Police Brutality: Coalition of Lawyers to Offer Free Legal Services to Akwa Ibomites
Following the inauguration of investigative panels on police brutality by state governors, a group of lawyers under the aegis “Lawyers Coalition for Justice” has volunteered to offer free legal services to Akwa Ibom persons seeking redress and justice for the wrong done them by the police ast states.
The assemblage of lawyers flagged off a first-of-its-kind initiative in Nigeria to provide required free legal services to identified victims last weekend.
The effort, according to the group, is made to assist victims of police brutality who may wish to approach the newly constituted Judicial Panel of Inquiry in Akwa Ibom state headed by retired Justice Ifiok Ukana.
In a statement issued in Uyo and jointly signed by the Convener, Lawyers Coalition for Justice, Abasumo Bassey, Esq. and the Lead Counsel, Etim Offiong, Esq., the group of volunteers noted that they have decided to lend a helping hand to the process of healing initiated by the government, calling on victims of police brutality within the state to make their cases known in order to get justice.
The ‘pro bono’ legal services to be rendered will include resources for production of evidentiary materials, secretariats for preparation and warehousing of documents, a reservoir of other professionals such as medical personnel who are willing to give free professional services and generally offer such petitioners the necessary assistance, as they seek redress and justice for the wrongs done them.
The group commended the Akwa State Government for setting up the Judicial Panel of Inquiry to look into petitions of the victims of police brutality in the state and called on well-meaning individuals, professional groups, church organizations and civil society organizations to step up and support the noble cause to assist such victims within Akwa Ibom communities whose rights had been severely infringed and trampled upon, in the hope of healing the wounds of the past as well as enthroning a just and egalitarian Nigerian society.
Speaking on the rationale for the Coalition, one of the leading brains behind the novel initiative said, “the body is an innovative intervention to step into the solution space in order to aid the process of justice and facilitate the healing of the souls of all victims of police brutality in Nigeria, starting from Akwa Ibom State.
“Take for instance, a former taxi driver who was brutalized, dehumanized, maimed and now sits on a wheel chair, completely bereft of the ability to feed himself and his family. While the setting up of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry is a welcome development, tell me, how can such victim of police brutality understand what is required to articulate his case and present before the Panel?
“He may not even have the awareness, the confidence, the expertise to make his case or the resources to engage the services of a lawyer to help him articulate his case.
“And so, this is where Lawyers Coalition for Justice comes in to fill the gaps and to do these completely free of all charges on the victim.”
Recall, the setting up of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry by many states in Nigeria, including Akwa Ibom, followed a two-week period of nationwide #ENDSARS protests championed by Nigerian youths to demonstrate their pains, angst and anger over the high handed brutality meted out on the civil populace by men of the Nigeria Police Force, especially its Special Anti-Robbery Squad division, popular by the epithet SARS.
Though the #ENDSARS protest had later degenerated into widespread violence, looting, mayhem and hooliganism perpetuated by some elements who at some point, hijacked the hitherto peaceful protests after the alleged notorious October 20, 2020 shooting of protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos by security operatives, the Nigerian Federal Government alongside various State Governments have expressed commitments towards fulfilling the noble demands of the initial #ENDSARS protesters.
The setting up of a Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate cases of Police brutality is the first step towards meeting such demands.
The statement by the group “invites all persons with genuine cases of police brutality in Akwa Ibom State who may require assistance to articulate their petitions for presentation before the eight-man Judicial Panel headed by Retired Justice Ifiok Ukana, to promptly reach out to the Coalition’s volunteers for such legal services, free of all charges whatsoever.”
According to the release, “Victims in Uyo axis can reach the Coalition through Barr. Etim Offiong on 08034282146: C/O Bar Centre, Akwa Ibom State Judiciary Headquarters, Wellington Bassey Way, Uyo or Barr. Mfon Asanaenyi on 08022356520 at Sylvester Utuk & Associates, 174, Ikot Ekpene Road, Uyo.
“Those in Ikot Ekpene axis can reach Barr. David Ekpo on 08037801072 at David Ekpo & Associates, 1 Ukam Road, Off Market Road, Ikot Ekpene. Those in the neighborhood of Oron can reach Barr. Tokunbo Eno Toyo at Otoyo & Associates, 288, Oron Road, Oron.
“For those in Eket and environs, Barr. Mfon Etukudo of Etukudo & Etukudo Chambers, 13, Idua Road, Eket is the contact person and he can be reached on 08064163566”, said the group.