PETITIONERS ABSENT AS ENUGU STATE POLICE BRUTALITY AND EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS PANEL COMMENCES SITTING

Reporter : CHUKWUBUIKE MADU

The Enugu State Panel of Inquiry into Police Brutality and Extra-judicial Killings has assured the public that it will be fair, transparent and courageous to all parties in the discharge of its duties.

Chairman of the panel, retired Justice Kingsley Udeh gave the assurance during its inaugural sitting at the State Judiciary Headquarters, Enugu.

The first sitting of the panel comes 26 days after its inauguration by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.

Retired Justice Udeh, who appealed to people to bear with the panel for delay in commencing the sitting, explained that the panel took some time to streamline procedure for filing of petitions, sitting venues and conduct of the proceedings.

He announced that the panel had extended deadline for submission of complaints/petitions by aggrieved persons or groups from November 20, 2020 to February 2021.

The panel Chairman also announced that they would sit three times in a week: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, noting that petitioners could appear in person or be represented by a lawyer.

Meanwhile the panel could not hear any of the five petitions it scheduled for the day as none of the petitioners was present.

It was four journalists, three lawyers and three observers that were present at the inaugural sitting.

Following the development, the Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Enugu branch, Mr. Jude Egwui, appealed to the panel to publish the submitted complaints/petitions it had received and give dates for parties to appear before it, explaining that the petitioners were not present as they never expected that their petitions would be entertained at the inaugural sitting.

“Some petitioners or complainants had thought that today’s inaugural sitting will be just a time the panel will marshal out how they will operate, like days of sitting, mode of representation, dress code for lawyers, duration of each day’s sitting and so on. That’s why they are not here,” the NBA branch Chairman explained.

Mr. Egwi promised that Enugu Bar would provide free legal services to any interested petitioner at the panel.

“We have set aside a group of lawyers, our members, that will serving on pro bono basis, that is offering free legal services.

“We can assist any interested petitioner by way of writing the petitions, or representing the petitioner at the panel,” Mr. Egwui said.

A member of the panel and Director of a non governmental organization, Women AIDS Collective (WACOL), professor Joy Ezilo, announced that the panel had received about 30 petitions so far and gave the hope that the panel would sit in other judicial locations in the state if the need arose.

“If we get appreciable number of cases coming from a particular judicial location outside Enugu, we will have to go and sit there for administrative convenience,” Professor Ezilo said.

Meanwhile, the panel adjourned sitting until Monday November 23, 2020.

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