Judicial panel in Nigeria probes police abuse, killing of protesters
A judicial panel investigating police brutality in Nigeria and the recent shooting of unarmed protesters in the country’s financial hub of Lagos has convened for the first time, as demands for accountability grow.
The establishment of an independent body to oversee the investigation and persecution of all reported cases of police misconduct has been one of the main demands of peaceful demonstrators who this month took to the streets across Nigeria to protest against police violence and call for sweeping reforms.
On October 20, nearly two weeks into the protests, witnesses and rights groups said soldiers opened fire on demonstrators gathered at a toll gate in Lekki, an upmarket area of Lagos.
The military denied its involvement in the attack but Amnesty International said 12 people were killed in Lekki and Alausa, another area of Lagos, by soldiers and police.
“How the government handles the Lekki shooting incident would go a long way in assuaging the concerns of many Nigerians,” Lagos resident Ignatius Preye, who took part in the protests against police brutality, told Al Jazeera.
The panel in Lagos, which has a six-month mandate, has so far received 15 complaints which are all unrelated to the shooting in Lekki, according to reports.
At least five other states have also set up similar panels of inquiry to investigate abuses by the police, with more states indicating interest to follow suit.
The demonstrations began early this month with calls for Nigeria’s government to shut down the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a notorious police unit known as SARS.
The squad was launched to fight crime but it carried out torture and killings, according to Amnesty International.
The #EndSARS campaign spread across the country and Buhari’s government announced it would disband the SARS unit.
The protest persisted with demonstrators calling for more widespread reforms of the police and an end to corruption.