At the November 24 hearing of the Imo State Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Police Brutality and Related Extrajudicial Killings, SPACES FOR CHANGE’s [S4C’s] legal officers, Kingsley Ogam-Okafor, Esq. and Omotayo Odukola, Esq represented five persons/families comprising the wounded during the violence that trailed the #ENDSARS protests and victims of extrajudicial killings by Nigerian security forces. After weeks of nationwide protests against police brutality in Nigeria turned deadly, resulting in numerous human rights violations, S4C has been providing legal advice, referrals, documentation, bails and bail bonds, alternative dispute resolution and free legal representation to scores of individuals, groups and communities across five states of the federation.
Consistent with its mandate of expanding access to justice for marginalized populations, S4C petitioned the Imo judicial panel on behalf of the victims of Nwaorieubi massacre some of whom were wounded or their family members killed by officers of the the Nigerian Army of 34 Artillery brigade Obinze in Imo State during the heat of the civil unrests that trailed the #EndSARS nationwide protests. Being the first on the cause list, Mrs. A.O’s case was the first case to be called. S4C filed the petition on her behalf in respect of her late husband, a grade level 16 officer and a Director of Accounts and Finance in Imo State Universal Basic Education Board, who was shot dead by Nigeria’s security forces on Wednesday, October 21. S4C lawyers prepared and filed relevant court processes and led her in evidence as she testified before the judicial panel.
S4C’s three other petitions also came up for hearing. Owing to the absence of the defendants, the Imo State Commissioner of Police and the Brigadier Commander in charge of 34 Artillery Brigade of the Nigerian Army in Obinze, the panel further adjourned to afford them the opportunity to appear at the commission and respond to the petitions brought against them and the officers under their command. The judicial panel adjourned the cases to December 8, 2020 for further hearing, and ordered a further service of hearing notices on the two respondents.
The last matter filed on behalf of Mr. N.O.X, a victim of police brutality also came up for hearing. S4C petitioned the panel to seek redress from the Nigerian police on account of the inhuman and degrading treatment the client suffered at Obowo police station. Because the petition and the summons were only served on the respondents the day before, the respondents sought an adjournment to have more time time to respond to the petition and file the necessary replies. S4C’s legal team did not object to this application and the matter was also adjourned to December 8.
There however, remains a general unwillingness to seek legal redress for police brutality and extrajudicial killings across the state, especially among Nwaorieubi communities who continue to live in fear since the ruthless military invasion of their community on October 21. Similarly, there is still a very low reporting rate by victims fearing further reprisal attacks by the police and military forces. With the support of Fund for Global Human Rights, S4C continues to conduct regular legal outreaches in urban and rural communities to encourage reporting, notify them of available free legal assistance, as well as empower them through paralegal trainings and targeted sensitization programs.