A petitioner, Marc Chidiebere Nwadi, has been awarded N7.5 million by the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for victims of police brutality, especially those involving officers of the now-defunct Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS).
Nwadi had alleged that his long stay in prison was because he could not offer a bribe, adding that he spent six years in prison without trial.
The 39-year-old, who first appeared before the panel on Saturday, November 28, narrated how the Nigeria Police Force killed his dream of becoming a journalist.
The petitioner had told the judicial panel how he was detained, tortured and later remanded in kirikiri prison for six years.
Delivering judgement on Friday, the chairperson of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi, held that the petitioner suffered unduly in the hands of police officers.
Okuwobi, in her ruling said the panel found out that, “the petitioner was tortured and abused by officers of the Nigeria Police Force without any justification,”adding, “his experience was exacerbated by his inability to provide a bribe.”
“His inability to provide bribe led to tons of charge and as a result, he was awaiting trial in kirikiri maximum security prison for six years. The duration of six years for awaiting trial was not justifiable to his human rights and procedure of the system.
“The petitioner was incarcerated by the Nigeria Police Force at the prime of his life without justification for six years and was not tried or sentenced for any crime despite enduring six years in prison and losing a vital part of his youth and opportunities.
“We hereby award N7.5 million to the petitioner. The constitutional time frame within which suspects in custody has to be charged to the court must be observed at all times.
“Failure of Investigating Police Officer (IPO) to charge the suspect to court within the prescribed time as stipulated in the constitution should result in the officer being sanctioned by the Nigeria Police Force and suspended for six months without pay. Other officers directly involved in the investigation should be suspended for three months without pay.
“A daily audit should be carried out by the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) and human right desk for the purpose of ensuring that suspects are charged to court within the stipulated time frame in the constitution and ensure that incident of extortion are reduced and eventually eliminated
“Officers should be made to undergo a minimum of four training in a year on self-restraint and human right. Such training should prioritize the need of all officers to take personal responsibility for their actions. Officers should ensure relatives of people in custody are aware of their arrest and circumstance of their arrest,” She said.
Okuwobi subsequently presented a cheque of N7.5 million to the petitioner on behalf of the Lagos State Government.