The Judicial Panel of Investigation on Police Brutality in Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria, has yet to resume sitting in Awka, due to the lack of funds and other necessary approvals, an investigation shows.
The panel adjourned sitting on Dec. 10, 2020 until Jan. 14 but two weeks after the proposed resumption date, the Anambra State Association of Town Unions Hall, venue if the sitting, is still locked.
An investigation by HumAngle reveals that the issue of inadequate funding which led to the suspension of sittings in December last year has not been resolved as some members are still complaining of the non-payment of their allowances.
The investigation also found that the panel has exhausted the 12 sittings approved for it by the state government and approval for a request for additional 24 sittings to enable the panel to exhaust the load of petitions before it has not been granted.
Justice Veronica Umeh, the Chairman of the panel, while addressing the media at the close of sittings last year, said the additional sitting period was necessary for the panel to hear the volume of petitions before it.
Umeh said the panel had received a total of 310 petitions by Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2020 out of which only 23 were concluded in 11 sittings.
“We have a total of 287 outstanding petitions from 310 so far received, we have concluded 23 in all and I would say that Anambra has the highest number of petitions.
“We have applied for extensions, today is our 11th sitting, so we have just one more sitting, we hope that before Thursday the approval will come.
“We applied for 24 more sittings in view of the number of pending sittings and hope to be treating 10 cases everyday and with that, we can conclude all the petitions.
“The number got to 310 because the police themselves filed petitions against police brutality on them and we have separated them from those of victims of Police brutality,” Umrh said.
But two weeks after the proposed resumption date, families of victims who were anxious to have their cases heard, are still waiting as the panel has yet to reconvene.
A member of the panel had told newsmen that the panel sitting was put on hold because of the second wave of COVID-19 currently ravaging the world.
The source said it was in the interest of public health and safety of petitioners and other participants of the sitting.
But a document obtained by HumAngle showed that the panel could not resume because the government had not given approval for further sittings and efforts were being made to pay the allowances of members.
The document which was signed by Dr Rita Chinelo Onyeka, the Secretary of the Panel, urged members to be patient, adding that they would be communicated whenever the issues were sorted out.
“Panel was supposed to have resumed sitting on Jan.14 2021, this resumption date was fixed on the presumption that before now, the Anambra State Government would have extended the sitting period of the panel and meeting the standard logistics need of the panel.
“We expect that the government will soon convey to the panel the approval for extension of time within which the panel should continue to sit.
“Government is working hard to pay all outstanding allowances to members to assist them to attend sitting.
“Accordingly, the Hon. Chairman of the Panel enjoins members to continue to exercise patience as it is expected that his excellency, the governor, will live up to his words and provide necessary logistics for the conclusion of our job.
“It is also expected that approval for the extension of the time for the continuation of our work will be given, members shall be communicated of the new resumption date as soon as it becomes clear that the two conditions are met,” Onyeka said.