Following the directive by the National Executive Council, in its meeting held on Friday, 16th October 2020, directing all the state governors to put in place panels of inquiry to look into rampant cases of police brutality, various panels were inaugurated across the states of the federation. In Ondo State, Governor Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, pursuant to the powers vested on him under section 2 of the Commission of Inquiry Law, Cap. 32 Vol. 1 Laws of Ondo State 2006, constituted an eight-man panel of inquiry to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality or related judicial killings by the police in Ondo state and to recommend compensation and other remedial measures for victims. The eight-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry, headed by retired Hon. Justice Adesola Sidiq, was constituted on October 20 2020.
After hearing about 77 petitions from members of the public who have suffered one degree of brutality or the other in the hands of the police in Ondo state, on Wednesday the 28th of April 2021 the panel submitted its recommendation to the governor, recommending among others, payment of compensation of N755MILLION to victims. Justice Sidiq panel did not only recommend payment of monetary compensation but also recommended publication of apologies in national dailies in deserving cases, while also laudably, recommended a review of Section 84 of the Sheriffs and Civil Processes Act to smoothen the process of judgment execution against police and other public officers where victims of human rights breaches have approached the court and got favourable judgment. It was such a beautiful report and it would serve the interest of justice if allowed to see the light of the day. Sadly three years after, the panel report has not been released nor has it been implemented.
Victims appeared before the panel with high hopes. In one of the cases I presented before the panel, on the fateful night of Thursday, the 13th day of October, 2011, for failure to part with the sum of fifty naira (N50) demanded by the police officer at an improvised money-making check-point, one Christopher Akarewan, an Okada rider was unlawfully and extra-judicially shot and killed by the police officers at Okitipupa, Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State. Early morning the next day, 14th of October, 2011, members of the Deceased family visited the police station to report the incident formally to the Divisional Police Officer at Okitipupa Divisional Police Headquarters, but policemen who had obviously been aware of the fatal act of the previous night had stationed strategically around the station in war-like manner, denied the family right of entrance and upon the insistence of the family to see the DPO before they go, the police also shot the younger brother of the slain Okada rider, Robinson Johnson Okotie and killed him.
Under the Commission of Inquiry Law of Ondo State, the governor has a duty imposed by law, after receiving the reports of commission of inquiry set up. The law is not for fun. Putting up such huge exercise by law is not also a joke. The duty imposed on the governor is a serious one. And it does not include keeping away or hiding such report from the public. The duty includes the releasing of the report to members of the public. In this case public fund was dissipated into that exercise and the poor victims, embracing hopes and trusting in the government, travelled distances from the various communities of the state to come and present their complaints. The panel had completed its historical and statutory role and had submitted report. Conscience had become clear that they have completed their job.
This country bled for long under the disbanded SARS and the victims need the government to heal their wounds. So the purpose of that exercise was to ensure that justice was done to victims of police brutality, extra-judicial killings and infringement of the fundamental human rights of the people. Holding on to such panel report is illegal, immoral and it is an unpardonable sin against humanity. It is against good conscience to deny victims of hopes.
We call on the government of Ondo Sate to purge itself of this sinful act and release the report to the public and implement same. We shall approach the court to enforce this if the government fails to heed.
Tope Temokun Esq.
October 20, 2023.