Lawyers and civil society organizations in Imo State list fear, poor publicity and disinterest in Hope Uzodinma administration as the reasons for lack of petitions to the state’s judicial panel on police brutality.
They said that they had made their services available to victims, but none had so far shown any willingness to bring their case forward.
“I have had to speak to two people who are relatives of victims,” Executive Director of DD, Jude Ohanele, said. “I asked them to come so that we can put their documents together and go see the panel. They did not get back to me. I got back to one of them, and he said that they don’t believe in the panel.”
Ohanele blamed the Uzodinma administration, viewed as illegitimate by many people in the state, as the reason for the lack of trust in the panel.
“The lack of interest is not unconnected with the way people see this imposed government here,” he said. “I’m not sure people think that this government can do any good thing, which is most unfortunate. I wish the governor was a bit more legitimate, and I know the interest would have been higher.”
Ohanele said that the Imo panel had not enough publicity.
“Unlike the panel in other states, where you see them throwing fliers on social media, talking about the emails to send your complaints to… this one here seems to be relatively deaf and dumb,” he said.
SaharaReporters gathered that the panel published its call for submission on The Nation, which is not widely read in the state, according to observers.
The chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association in Imo State, Nze Ogamba, agreed that the panel had not been publicized, adding that the curfew imposed by the governor was making it difficult for lawyers to reach would-be petitioners.
“If there is more publicity, there could be more interested persons coming up to file petitions,” he said. “I think there is low publicity about the operation of the commission for now.”
The Executive Director of the Citizens Centre for Integrated Development and Social Rights, Ogechi Ikeh, said victims were scared to come to the panel.
“Most people are scared because they don’t have backups for coming out boldly to make such petitions. That is usually the case here,” she said.
The chairman of the Imo State panel, Florence Duruoha-Igwe, had on Tuesday implied that the government put in a fair amount of publicity.
“It is regrettable that despite all the efforts toward publicity, only two petitions have been submitted,” she said. “I hope that aggrieved citizens of the state would avail themselves the opportunity to ventilate their grievances.”