By Onozure Dania
The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Enquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS related abuses and other matters Friday granted the lawyer of three #EndSARS protesters access to a surveillance video which captured the October 20 shootings at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos.
Panel chairman Justice Doris Okuwobi (Rtd), directed the Lekki Concession Company (LCC) to make the 20-hour footage available to the protesters’ counsel, Adesina Ogunlana.
Justice Okuwobi said, Mr Ogunlana would have 48 hours to review the footage and inform the court which portions of the video should be shown during the panel sitting.
The judge dismissed a suggestion by Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) representative Bernard Oniga, for the video to be made more widely available, including to the press.
Soldiers have been accused of shooting at #EndSARS protesters, injuring and killing some, an allegation the military has denied.
The shootings are believed to have occurred from just over 6pm on October 20.
About four hours of the video were played yesterday from about between 11:35am and nearly past 5pm, with a pause in between during break time.
The video, broken into footages of roughly 30 minutes in length, took up all of the day’s sitting, with no time left to hear other petitions.
The footages displayed on a large screen in the room, showed vehicular movement as well as protesters’ around the toll gate, but captured from a long distance away.
The video was tendered by LCC Managing Director, Abayomi Omomuwasan, through LCC’s counsel, Rotimi Seriki, on Tuesday.
Omomuwasan, whose company operates the toll gate, said the footage was retrieved from a surveillance camera mounted by the firm on a mast at the toll gate.
Earlier before the video was played, Ogunlana, who previously participated in previous panel sittings as an observer, caused a stir when he announced his appearance as a counsel for #EndSARS protesters.
The former NBA Ikeja Branch chairman told the panel that he would like to cross-examine Omowuwasan.
Seriki and Lagos State Government counsel, Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN) objected Ogunlana’s appearance, on the ground that “#EndSARS” is not a legal entity.
Owonikoko described #EndSARS as a nebulous entity with no structure or leader, he sought to know where Ogunlana got his instruction to appear before the panel.
Seriki, on his part said since the LCC MD was before the panel on a subpoena, “he cannot be cross-examined by every Tom, Dick, and Harry.”
But they both withdrew their objection when Ogunlana called out his three female clients.
The trio – Victoria Oniru, Dabira Ayuku, and Perpetual Kamsiyuchukwu – announced their appearance through Ogunlana.
“I am not representing spirits or ghosts. We’re here, to tell the truth. These are part of the people running underground, being threatened,” Ogunlana said.
Ruling on the matter, Justice Okuwobi admitted the protesters as a party and allowed their lawyer’s appearance.
READ ALSO: #EndSARS: Abuja court remands seven protesters in correctional centre till January 2021
Seriki and Owonikoko’s noted that the footage was date and time stamped. They suggested that the video should be fast-forwarded to about 5pm, which is when it starts capturing footage relevant to the shootings.
But Ogunlana opposed them and insisted on the entire 20-hour video to be played, following which it was played for about four hours.
Towards the end of the proceedings, Ogunlana sought the protection of the court for #EndSARS protesters and himself. He said they were operating under a cloud of fear.
But Owonikoko contested the claim, saying there was no threat to the witnesses.
The panel adjourned till November 10 for the Lekki Shootings matter, while sitting resumes today for other petitions.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has rejected a Freedom of Information request for the CCTV footage of the shooting of unarmed protesters at the Lekki toll plaza on October 20, 2020.
This is contained in a letter written by Deyemi Bamgbose on behalf of the Attorney-General of Lagos State.
A human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, had written a letter to the state government last week invoking the Freedom of Information Act 2011.
Effiong had in the letter addressed to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, requested for the CCTV footage in the interest of the public.
However, in a response dated November 3, 2020 titled, ‘Re: Urgent Request Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act 2011’, the state government said it could not make the CCTV footage available because the FoI Act is a federal law and it doesn’t apply to states.
The government also cited a 2018 Court of Appeal judgement to back its claim.
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