By Ayo Akinfe Makun, Lagos
The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry probing allegations of human rights abuses against men of the disbanded police Special Anti-Robbery Squad on Tuesday dismissed a petition by one Paschal Bonu, who is seeking to enforce a N300m court judgment against the SARS.
The retired Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel dismissed Bonu’s petition while ruling on the preliminary objection raised by the police counsel, Joseph Ebosereme, who described the petition as an abuse of court processes.
No sooner than the case was mentioned and the petitioner mounted the witness stand than Ebosereme told the panel that he would be objecting to the hearing of the petition by the panel on the basis that the case was a subject of an appeal, currently pending before the Supreme Court.
Ebosereme told the panel that though the Federal High Court awarded N300m damages against the police in favour of Bonu, the police had since gone on appeal.
The police counsel said though the Court of Appeal had delivered judgment in the case and upheld the judgment of the Federal High Court, the appellate court reduced the N300m damages to N30m.
He said the police had further appealed to the Supreme Court and described the coming of the petitioner before the panel as an attempt to preempt the decision of the Supreme Court, adding that it would also amount to double jeopardy.
Ebosereme warned that if the panel entertained the petition, it would open a floodgate for all persons who have pending fundamental rights cases in court to rush before the panel.
The police lawyer alleged that despite the subsisting appeal to the Supreme Court, the petitioner’s lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje, was already making move to garnishee the account of the police and take N300m, despite that the Court of Appeal had reduced the judgment sum to N30m.
Though T.O. Gazali, who stood in for Ogungbeje, disagreed with the police lawyer, the panel ruled in favour of the police and dismissed Bonu’s petition.
The panel chairman, Justice Okuwobi, said the panel would resist any temptation to bring it “on a collision course” with the appellate court.