#YNaijaEndSARSupdates: The judicial panel is progressive but there are concerns

The newly constituted judicial panel investigating atrocities committed by members of the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is one of the victories we can count from the #EndSARS movement.

The panel, regarded as the first step in progress, is supposed to be a national activity and is supposed to investigate the atrocities of SARS and submit a report to be implemented.

The first day (Tuesday) of the Lagos branch of the panel saw two youth representatives sworn in, where it is hoped that the reports will be subsequently implemented and the errant officers punished so that the victims will get justice – further serving as a deterrent to other rogue Police Officers in the Force.

However, the panel is simply a palliative and not the solution to the police brutality problem. After the panel, steps must be taken to ensure that we never have to constitute such a panel ever again.

When you consider that the panel subtly excludes young people who own the battle, and also the problem of implementation, you begin to have doubts.

Young Nigerians must be wary and watch the older people in power carefully. Nigerian politics, civil service and institutions are still centred on older people in their middle ages, unfortunately.

These are the institutions that dominate the Panel and for an issue as serious as this, States should have more than two youth representatives. And, the fact that we have to nominate special youth representatives show that there is a problem. It assumes that young people are in the minority.

Young people are the majority in population but not in power. The young people in these positions must be truly encouraged to be the eyes and voices of the nation’s teeming youth population. If possible, the stipends being provided by the government should be rejected while they are given allowances from a crowd-funded account.

Also, they must be willing to take the Panel work on full time with professional support and briefings from lawyers, mental health experts, doctors and other professionals who are connected to the Panel.

Indeed, the ongoing struggle does better without leaders but we can still work with them on these panels. In a way, the struggle was led by them. The Panel is something we cannot afford to bungle. We must do it well.

From another angle, Nigeria has a long history of Panel reports lying fallow in offices. We have had several Judicial Panels on human right abuses and National Confabs, reports of which are yet to be implemented.

The biggest judicial Panel Nigeria has ever seen is the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission, popularly known as the Oputa Panel. The Commission received over 10,000 petitions and even had then President Obasanjo waiving his immunity and appearing in the dock to answer for crimes committed during his time as Military president. Unfortunately, the Commission report was not implemented after months of gruelling work. I doubt if any SARS Panel can be as big as the Oputa Panel. If they could somehow find a way to ignore the report of the Oputa Panel, they can do it for the SARS Panels too. We must not sleep with two eyes closed. During Panel sittings, we must let the authorities know that the reports must be implemented promptly. Failure to do this will render the Panel null and void and this is a possibility if we do not fight for it.

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