.Holds peace walk in December, invites Falz, Seun Kuti, Mr Macaroni, farotimi, CP, others
.Describes leaked panel report as “unauthorised”
.Yet to release White Paper despite assurance
By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has said that the State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Lekki Till Gate shooting and Restitution for Victims of Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS, Related Abuses and Other Matters, led by Justice Doris Okuwobi, was duly and legally constituted in line with the directive of the National Economic Council, NEC.
Sanwo-Olu, however, disclosed plans to organise a historic peace walk in December as part of measures towards the healing process of the state in particular and the country in general.
The governor, who disclosed this on Tuesday, while addressing the media on the outcome of the Lekki Toll Gate panel report, at state House, Alausa, Ikeja, specifically, invited Folarin Falana (Falz), Debo Adebayo (Mr. Marcaroni), Dele Farotimi, Temitope Majekodunmi, Segun Awosanya (Segalinks), Adedotun (Just Detoun), Seun Kuti, Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu and Commander of Rapid Response Squad (RRS), CSP Yinka Egbeyemi and others to join him in the “historic” march.
According to the governor: “It is with a great sense of responsibility that I address you today on the reactions that have trailed the release of the #EndSARS Judicial Panel of Inquiry Report submitted to me two weeks ago, and how it has played out in public discourse since then.
“I believe and have always been vocal about this that we owe it to you, the people of Lagos, to constantly speak and engage with you.
“In easy times, in difficult circumstances, we will never shy away from making our case to you, while also ensuring that we listen to you.
“I will start by saying that we, as an administration, are determined that the next steps that will be taken in this process of coming to terms with the events of October 2020, must bring closure to a painful episode in the history of our state, with the release of the White Paper later today. (Tuesday).
“This, in my view, is a moment that beckons us to define who and what we are as a people.
“To be a Centre of Excellence, we must be a Centre of Truth. To be a smart city, we first must be just one. To be a prosperous state, we must establish ourselves as a peaceful entity. And to achieve the Greater Lagos of our dreams we must learn to live in harmony, even amidst inevitable disagreement.
“In times like these, with anger and animosity too quick and fast at hand, it is easy to hide behind our own prejudices, treating them as deeper truths instead of the superficial lies they are.
“It is far too easy to take sides and choose emotion over fact, even when the truth is to be found in shades of nuance. It is easy to choose darkness over light; to take perverse delight in playing unhelpful games of cynicism and suspicion; to cling to beliefs that do not carry the weight of verifiable evidence.”
“To become a champion of prejudice is to own a fleeting and false victory. It is a victory of rancour over reason, of vengeance over justice, of anger over compassion.
“Today, I stand before you to declare that I reject this path; and I invite you all to do same.
“I rejected to be part of the controversy, disharmony caused by the unauthorised leaked panel report.
“The choice confronting us today is between restoring greater harmony or doing greater harm. I choose harmony over harm. As your Governor, it is my task to explain why all Lagosians should join me on this path that promises a more beneficial future.
“You will recall that the Judicial Panel of Inquiry was originally inaugurated to investigate allegations of police brutality committed by the disbanded SARS in Lagos state.
“In the aftermath of what happened on October 20, 2020, I decided to expand the mandate of the Panel to include investigating what really happened at the Lekki Tollgate that night.
“As a matter of good faith and a sincere commitment to uncovering the truth, we constituted a panel of individuals that we believed were independent, credible, and representative of the various stakeholder community interested in the movement against police brutality.
“Apart from the Chairman of the panel being a respected retired jurist, various stakeholders including the youths, #EndSars protesters, the police and civil society groups were represented on the panel.
“I am sure no member of the panel can claim that the state government made any attempt to influence them in any way throughout the duration of its sitting.
“While I commend the panel for undertaking its task to the best of its abilities, it is however regrettable that the panel’s work and the leakage of an unauthorized version of the report have generated much tension. Sadly, a deep wound has been reopened.
“The heated exchanges among various shades of opinion on the report have unfortunately put us all at the risk of missing the larger picture; the fact that what we all seek in common is a land in which we are all safe and secure, law enforcement agents are trusted, and justice is guaranteed for all.
“As I have stated earlier, we have no intention to engage in histrionics or further inflame passion on a matter that has generated intense interest and controversy nationally and internationally.
“Our decisions and actions will be based entirely on the law, the weight of evidence and unblemished respect for the truth.
“Let me at this juncture say that I have never been in any doubt as to the sincerity, patriotism and noble motivations of both organizers of and participants in the movement to see an end to the human rights abuses by the now-disbanded Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS).
“It is also on record that the Federal Government accepted all the demands of the protesters, including the immediate scrapping of SARS.
“The National Economic Council (NEC) also recommended the establishment of State Panels of Inquiry into cases of police brutality. And the Lagos State Government was the first to set up its own panel.
“I can boldly say that no state took the advocacy for police reforms and justice in the face of documented brutality more seriously than we did in Lagos. We have so far paid N420 million in compensation to victims of police brutality, in line with the recommendations of the panel.
“My good people of Lagos State, you will also recall that in solidarity with the protesters, I joined our youths at various points during the demonstrations, particularly at the Lekki Tollgate and Alausa.
“I received the charter of demands of the protesters and promised to pass them on to the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari.
“I kept my word and passed on the demands to the President, who promised to act promptly on the issues raised.
However, perhaps as a result of entrenched lack of trust between the government and the governed over the years, the protesters responded to the government’s concessions with scepticism, and the demonstrations continued, even growing in intensity.
“Regrettably, what had been very well organized and peaceful protests were subsequently hijacked in different parts of the country, particularly in Lagos.
“It is my earnest desire that all of us, the government, the youth, protesters, the police, and other security agencies — learn the appropriate lessons from the #EndSars protests, particularly the Lekki Tollgate incident, with a view to averting any recurrence to the detriment of our dear state.
“It is a testimony to our strength and resilience as a people that, despite the huge losses incurred because of these terrible incidents, we have bounced back, with our economy as vibrant and virile as ever.
“I have no doubt whatsoever that our prospects are as bright as ever and the best lies ahead of Lagos State and Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, as of press time, 8 pm, the governor was yet to release the White Paper on the earlier submitted report by the panel, two weeks ago which has been trailed with controversy.
Recall that Governor Sanwo-Olu had on Monday, November 15, 202, received the panel report at Lagos House, Ikeja.
Governor Sanwo-Olu vowed a “proper response” to the panel’s recommendations, adding that a “white paper” would be published within the next two weeks.
“This process will help us start the very difficult process of proper reconciliation, restitution, bringing together of anyone affected,” Sanwo-Olu said.