Ladies and Gentlemen of the Panel, Learned Gentlemen of the Bar, Gentlemen of the Press, Security Operatives present, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I wish to welcome you all to the inaugural sitting of the panel of inquiry investigating Police Brutality in Osun State. This panel is constituted by thirteen(13) members, they are:(1) Akin Oladimeji Retired High Court Judge(Chairman)(2)Prof. Wasiu Oyedokun, Civil Society Organization(3)Comrade Ismail Abdul Azeez, Chairman National Youth Council of Nigeria, Osun(4)Prof. Grace Akinola, from Obafemi Awolowo University(OAU) (5)Biodun Layoonu (SAN)(6)Abayomi Ogundele Esq, Osun Coordinator, NattionalHuman Rights Commission (7) Mr. Jide Akano RTD DIG of Police(8) Mr. Jumoke Ogunkeyede, Social Activist(9)Teslim Salaudeen, (Student), NAOSS President(10) Comrade Oluwasegun Idowu, Civil Society Organization(11)Abdulrahman Okunade, NBA Chairman, OsogboBranch(12)Comrade Ayo Ologun, Civil Society(13) Mrs. Kemi Bello, Representing Ministry of Justice, Osun(Secretary to the Panel)
The main mandate of the Panel is to investigate the brutality of the defunct SpecialAnti-Robbery Squad, commonly referred to by its acronym and hereafter referred to as SARS, which is to investigate the brutality of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad, commonly referred to by its acronym and hereinafter referred to as SARS, which is a department of Nigeria Police Force, against some members of the public in Osun State Nigeria. You will recollect that, like all other states of Nigeria where various Panels of Inquiry were set up by the government of each state, this Panel of inquiry too was inaugurated by His Excellency, the Governor of Osun state, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola on the 22nd day of October 2020 when some members who were present at the occasion have been sworn in. Other members who were not present at the occasion have been sworn in by the Chairman of the Panel by a delegated power from the executive Governor
Ladies and Gentlemen and the Press, this Panel is not a regular Court of law where the law is strictly applied to cases but rather, a fact-finding panel. Therefore, it is the duty of every petitioner and in fact, all parties who present petitions and defense before this panel to bring all facts and evidence in support of their cases before the panel. We are neither prophets nor seers that can see what the ordinary eyes cannot perceive. Every petitioner who has suffered injury or loss wants damages or compensation to be paid to him, this panel is empowered to make recommendations on award of such damages or compensation but we can not do so unless you come and demonstrate to us how and where you sustained injury or loss. It is the fact and evidence that you place before us that we must use to assess the injury victims suffered in the hands of SARS in each of the cases, and the damages claimed by Petitioners or any other parties as the case may be. These are the things that will assist us in our duties, so that we will not, therefore, appear to be awarding arbitrary low or high damages or compensation in the eye of the reasonable man.
In presenting your cases before this panel, we urge the parties and their witnesses to be truthful and honest, as righteousness exalts not only the individual but also the nation and the world at large. Righteousness exalts the individual, the nation, and the world at large not the Religions, culture, or traditions. Please be truthful as much as your memory can carry you. Sometimes individuals or groups might have suffered defilement like rape in the hands of SARA. I know that in this part of the world, women find it difficult to come out or speak out on such evils and the reason for keeping quiet by them is not far-fetched, they include tradition, culture, religion, and lack of emancipation. Women must come out of their shells and play down those things that can not assist them to attain good status in life. When you do not come out to speak against evil you encourage the evildoers to do more of his evils. We are your fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and children and friends; do not be afraid to come and tell us your stories. If you do not want to be heard in the public, we shall make arrangements to hear you without public. Remove the impression, if you have, that this panel is a setup and a disguise by the government which is a common notion in Nigeria. My humble self is not a politician. I have never been in politics. I am a priest, I always love to do justice. You can repose good confidence in us.
Mr. Governor, in his address at the inauguration of this panel, described me as ”a man whose penchant for justice for the common man and for all is enormous” I sincerely thank Mr. Governor for the encomium. That is exactly what I am. We are here to protect the interest of every party who has suffered an injury in the hands of SARS including the dead on whose behalf petitions were filed by their Legal or personal representatives.
We are prepared to visit ‘locus in quo’ i.e places of incidents including mortuaries, graves, and graveyards or suspected ones if need be. We seek the cooperation of lawyers who will be appearing before us to present, prosecute, and defend cases on behalf of their clients to do so with all diligence and dispatch. We are very much aware that you are very busy or seem busy, kindly take into consideration the very limited time this Panel has to wind up which is six months from the date of inauguration of this panel, part of which has been taken off by fourteen days due to late submission of petitions. We shall, therefore, not entertain unwarranted and frivolous applications for adjournments from any party or their counsel. It is a guiding rule of procedure of this panel that, unless there are compelling reasons and circumstances, this panel will not entertain more than two adjournments, each of which shall not extend beyond fourteen days on each adjournment.
We want to plead with members of the regular press, that, it is only what you hear and sees that you should report. We want to especially plead with the members of the unregulated media, that is the users of social media, to please be conscious of their responsibilities and duties to the individuals here, the public, the nation, and the world at large. We do not want to pick anyone for contempt. I plead with the press, both regular and unregulated not to further fuel embers of disunity or disaffection between the public and the police. Always remember that we shall always have the police with us, no matter how bad and sad the situation. We cannot adequately protect ourselves as we are not professionally trained to do so. It is the policemen that are so trained.
I must not also fail to inform you all that the panel will not entertain any case in which the dispute is still pending before a Court of competent jurisdiction. If you have or intend to file such, you will have to file a notice of discontinuance in that court where the case is pending and evidence of discontinuance must be filed before this panel..
Members of the panel are men and women of very high integrity. We have taken an oath before God and man to do justice to all and so, we assure you that no one will come before us and go away without getting justice. We are representatives of God in this assignment and in fact in all cases.
May God help us in discharging our duties. Amen