Legal Nigeria

#EndSARS: Lagos panel asks petitioners to file all evidence ahead of hearing to ‘save time’

by Haleem Olatunji 

The Lagos state judicial panel of enquiry and restitution for victims of police brutality has introduced a measure to deliver on its mandate ahead of the October 19 deadline.

The panel, saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that justice is served for victims of police brutality in Lagos state, got another three-month extension after it was billed to end its sitting on July 19.

Speaking at its sitting on Saturday, Doris Okuwobi, chairperson of the panel, said the process of front-loading will be adopted to improve prompt delivery of justice.

Front-loading, in legal terms, is the process in which parties involved in a case are obliged to place before the court all documentary and potential oral evidence that they intend to rely upon to prosecute and defend the action at the time of filing the originating process.

It involves filing litigation documents in courts ahead of trial to avoid delays.

The adoption of front-loading is expected to bring a change to the regular panel session, where petitioners give oral account of their ordeals in the hands of security operatives before cross-examination takes place.

Okuwobi said the new measure, which will take effect from August 2, will reduce the time spent on petitions and ensure speedy dispensation of justice.

“It is important that every petition or petitioner be given an equal duty of being heard and to achieve that task we have put in place amendment of front-loading of the processes which will be more time-saving in terms of sitting and in terms of working outside the panel,” she said.

“So, this will now take effect from the 2nd of August. It will determine the listing of fresh petitions which have not been opened.”

Okuwobi urged all parties to comply with the new measure of front-loading or seek advice where necessary, adding that the panel will be able to list fresh cases that will come up before the deadline.

“It is our appeal that petitioners in particular who do not understand the process to seek advice on the front-loading,” she said.

“The rules are very clear. We want your evidence on the affidavit, evidence of your cases on affidavit. What you have in petition just have to be put in place of an affidavit and sworn to the court, as the evidence of the witnesses.

“I am sure petitioners are not going to have any difficulty with complying with the front-loading process. And all documents you want to present to the panel should come in ahead of the hearing of the petition and properly served on the respondents.”

On October 19, 2020, the Lagos state government set up the judicial panel of inquiry and restitution to investigate cases of human rights abuses by operatives of the now-disbanded special anti-robbery squad (SARS) and other security agencies.

This was sequel to the directive of the national economic council (NEC) for states to set up panels to investigate police brutality in the wake of the #EndSARS protests.Advertisement

The Lagos state judicial panel was given a mandate of six months to hear petitions submitted by members of the public, while a total of N200 million was earmarked as compensation.

The panel’s sitting ought to have ended on April 19, but was extended by three months till July 19 — the sitting is expected to now end on October 19.