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April 2021 marked 6 months since the National Economic Council (NEC) directed the establishment of Judicial Panels of Inquiry across Nigeria to investigate complaints of police brutality and extra-judicial killings. The Panels were in response to the #EndSARS Protests across Nigeria and the diaspora in October 2020. The NEC had further directed that the Panel’s assignment should be concluded within a maximum of six (6) months unless it shows convincing reasons why the governor should allow an extension.
On Tuesday, 30th March 2021, the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, extended the tenure of the state’s Judicial Panel on Restitution for Victims of the Defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Related Abuses and Other Matters for another three months. The extension increases the lifetime of the Panel till 19th July, instead of the initial deadline of 19th April in its Terms of Reference.
By the end of April 2021, Panels had been established across twenty-nine (29) states and the FCT. Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara States have consistently refused to constitute Judicial Panels of Inquiry.
The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), commenced what initially appeared to be inconsequential strike action on April 6, 2021, to press home their demand for financial independence and autonomy for the judiciary, and indeed, the legislative arms of government across the nation. The JUSUN strike action paralyzed judicial activities nationwide including the activities of the Judicial Panels of Inquiry.