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  At the onset of the 4th Republic on May 29, 1999, when Olusegun Obasanjo assumed office as the civilian Executive President after more than a decade of military rule, the atmosphere remained tense for the democratic administration.
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Obasanjo began a campaign of reforms shortly after and so the Oputa Panel was born. Following the footsteps of South Africa in 1994, when Nelson Mandela took charge of the government and appointed the Revd. Desmond Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), President Olusegun Obasanjo idealised that the conclusions of the report would help many finds relief, closure and compensation for the ills meted on them, especially during the Sani Abacha regime. It was named the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission, later tagged as The Judicial Commission for the Investigation of Human Rights Violations. The Oputa Panel was inaugurated on June 14, 1999, barely two weeks into Obasanjo’s presidency. The commission ran as farther as 2 years, 11 months, ending in May 2002. Obasanjo charged the panel to review injustices perpetrated by past authoritarian regimes as well as human rights abuse issues, “for the purpose of enhancing reconciliation, national cohesion, and entrenching the national democracy.” The 8 commissioner member panel consisted of six men and two women. Chaired by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, the commission was established and empowered under Statutory Instrument No. 8 of 1999. On October 4, 1999, statutory Instrument No. 13 was further amended per terms of reference when the legality and authority of the Oputa panel were brought up. Aside from Late Hon. Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, a retired justice of the Supreme Court, another notable member of the panel appointed by the president is Father Mathew Hassan Kukah, a former Secretary-General of Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria and currently the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto.
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The panel received over 10,000 petitions which spanned cases including; i) physical and mental torture; ii) unlawful arrest and detention; iii) communal violence; iv) disappearances; v) intimidation and harassment vi) assault and battery; vii) victimisation in the workplace, and viii) murder and assassination. Over 150 cases were heard from the 10,000 petitions received while many others were sent to a ministerial commission for adjudication. Most of the hearings were publicly broadcasted across the country in settings that lasted for more than a year. Some issues of national gravity heard at the panel included petitions on the deaths of Dele Giwa and MKO Abiola, the purported coup to overthrow Sani Abacha, the burning of Fela Kuti’s Kalakuta Republic and the murder of his mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, among others At the end of the hearings, and once the report was submitted by the panel to Obasanjo, implementation and official release of the Oputa Panel report suffered a major setback as the legality of the Oputa Panel was challenged by prominent former leaders such as Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar. Source: Zikoko Featured Image Source: BBC
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This article was first published on 29th July 2021


Macaddy is mostly a farmer in the day who also dabbles into technology at night, in search of other cutting edge intersections. He's on Twitter @i_fix_you

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