#EndSARS: Benue Panel sits, receives 31 petitions

By Godwin Edeh & Martin Iyonguvihi

Benue State Judiciary Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality and Extra-Judicial Killings by the disbanded Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) Tuesday continued sitting at the High Court 6 in Makurdi after it’s inaugural sitting Monday.

The eight (8) member panel presided over by Rtd Justice Adam Onum announced that it has so far received 31 petitions and complaints in total, from victims of police brutality in the state.

Among the complaints received on the second day of sitting were that of Chief Samuel Tersoo vs Commissioner of Police with file number BSJPI/009/2020.

He submitted the complaints, earlier forwarded to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) against the police and copied to the district head of Ikov in Ushongo local Government Area of Benue state on the alleged extra-judicial killing of one of his subjects, Late Mr Aondohemba Terungwa and the unwarranted shooting of one Peter Terver and Tertsea Igber, on 8 May, 2020.

According to the complaint forwarded to the panel of inquiry, the deaths of the victims was as a result of stray bullets from the police deployed to the area who engaged youths over a misunderstanding.

The panel also received a complaint from one Simon Akile, a resident of Logo 1 in Makurdi, against the commissioner of police, alleging that on 27 August, 2020, while he was riding his motorcycle along the road, a team of police patrol arrested him with his motorcycle and took him to Police ‘E’ Division Station, where he was told that his motorcycle was suspected to be a stolen property.

According to him, upon presenting proof of ownership to Inspector Kigbu J. Auta, he claimed to have received a phone call from the DPO directing him to be detained. On trying to inquire why he should be detained, the Inspector slapped him repeatedly and hit him on the head, neck and ears with a wooden baton, causing him injuries on the left ear with consequent bleeding from the ear.

Another petition mentioned before the panel was that of legal practitioner, Felix Terseer Anongo vs SARS, alleging violation of his fundamental human rights by the operatives of the disbanded SARS.

He complained of inhuman and degrading treatment meted on him by two operatives of SARS, Inspector Solomon Dogo and Sergeant Sani Abubakar of the FCT Police Command, Abuja on 27 March, 2017.

According to the Panel Secretary/ Lead Counsel, Mr Edward Yange, the  panel which started sitting on Monday, 16 November, 2020 has so far received 31 petitions in total.

Speaking with reporters in his office after adjourning the day’s sitting, the Chairman of the Panel, Justice Adam Onum (Rtd) warned that, the panel will not tolerate frivolous adjournments or any form of delay as it is not a regular court, and urged petitioners and other relevant stakeholders to adhere strictly to its rules and regulations.

According to him, “once you are served and you fail to appear, the panel will go on with the petition, because we are working within the time frame of six (6) months which the panel is expected to submit its report.”

Justice Onum commended the Benue youths for their conduct and understanding, during the #EndSARS protest in the state, with a promise that by the end of the panel sitting, the story will never be the same again.

The next panel sitting will be on 19 November, 2020.

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