Reps, NHRC on collision course over SARS victims’ compensation

The House of Representatives and the National Human Rights Commission are on a collision course over how the latter is handling investigation and compensation of victims of extrajudicial killings, brutality, extortion and human rights abuses by officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force.

The National Assembly had appropriated N500m for compensation of victims and families in verified cases in the 2021 Appropriation Act.

The budget, which the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), signed into law on January 1, will however expire on December 31.

The compensation is a line item in NHRC’s 2021 budget.

The item, with Code ERGP554002023, is titled ‘Compensation for Victims of NHRC Investigated and Proven Cases of Severe Brutality and Killings by Officers of Nigeria Police.’

When our correspondent asked a top official of the House of Representatives if the item came with the budget proposal by the NHRC or if it was inserted by the lawmakers as promised by the Speaker, he said, “It was from here.”’

Nigerians, mostly youths, had in 2020 staged mass protests across the states, with the hashtag #EndSARS, against illegal activities of the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the NPF

The House had on October 13, 2020, honoured Nigerians who lost their lives during the #EndSARS protests, during which the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, said names of slain protesters should be compiled while the lawmakers would make provisions for the compensation of their families in the 2021 Appropriation Bill.

Gbajabiamila had said, “The people that we represent have spoken, and the government has listened. The president has unequivocally dissolved SARS.

“The House had last week reached some resolutions on the issue. It shows that we’re on the same page with the Nigerian people.

“We should get the list of those that lost their lives so that during this budget process, we’ll be able to appropriate for their full compensation.”

Later on October 20, Gbajabiamila had threatened not to sign the 2021 Appropriation Bill if provisions were not made for the compensation of the families of victims of police brutality in the last two decades.”

Another top official, who spoke to our correspondent decried that the purpose for which the allocation was made was being defeated.

According to the source, while Gbajabiamila was openly expressing his concerns about the welfare of officers and men of the NPF as well as victims of their illegal activities, a section of those in the Presidency and even the House had misinterpreted his speeches to mean the speaker was pro #EndSARS.

The official said, “If you remember then, Northerners felt that the speaker was challenging Mr President; that he was not going to sign the budget if there was no compensation for the victims. The controversy was much; that he was allegedly trying to undermine the president; that he is a (former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola) Tinubu boy and that was why he was allegedly trying to disrespect the president.

“What we then did was that because we knew that the provision, when we made it, there was a possibility that the Northerners – including northern lawmakers – might criticise it, we did not make any noise about it.

“People felt that if we had made a noise then, the executive might go and block it. That was why we just domiciled it with the National Human Rights Commission, which is dependable and not a political establishment; because they believed that when compensations would be paid, Lagos would be more favoured.

“But now, it is becoming imperative that we can no longer be silent.”

The source also disclosed that ever since the provision was made, several states with special panels of enquiry had been approaching the House on how to access the fund to settle cases they were handling.

Panel summons Wuse Hospital MD, to produce autopsy on corpse

Meanwhile, the Independent Investigative Panel on Human Rights atrocities committed by the defunct SARS has summoned the Medical Director of Wuse Hospital to appear before it on December 1 to present the result of the autopsy carried out on a corpse that had been in the mortuary for more than 600 days.

A member of the panel, Dr Garba Tetengi (SAN), representing its chairman, Justice Suleiman Galadima, issued the summon after listening to the confessions of a police witness, David Moses, how he shot Simon Nyamkwange at Eterna filling station in Wuse Zone 2, Abuja when he allegedly struggled with him in an unsuccessful attempt to snatch his riffle from him.

The incident happened on April 27, 2020.

The police sergeant stated that while he was guarding the filing station with his superior, ASP Danjuma Ogwu, five men wielding shinny cutlasses scaled the perimeter fence of the filling station and that he shot one of them, Nyamkwange, who made a futile effort to collect his riffle.

He told the panel that the other four men who came with the late Nyamkwange took to their hills immediately they saw that one of them had been shot.

According to him, the victim did not die on the spot and this informed his decision to contact CSP Emeka Onyia, police administration officer, who in turn informed Wuse Police Station to provide a vehicle to convey the victim to Wuse General Hospital, Abuja for treatment.

Moses said he visited the victim at Wuse General Hospital where he learnt of his death.

On cross-examination by counsel to the complainant who asked if the men who scaled the fence of the filling station were armed, he said they were holding shinny cutlasses and that a jackknife was later found in possession of the late Nyamkwange when he was admitted in the hospital.

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