November 15, 2021

Lekki Tollgate Saga: History ‘ll judge us, says Sanwo-Olu


Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State

As he receives Panel of inquiry report
AG heads 4 man c’ttee on White paper, implementations
I’ll reveal contents if… – Adegboruwa vows

By Olasunkanmi Akoni

The Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution on Lekki Toll Gate shooting Incident and cases of Police brutality as well as human rights violations, Monday presented it’s report to Lagos State Governor, Bababjide Sanwo-Olu, for further action and implementations.

Governor Sanwo-Olu, who received the report from the panel at the Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja, pledged to treat the report appropriately, sayong history is there to judge the state government well or otherwise.

The panel was led by Doris Okuwobi, a retired judge, while other members comprised of: Ebun Adegboruwa, SAN, Patience Udoh, both representing the Civil Society, Taiwo Lakanu, a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, Segun Awosanya, human rights activist, Olutoyin Odusanya, Director, Lagos Citizens Mediation Center, and Temitope Majekodunmi, a youth representative.

While receiving the report at the presentation ceremony, Governor Sanwo-Olu, constituted a Four-Man Committee, led by the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN to prepare a White Paper for the purpose of implementing the findings and recommendations expressed in the report and to give it legal backing; as well as send the report to the National Economic Council for implementation.

Other members of the committee are; Commissioner for Youths and Social Development, Mr. Segun Dawodu; Special Adviser, Works and Infrastructures, Engr. (Mrs.) Aramide Adeyooye and Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office, Mrs. Tolani Oshodi.

Sanwo-Olu who promised to release the White Paper within two weeks for public knowledge, promised not to tinker with the report and recommendations as submitted by the Panel.

According to the governor: “The committee will very quickly, look through and bring forward a white paper within the next two weeks that will be considered at the Lagos State Executive Council and would be gazetted as a white paper coming from the panel of enquiry.

“We will ensure that the recommendations that are coming out that will be turn into a white paper will be made available to the public, we will do it appropriately, so that history will judge us well and we will have a document that will stand the test of time, that’s what the tribunal law says, so that it will be properly documented and gazetted in government’s records.

“We hope the report would bring healing, reconciliation and restitution,”he said.

Earlier, the Chairman of the Panel, Justice Okuwobi expressed deep appreciation to the State government and all the stakeholders who appeared before the panel and the team for uncommon resolve and good team work.

Okuwobi, who disclosed that the panel awarded a total of N410 million to 70 victims of Police brutality, said 235 petitions were received with only 14 of it being on the alleged Lekki shooting incident.

“As much as the panel desired to have taken all petitions, the ones that were not taken by the panel were those that did not comply with our rules, so in this report, we made recommendations for a body to take over human rights abuse cases in Lagos State” Okuwobi said.

The two-volume reports were presented to Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu at the Lagos House, Ikeja on Monday by the Chairman of the Panel. Justice Doris Okuwobi (retired), who disclosed that part of their recommendations include the establishment of a body to take over human rights abuses in Lagos based on the fact that the panel could not hear over 40 petitions submitted to it.

READ ALSO: Lekki Toll Gate saga: Panel of inquiry presents report to Sanwo-Olu

Recall on October 19, 2020, the Lagos state government, led by Governor Sanwo-Olu, set up a nine-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate cases of brutality and human rights violations perpetrated by operatives of the Nigerian Police Force and the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.

The panel was set up as a response to one of the demands of youth during the #EndSARS protests, which is investigating cases of police brutality and providing restitution to the victims.

While inaugurating the panel, Sanwo-Olu, said it was “in line with the resolution of the National Economic Council on October 15, 2020, chaired by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo.”

The governor added that the panel was set up based on Section 5 of Tribunals of Inquiry Law of Lagos State (2015) which gives the panel the powers to procure evidence and summon any person to attend its proceedings to give evidence.

The state government, however, extended the locus of the Judicial Panel on October 21 to include the investigation of the October 20, 2020, Lekki Toll shooting incident.

A N200 million fund was approved by the state government as compensation for victims as part of it’s responsibilities of providing restitution to the victims of police abuses in the state,

The panel had six months duration to accomplish its tasks, from October 2020 till April 2021 which was later reviewed.

The judicial panel commenced sitting on October 26, 2020, but heard its first case on October 27, with over 100 cases heard by the panel as of April.

A total number of 235 petitions were received by the panel between October and December 2020. Out of this number, about 112 cases were brought up before the panel.

The cases included cases those already struck out, and those undergoing hearing, as well as those with judgments.

Out of the 112 cases brought before the panel, 10 were struck out for want of diligent prosecution while four cases were withdrawn by the petitioners. Numerous cases were also brought up before the panel.

Adegboruwa tasks Sanwo-Olu on report

However, in a statement released by Adegboruwa, titled:”Lagos EndSARS Panel Submits Report,” threatened to release contents if the promises made were not fulfilled.

The statement read in part: “The Lagos State Judicial Panel on #EndSARS has today, November 15, 2021, submitted its report to the Lagos State Government, in a brief ceremony at Government House, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.

“The Panel sat for well over one year, listening to testimonies of petitioners, their witnesses, experts and lawyers. The Panel divided its assignment and report into two principal segments to cover general cases of police abuses and the special case of the Lekki Toll Gate Incident.

“Compensation was paid to deserving cases of police abuses while a special case was made for victims of the Lekki Toll Gate Incident of October 20, 2020.

“True to his word, the Governor of Lagos State granted total independence to the Panel, as we worked according to our conscience and based upon our common convictions.

“Specifically for the Lekki Toll Gate Investigation, we set up certain crucial issues for determination, as to whether:

“There was any protest at the Lekki Toll Gate, the nature of the protest, the presence and mission of soldiers at the Lekki Toll Gate, whether blank or live bullets were shot by the soldiers, whether there was any death and if so, the numbers involved, whether there was any massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, and if so, what evidence is available in proof thereof, whether the police were at the Lekki Toll Gate and if so, whether they shot and killed the protesters, among others.

“The Panel answered these questions truthfully, frankly and courageously, based on the evidence led before it, believing that the crimes against humanity that took place at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, would never happen again in our nation.

“The Panel made far-reaching recommendations concerning the major actors that were found culpable, in order to achieve true healing and reconciliation.

“Although I have my own copy of the report of the Panel, I will trust His Excellency the Governor of Lagos State to fulfill his promise to Nigerians to make the findings and recommendations of the Panel public. That is the only way to build a true nation and avoid a repeat of the atrocious acts of security agencies against our people, especially the youths, the vulnerable and the helpless.

“I thank the Government and people of Lagos State, fellow Panel members, the Nigerian Bar Association, Civil Society, our Comrades far and near, the media and all those who inspired and encouraged us on the path of truth and justice.

“It is my view that Lagos State having appeared before the Panel as a party, having tendered documents before the Panel and led witnesses to take a position on the Incident of the Lekki Toll Gate, it will be unfair and improper for Lagos State to be a judge in its own cause, by seeking to review the report of the Panel.

“However, the Governor explained to me that this would only be done to enable the government implement the findings and recommendations of the Panel and not to tamper with it or mutilate it. I believe His Excellency.

“I will however, keep observing the turn of events and at the appropriate time, one may be forced to state the FULL contents of the report if the promises made are not fulfilled.

“I can NEVER and will NEVER subscribe to anything that would amount to covering up the report of the Panel.

“We have done our work in the best way that we could. Nigerians should demand for justice against all culprits who have been named in detail, in our report.”