By Samuel Adegoke
Lagos State Government has set up a N200 Million Fund to compensate victims of abuse by members of the disbanded Police Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS).
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who disclosed this on Thursday, said a seven-member panel has also been set up to hear cases of abuses to determine compensation and sundry issues.
According to the governor, the panel will be chaired by retired Justice Doris Okuwobi. Other members are Mr. Ebun Adegboruwa, SAN(representing the Civil Society); Rtd. DIG Taiwo Lakanu (a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police); Ms Patience Udoh (representing the Civil Society); Mr. Segun Awosanya (Human Rights Activist); Mrs. Olutoyin Odusanya (Director, Citizens Mediation Center); as well as a rep/member of the youth-led protest and a representative of the Human Rights Commission.
The governor rolled out other measures being taken to address the concerns of youths and other protesters and appealed to them to halt the protest to allow other Lagosians to go about their normal businesses as a mark of respecting their own fundamental rights.
Sanwo-Olu said: “As a government, we have engaged the protesters. The Deputy Governor and I have met with them on numerous occasions, we have listened to their concerns and agitations. We were both physically at the Lekki Toll Gate and the Alausa protest scenes to speak to our teeming youths in order to calm them down and assure them that their grievances had been heard and would be addressed.
“We feel their pain and share theirclamour for far-reaching police reforms, for a Police that serves and protects the people of Lagos andNigeria, not one that intimidates andoppresses them. Nigeria’s development aspirations will not be achieved without a responsive and ethical Police.
“I have, as promised, discussed your five-point demand with Mr. President, when I visited him earlier this week.
“One of the things you asked for is the release of all arrested protesters. Iassure you that as at today alldetainees have been released. If you know of anyone still in police custody, please bring same to my notice.
“I am also pleased to confirm to you that all the other demands have been addressed by the President who has given the IG of Police the go-ahead to implement all the demands.
“A few minutes ago, I attended a National Economic Council Sub- Committee Meeting at which the major topic was the ongoing protests and the necessary steps to take to assuage the feelings of the protesters. In line with the five-point demand, we unanimously decided, as a council, to inaugurate a 7-member Panel of Enquiry on the protesters’ demands.
“A Judicial Panel of Enquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses in Lagos State is now being constituted. This seven-man panel will ensure that all those with verifiable cases of SARS brutalityor fatality receive compensation. ThePanel will be chaired by retired Justice Doris Okuwobi. Other members are Mr. Ebun Adegboruwa, SAN(representing the Civil Society); DIG Taiwo Lakanu (Rtd); Ms Patience Udoh (representing the Civil Society); Mr. Segun Awosanya (Human Rights Activist); Mrs. Olutoyin Odusanya (Director, Citizens Mediation Center); as well as a rep/member of the youth-led protest and a representative of the Human Rights Commission.
“We will also be setting up a help desk for the complaints, and petitions to the panel. As from next week, you can reach the help desk on the following numbers: 0901 051 3203; 3204 and
“We have, in fact, also set up a N200M victims compensation fund to take care of all compensation due to those verifiable cases of SARS brutality and fatality in the State.”
In taking police misconduct seriously, Sanwo-Olu revealed that four policemen who have been arrested for alleged misconduct are now facing orderly room trial which was being closely monitored by the state government.
He listed their names as Inspector Bagou Michael; Inspector Ekpoudom Etop; Sgt Nnamdi Majura and Sgt. Akinyemi Benson.
Urging protesters to acknowledge the progress being made and respond in good faith, Sanwo-Olu said: “We are starting to record violent incidents as well as the breakdown of law and order. This week we have seen an escalation in incidents arising from the protests. Reports of medical evacuations hindered by the blockage of key roads and the worsening traffic arising from the protests. Lagosians who are unable to go to their workplaces or earn a legitimate living because of the collateral impact of protest gatherings.
“We therefore cannot continue this way. What we need now, and ask for, is for you to sheath your swords, and give us a chance, as Federal and State Governments, to consolidate on these actions being promptly taken to address your concerns.
“Even as we affirm the constitutional rights of all protesters to peacefully make your grievances known, it is also our duty as a government to ensure that the exercise of one set of rights by one group of people does not in any way constrain the rights of any other group of people.
“We now have no choice but to take every necessary step to restore law and order and to minimise the disruptions being experienced by all law-abiding residents of Lagos State.”