Weighing the Constitutionality of States Investigating Federal Agencies — Cases — The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News


About eight months ago, the National Economic Council (NEC) headed by Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) ordered each state in the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, to create a commission of judicial inquiry, to investigate cases of police brutality and other forms of extrajudicial executions, with a view to redressing proven cases of injustice against victims.

The young people then added to their list of demands. They demanded the immediate release of all arrested protesters; justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and adequate compensation for their families; and the establishment of an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reported police misconduct within 10 days and to conduct the psychological assessment of all disbanded SARS officers, before redeploying them to any police task. The protesters further demanded that the government increase the salaries of police personnel and ensure that they are properly compensated for any contingencies they suffer in protecting the life and property of citizens.

The establishment of these state-level judicial commissions of inquiry to address alleged cases of police brutality and inhumane treatment was fueled by the #EndSARS protests, which rocked the country between October 8 and October 22, 2020.

The protests have seen young Nigerians take to the streets in different parts of the country, calling for the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Security agencies reportedly cracked down on them, leading to arrests and deaths on the side of protesters as well as security personnel.

Legal experts have spoken out on whether or not such panels, set up by states to probe the police and military, which are federal government agencies, are legal, wondering if it might be an exercise in futility.

According to a human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, the governors did not break the law by establishing judicial commissions of inquiry. He pointed out that the establishment of commissions of inquiry was not on the exclusive or concurrent list as it appears in the Constitution.

Citing Supreme Court cases, the human rights lawyer argued that the circumstances leading to the establishment of the panels were “a residual matter within the exclusive legislative jurisdiction of state governments.”

He said: “Following the aforementioned resolutions, the State Governors have, in the exercise of powers vested in them by the Court of Inquiry Laws, established Judicial Commissions of Inquiry to investigate complaints of violation of human rights and make appropriate recommendations to governments. The resolutions are fully in order as each state’s court of inquiry is considered existing law under Section 315 of the 1999 Constitution. See Williams v Dawodu (1988) 4 NWLW (PT 87).

Falana was explicit on the matter and argued that under Section 1 of the Tribunal of Inquiry Act, each Governor is vested with the power to appoint a Tribunal of Inquiry to investigate the conduct of officers or of the Government Department and on related matters.

“In view of the Supreme Court’s categorical statement on the validity of Section 5(c) of the Courts of Inquiry Act, it is argued that the power of all state governments to establish commissions of Judicial inquiries to investigate human rights abuses resulting from police brutality are well entrenched in law.

Falana insisted the panel had the power to summon police or military to testify before it and was constitutionally backed.

Other lawyers are apparently toeing the same line as Nigeria’s lead lawyer. Most of them pointed to the constitutional validity of the panels.

An Abuja-based lawyer, Omale Ajonye, ​​said it was constitutional for states to set up such commissions of inquiry to investigate the police. He explained that the resolution to create the commissions was in line with the Constitution because the Constitution empowers the states to create a tribunal and a commission of inquiry. He specifically cited article 315 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) to support his assertion.

He said: “States have the power to inaugurate/empower panels of experts to investigate violations of law or violations of human rights by security agencies supported by chambers of justice. States Assembly. Ajonye further explained that state governors are the security chiefs of their respective states. Therefore, it is constitutional for them to investigate police activities in their states, notwithstanding that the police are a federal institution.

Moreover, Monday Ikpe, an Abuja-based jurist, believes it is constitutional for states to set up commissions to investigate police activities. He said states are constitutionally empowered to establish commissions to investigate the activities of the police and their officers in the performance of their statutory duties. In his argument, he agrees that such state-incorporated groups have not violated any known provision of the Nigerian Constitution.

Another attorney, Peter Abah, said the court laws that gave the state the power to create courts also allowed them to set up panels to investigate the activities of the police and other government departments.

He quoted article 315 of the Constitution. Abah explained that Section 315 provides for a commission of inquiry and any additional legislation that may give additional impetus to the state in setting up such commissions.

He said: “By the provisions of the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, each State Governor is vested with the power to appoint a Tribunal of Inquiry to investigate the conduct of the police and other government departments. ”

But another attorney, who would not want his name mentioned, argued that the states’ establishment of the panel was unconstitutional and violated laws that govern police administration. He stated that these groups violated the provisions of Section 241(1)(2)(a) and Section 45, Part 1, First Schedule of the Constitution, and Section 21 of the courts of inquiry.

The lawyer argued that under the provisions of Section 241(1)(2)(a) and Section 45, Part 1, First Schedule of the Nigerian Constitution, only the Federal Government has the power exclusive right to organise, control and administer the activities of the Police.

While arguments for and against constitutionality persisted, some judicial observers said the lack of a uniform reporting deadline could affect implementation.

They said the implementation of reports regarding the prosecution of indicted officers could be hampered by the lack of uniformity among states. Findings from The Guardian showed that while some states submit their reports early enough, the exercise is still ongoing in other states.

Vice President Osinbajo had urged states where panels are still sitting to send interim reports, which can be used to gauge their progress. In a recent statement from his media assistant, Laolu Akande, the vice president said reports are being received ahead of a Council meeting where presentations will be made, covering states where panels have completed their work and those still sitting. .


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