our youths who are nominated for this panel, their seats are there.

“Mr Segun Awosanya (Segalink) who unfortunately is caught up in traffic will also join the panel and we are sure that at the end of the tenure of the panel, justice will be served,” he said.