Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, on Wednesday inaugurated a Committee for the Protection of Human Rights in the state with a call on citizens to be law-abiding.
Okowa, who inaugurated the committee in Asaba, said it was part of the recommendations of the Judicial Panel of Enquiry that investigated complaints of police brutality and extra-judicial killings in relation to #ENDSARS protest in the state.
The committee, which is headed by Gov. Okowa, has as members, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Isaiah Bozimo, Mr Ifeanyi Egwunyenga, Commissioner for Youths Development, Solicitor-General/ Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Mr Omamuzo Erebe, and the Commissioner of Police in the state.
Others are representatives of the Youths, Mr Harrison Gwamnishu, Civil Society Organisations, Mr Israel Joe, The Nigeria Bar Association, Dr Jonathan Ekpenisi, National Human Rights Commission, Mr Alpheus Ngwu, and Permanent Secretary, Directorate of Political and Security Matters, Mr Theophilus Aguonye, who will serve as Secretary.
The governor recalled that a year ago, youths in the country embarked on “ENDSARS”, a protest against police brutality and other issues.
He said that the protests which were carried out in major cities across the country “truly shook the foundation of this nation”.
He, however, thanked God for His intervention at that critical period, and said that it was for that, that “we are inaugurating this all-important Committee put in place to ensure the protection of the rights of our citizens in this state.
“We saw a lot of our youths come out in anger against so many issues as it concerned the nation but particularly against Police brutality.
“There was a lot of destruction of property as the movements of various civil society groups and youths got hijacked by unscrupulous citizens of this nation.
“We believe that the youths who actually set out at the beginning for the protest meant well for this nation because they were actually there to draw the attention of the leadership of this nation both at the national and at the sub-national levels to the ills in the society.
“They said they were demonstrating against oppressive tendencies of security agencies, which were impinging on their freedom”.
He disclosed that a lot of discussions took place and that in one of the meetings at National Economic Council, headed by the Vice President as Chairman, decisions were taken that were far-reaching and they helped to douse the tensions.
According to the governor, these decisions included the need to carry out some enquiry into the issues raised as to police brutality and to also find ways and means of assuaging the nerves of those who may have suffered one loss or the other.
“This state and many other states commissioned panels of enquiry to look into the issues of police brutality and extra-judicial killings.
“The panel itself had finished its sitting and the report was sent to my office and eventually a white paper was prepared from the report and decisions were taken just recently at the State Executive Council meeting.
“We are very mindful of the fact that we cannot pay for lives lost but we have agreed at the Council on the need to show some respect and to also find means of assuaging the nerves of those who have lost loved ones and for those who had to go to hospitals following action from police brutality.
“These decisions have been taken and we look forward that at the end of this month the monies approved should be paid to the various families that were affected,” he said.
He explained that the state government will pay the compensations recommended not because it could return the peace of the people and their joy but because the state wants to be part of the pains that the people had suffered and to show a sign of love to the families of the victims.
Okowa added that the government had communicated to the office of the Vice President the decisions taken, noting that some actions would be taken at the national level while the state government would also take certain actions on the report.
“Beyond the issues of compensation, it has become necessary to advise the Commissioners of Police and Inspector General of Police to carry out further investigations to ensure further punishment on indicted officers.
“We have also appointed two of our young ones to liaise with the government and the police on a day-to-day basis and to report cases to my office of any infringement on the rights of citizens.
“But, this does not also mean that citizens would take laws into their hands and do things which they ought not to do.
“The Constitution of our country recognises the need for us to have our rights protected but sometimes what we think is our right may also infringe on the rights of others.
“We expect every citizen of this state to be very mindful of this that we all need to protect our rights but we also need to ensure that we do not infringe on the rights of others,” he added.
He appealed to the people to work within the ambit of the law to ensure that they are law-abiding in all they do.
“The ENDSARS has taught us, particularly the police, that we must be civil in our manner of approach while carrying out our work because no man has the right to take the live of another and more so when it is unjustly done.
“I pray that the lessons learnt will help us to ensure that we have a better nation and that the lessons learnt will also help us to plan our security architecture in such a manner that it will become more responsive, more civil without actually forgetting the fact that we have a job to do.
“The Police have a job to do and therefore, citizens also should recognise that they have a job to do but the job must be done in such a manner that is responsible as civil.
“There is no doubt that there are some criminal elements in the society who go to the extent to disobey rules and to be disobedient to the laws of the land but they must realise that the long hands of the law will certainly catch up with them.
“I believe that this Committee will help to advise government on what should be done in each circumstance,” he said.
The governor said that Delta has remained relatively peaceful and thanked the youths and people of the state for their cooperation in maintaining peace.
He urged the people to live in peace and to trust the security agencies to carry out their job of maintaining peace and security in the state.
Responding, the Commissioner for Youths, Mr Ifeanyi Egwunyenga, thanked the governor for setting up the Committee and assured the people of the Committee’s commitment to the task of protecting their rights.