By Jonathan Ugbal
Actors in the Civic Space in Cross River are kicking against the composition of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate acts of police brutality in the State.
The Governor, Ben Ayade on Thursday inaugurated a seven – man panel as part of the demands of Nigerians who took to the streets for two weeks with the online trend, #EndSARS, protesting against acts of police brutality especially by the disbanded Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad (F-SARS) unit.
Part of the demands was that there should be civil society representatives in the judicial panels which the Federal Government said would be set up across the country.
But, members of Civil Society Organisations in the State say the panel is skewed to favour whatever Mr. Ayade may want to achieve as the membership of the panel which is gender insensitive, does not reflect the desires of those who took to the streets.
“Cross River State does not have an adequate judicial panel,” said Ben Usang, who heads the network of CSOs in the State.
He continued: “There was an issue in composition. The non government members should have been more. It should have been at least two representatives of the youths, two representatives of the CSO’s and one or two members of those who were protesting continuously. We don’t even know the non government people in that least and how do you set up a panel with largely State actors?”
Gabriel Adim, the Chairman of the CSO coalition against COVID 19 in Cross River averred that: “For me, we are still doing the same thing that put us in this situation. The constitution of that panel should have been more transparent and have more representatives of youths and CSOs .
“What they have done is to bring in the same old people and government actors who have failed us in the past. It is the same as changing SARS name to SWAT. The country is boiling and you are doing this? The panel has to be rejigged.”
Kebe Ikpi, the Programs Manager of Basic Rights Counsel Initiative said there was need to include more people who have helped victims of abuse in the past.
“That is not fair. There are a lot of human rights based CSOs in the State that should have been on that panel. It is not fair,” he said.
Asked whether the panel should be reconstituted, he averred that: “They have to include more people because every facet of the society has to be represented. I have seen people with business experience and there is no one from the CSOs, youths or with security experience there.”
A quick check on the seven names showed that the list was made up of one retired and one serving Judge, an entertainer, three past and serving appointees of the Governor and one who owns a Tee Shirt branding company.
The members are:
Hon. Justice Michael Edem – Chairman
Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice – Secretary
Hon. Justice Eno Ebri – Member
Rev. Father Bob Etta – Member
John Ebi Makpan – Member
Jossy Oku – Member
Christian Lawrence Attah (Ajebo) – Member
The Chairman, Justice Michael Edem is a former Chief Judge of the High Court of Cross River State while Justice Eno Ebri who is a member, is still serving.
The Secretary, Mr. Tanko Ashang is an appointee of Governor Ayade. He is the Attorney-General and Justice Commissioner.
Rev. Fr. Bob Etta and John Ebi Makpan are also aides of the Governor. While Fr. Bob is the Special Adviser on Religious Affairs, Mr. Makpan served as the Chairman of the Cassava Company Management Board.
Mr. Joseph Oku is an entertainer and heads the Jossy Entertainment which organizes Funfest while Mr. Christian Lawrence Attah is the owner of Ajebo clothing, a branding outfit.