EndSARS: Absence of Principal Defendants Stalls Proceedings at Abia Judicial Panel

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The Abia Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality, Extra-Judicial Killings and other related matters on Tuesday adjourned proceedings at its inaugural sitting, following the absence of the principal defendants.
The panel listed four cases for the day’s sitting but had to adjourn for one week to enable the defendants, including the Commissioner of Police, Janet Agbede, and five police officers to appear.
Three of the four petitioners, including Mrs Charity Ugwuiro, Umua Nneibo, Mr Onyemachi Chukwunyere were present, while Mrs Esther Orji was absent.
The Chairman, Umuahia branch of the Nigeria Bar Association, Mr Oliver Amuzie, told the panel that all the branches of the association in Abia would offer their services pro bono for indigent petitioners.
When the cases were called up for hearing, the Police Defence Counsel, SP Stanley Ofoegbu, said he was only served notice some minutes before the sitting.
Ofoegbu, who is the Officer in Charge of the Police Legal Section in Abia command, said he needed time to verify the complaints and get prepared.
He therefore prayed the panel to adjourn for one week to enable him to go through the complaints and prepare for defence.
The petitioners’ counsels did not oppose the application for an adjournment.
The Chairman of the panel, retired Justice Sunday Imo, thereafter adjourned sitting to November 18 for continuation of the hearing.
Imo, however, said that the panel would sit on November 11 to entertain more petitions.
In his opening remark, Imo, who is a former Chief Judge of Abia, promised that the panel would in line with its mandate serve justice to proven victims of police brutality and maltreatment.
“We want to assure you and members of the public that this panel shall discharge her functions without fear or favour”.
In an interview with newsmen, the Secretary of the panel, Mrs Uzoamaka Uche-Ikonne, said the panel received 44 complaints, adding that most of them came from online.
Uche-Ikonne, who is the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice/Solicitor General of the state, said that the panel was ready to receive more petitions.
She said the essence of setting up the panel was to do justice to all manner of people.
She thanked all the agencies and interest groups for showing interest in the panel’s assignment with their presence at its inaugural sitting.
The 17-member panel was given 12 weeks to complete its assignment and submit its report to the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.

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