The Presidential Panel of Investigation inaugurated on August 11, 2017 by the then acting president Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to Review Compliance Of The Armed Forces With Human Rights Obligations And Rules Of Engagement on Monday, September 11 kicked off its public hearings at the FCT High Court Maitama, Abuja.
In his inaugural speech, the Chairman of the Commission, Sir, Hon Justice Biobele Abraham Georgewill spelt out the Panel’s mandate and pledge to carry out the task before them.
‘’We pledge to carry out this assignment with the fear of God and with integrity to ensure that justice will not only be done to all but would be seen by all to have been done..” he said.
He further stated that submission of memorandum from members of the public, state governments, traditional rulers, community leaders, NGOs, CSOs, Human Rights Groups, and other stakeholders is a continuing process and thus ‘’even at the venue of our sittings, memorandum submitted shall be accepted and attended to accordingly in the interest of justice and fairness to those yet to submit their memoranda’’.
The Panel of Investigation will hold public hearings in each of the six geopolitical zones of the country in the following manner:
- In Abuja for North-Central Zone, 11 – 15 September 2017
- In Maiduguri for North- East Zone, 18 – 22 September 2017
- In Port Harcourt for South-South Zone, 25 - 29 September 2017
- In Lagos for South-West Zone, 2 - 6 October 2017
- In Enugu for South-East Zone, 9 - 13 October 2017
- In Kaduna for North-West Zone, 16 - 20 October 2017
- A final sitting in Abuja for any outstanding memoranda from 23-27 October 2017
The Chairman further stated that the arrangement was to ease the burden of cost and transportation for all those that will be appearing before the Panel.
In one of the concerns raised by Chisom Ihekwaba of Human Rights Agenda Network as to the measures put in place for the security and safety of victims that would be testifying before the Panel, in his response, Mr. Wale Fapohunda, a member of the Investigation Panel, stated that the panel has resolved that the victims will be heard in camera and in the presence of their legal representatives where applicable.
Speaking at the opening session, Mr. Fapohunda remarked that the Network and the National Human Rights Commission should do more than observe proceedings by ensuring they utilize the platform to give voices to the people or alleged victims of human rights violations.
The Panel of Investigation will sit between the hours of 10:00am to 4:00pm of every week day except Fridays when it will sit between the hours of 9:00am to 1:00pm.
Human Rights Agenda Network is set to make a collegiate submission of memorandum as an opportunity to demand accountability for human rights violations particularly in the North-East and South-East regions of the country.