The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said the police legal team has abandoned the Independent Investigative Panel on Alleged Human Rights Violations by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) since the panel resumed sitting on March 1, 2022.
The commission also threatened to invoke its constitutional powers against the Force, saying that it is determined to fight for the rights and dignity of every person living in Nigeria.
The commission disclosed this in a statement signed by the Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Fatimah Agwai Mohammed on Wednesday in Abuja.
The NHRC described the police action as worrisome and an attempt to undermine and frustrate the effort of the probe panel.
The commission explained that the police legal team was absent at the panel proceeding on Wednesday despite being duly notified of the hearing notices following the 2022 resumption of sitting.
The statement read, “The police team has abandoned the Independent Investigative Panel on Alleged Human Rights Violations by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad and other units of the Nigeria Police Force since the resumed sitting of the Panel on the 1st of March 2022.
“This is evident in the near absence of the police legal team at the panel despite proper information and hearing notices following the 2022 resumption of sitting.
“At the resumed sitting, the panel had only one police counsel, Mr. Kenneth Egbuchua who represents the institution, and policemen that are listed as respondents in all the cases before the panel.
“When contacted by the Commission, lead counsel for the police at the panel, Mr. James Idachaba, who was also not present at the panel, told the Commission that he had detailed members of the police legal team to be at the panel unfailingly as he had an assignment outside his jurisdiction.
“The commission said the proceedings of the Investigative panel had several times suffered setback and adjournments due to lack of cooperation on the part of the police, whose counsel has either refused to appear before the panel or refused to send representation.
“The statement, therefore, called on the hierarchy of the police institution to do the needful and take the IIP-SARS panel seriously adding that it is determined to fight for the rights and dignity of every person living in Nigeria.
“It should be put on record that the role of the police in the protection of lives and properties of citizens can never be over-emphasised. The panel members have at several times warned the police not to frustrate the effort of the panel but this seems not to have made any impact considering their attitude at the resumed sitting of 2022.
“During last year’s proceedings at the panel, the police paraded a reasonable number of counsel who barely struggled with the enormous cases brought against them. Now that the police have only one counsel, it logically raises doubt as to the seriousness of the institution concerning the serious human rights allegations against them.”