Malami

•To take further actions

Says no political solution on Nnamdi Kanu

As lawyers, CSO tackle Lagos govt 

There were contradictions in panel’s report — Lagos A-G

It mitigated weakness of original report- Owonikoko

White paper full of inaccuracies, cover-ups –Adegboruwa, SAN

•White paper ‘stained’ — Ubani

•It’s insensitive — Bode George

Rejection of panel report, a worrisome devt— CISLAC

By Dapo Akinrefon, Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Henry Ojelu & Luminous Jannamike 

THE Federal Government, yesterday,  threw its weight behind the Lagos State government’s White Paper  on the report of the judicial panel set up to probe cases of police brutality  and  shooting at the Lekki tollgate, promising to take further actions.

It also said there would be no solution to the trial of leader of the Indigenous people of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu.

The Lagos State government, on Tuesday, rejected key recommendations of the panel’s report especially the one that bordered on shootings at Lekki Tollgate by security agents.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, who spoke on Channels Television as regards the White Paper, said: “It all depends on the perspective you look at it and the prevailing laws that are in contexts. When you talk about laws that are exclusively applicable to the federation and context of the actual situation, it is not out of place to arrive at a conclusion. What you make out of it is a function of the applicable laws. What I am saying is not a general statement but about the factual situation of applicability and enforceability.” 

On whether panels  have the right to investigate the Army or the Police, he said: “Investigation on its right is all-inclusive. There are, however, limits in terms of applicable laws. You cannot, for example, out rule the possibility of an investigation with regards to the personnel or institutions involved. If the allegation is about a breach or infraction of state law by a police officer or military personnel, it goes to reason that you cannot overrule the possibility of investigation taking into consideration the undertones of the laws of the state. But if what is in the contest is a federal law, and by which a state does not have power or jurisdiction, it should accord to common sense and the law that it is only indeed a federal establishment that can conduct wholehearted investigations into such matters. 

“So if what is in the contest is the violation of law applicable in the state, and a breach is being viewed with the purpose of ascertaining liability, certainly it is within the powers of the state to investigate. But when what is in the contest is a federal law, and then it is clear the state cannot look into it. 

“It is true that the EndSARS generated a lot of interest. What we must take into consideration here is that along the line, there were issues of hate speeches by the youths and other actors even the imposition of dramatic scenes. There was a need for a comprehensive investigation and this was why states set up panels which have finally resulted in the reports we have now. One key important thing for consideration is that many possibilities cannot be ruled out inclusive of fake news, hate speeches, impositions and drama scenes.”

When asked whether the events of October 20, 2020, were real, Malami said: “It has been established beyond doubt that some of the things that were alleged to have happened, did not happen. On October 21, 2020, the BBC in a documentary had, in fact, insinuated that possibility.” 

On whether anybody was killed during the protest, he said: “I can’t be preemptive when in fact you have a commissioned inquiry set up to ascertain that. I am not in a position to draw a conclusion but I can assure you that we will get the facts on the ground. It is not about who is involved but what the facts are. My position as the chief law officer is to proffer solution based on facts on the ground.”   

On the recommendation by the Lagos EndSARS panel that the military should not be drafted to scenes of civil unrest, Malami said the government would further interrogate the matter to know whether the prevailing situation then warranted the involvement of the military.”

No political solution to Nnamdi Kanu

Also speaking on  the detained leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, he said: “One thing I can tell you is that the issue of pardon, out of court settlement or associated settlement, non is on the table.”

Mixed reactions

This came as mixed  reactions greeted the  White Paper on the report as legal practitioners and Civil Society Organisations, yesterday, faulted the state government’s White Paper saying it was stained and insensitive.

Those who reacted are a member of the Lagos EndSARS Panel, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN; the Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association Section of Public Interest Development Law, NBA-SPIDEL, Dr. Monday Ubani and former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Bode George and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre.

This came as the  Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, who  headed the four-person white paper committee, yesterday, insisted that there were many contradictions in the report of the judicial panel on police brutality and  shooting at the Lekki tollgate.

Also throwing his weight behind the White Paper, counsel to Lagos State Government, Mr. Abiodun Owonikok praised the White paper saying it mitigated the weakness of the original report.  

There were  contradictions in panel report —Lagos A-G

Speaking on Arise TV, Onigbanjo said the panel’s findings on the shooting at the Lekki tollgate were contrary to the evidence provided.

His words: “The panel said they found the report of Professor John Obafunwa who conducted autopsy on all the bodies picked up around Lagos during the protest, not just in Lekki; that they found his evidence credible and that there was no evidence to the contrary. 

“Professor Obafunwa said that of all the bodies he conducted autopsies on, three came from Lekki and out of those, only one had gunshot injury. And the panel then said, ‘we believe you and accept your evidence because there is nothing to the contrary.’ It means what Professor Obafunwa said outweighs every other piece of evidence before the panel.

“Then the panel goes on to say there were nine dead. If you look at that page where the dead from the Lekki tollgate was listed, they did not explain how they arrived at that conclusion, the names, who shot them and when they were shot. So that’s a contradiction because what Professor Obafunwa said is different from the conclusion they are now reaching. And there were so many others.

“They also said one Nathanial Solomon died at Lekki tollgate. It also turns out that Nathaniel Solomon was a witness before them and handed a petition in respect of his late brother.

“Those contradictions and many more made that particular finding unreliable. Because for a finding that somebody died at a scene to be acceptable, there must be no doubt. What the panel did create doubts; it created gaps in their story of nine deaths. And once there are doubts, the doubts are usually resolved in favour of the person you’re accusing to have murdered or killed those people — because of this, that particular finding was rejected.

“We are also going to release the two reports of the panel to the public to judge by themselves. So we are not just going to be a case of Lagos state government analysing this in itself and coming to its conclusions. We are going to make them available to everybody to read it.” 

White paper mitigated weaknessof original report — Owonikoko

Also supporting Onigbanjo, counsel to Lagos State Government, Abiodun Owonikoko hailed the White paper saying it mitigated the weakness of the original report.

Owonikoko said: “The White Paper cannot but be controversial even with the obvious pain taken by the government to provide context to it. It is, however, noteworthy that only one recommendation out of the 32 in the JPI report was rejected outrightly. It is unprecedented in many respects; starting from public acceptance of the independence and non-interference in the work of the panel.   

READ ALSO: Illegal sale of seized assets: Malami denies involvement, okays probe

“I score the white paper high on fairness to all concerned, balanced and rigorous interrogation of findings made in the report in a manner which may not be too surprised if it finds endorsement by the courts in the event any of the accepted recommendations (or as modified) were challenged by way of judicial review.”

“I want to believe that if the accepted recommendations that fall within the remit of the state government are faithfully implemented, the exercise and good work of the panel will not have been in vain”, Owonikoko said. 

Lagos govt was right — Abeny, Opara

Backing the Lagos State government, Mr. Mohammed Abeny, SAN, said: “Lagos can recommend to the Federal Government that some officers were indicted in the report. It is left for Federal Government to sanction them. 

“In addition, those who lost relatives can sue the Police or Army. That is notwithstanding whatever position FG will take. The report can act as a stimulus for families of the deceased persons to sue the Police or Army.

“On whether there will be sufficient evidence, that is a totally different thing.”

Likewise, a constitutional lawyer, Mr. Maxwell Opara, said: “Lagos state government is right. They can only recommend and plead with the President to sanction the indicted officers.

“If the state is serious and desirous to do justice, it can sue the Federal Government to compel action. It cannot on its own, move against the indicted soldiers or police officers.”

White paper full of inaccuracies, cover-ups, says Adegboruwa

However, faulting the White Paper, a member of the Lagos EndSARS Panel, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, said it is full of inaccuracies, cover-ups and inconsistencies.

Adegboruwa said: “On November 30, 2021, the government released two separate White Papers, to the general public. The Panel was not informed of this action and it was not availed copies of the said White Papers, till this moment. The impression was also created that the Panel mismanaged funds released to it.

“It has become necessary therefore for me and all other Members of the Panel to study the White Paper and make appropriate responses thereto. There will be no holds barred, since the government itself has opened the doors for public scrutiny of the report and the white papers.

“For the records, the Panel relied upon the evidence of witnesses, documents tendered before it and the goodwill of the people of Nigeria, throughout its assignment.

“It is painful for me and the Panel that the government is creating the wrong impression of financial impropriety as a tool of distraction when the Panel had a Secretariat that managed all its funds, through the Ministry of Justice.

“Although I served on the Panel free of charge without collecting a dime, I know as a fact that other members served sacrificially, giving up their time, families and careers for a whole year.

“At the appropriate time, we will respond to all the inaccuracies, the cover-ups and the inconsistencies contained in the White Papers released by the government.

“Assuredly, nothing can ever cover the truth. What happened at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, was already in the public domain, those who received the bullets knew what happened and the doctors that treated them knew what happened. The Panel reports only confirmed what most Nigerians already knew.”

White paper is stained — Ubani

Similarly, the Chairman of NBA-SPIDEL, Dr. Ubani said: “Lagos State failed to meet its own expectations. The whitepaper failed all expectations and I am sorry to say that Lagos State has lost the most golden opportunity to show itself as a humane government.

“No wound has been healed by this white paper. The white paper is stained. The Lagos State Government placed heavy reliance on the pathologist evidence but failed to acknowledge the evidence of LCC, the managers of Lekki Tollgate.   

“Their evidence acknowledged shooting and death at lekki Tollgate. The State Government failed to acknowledge the evidence of eyewitnesses that gave evidence of shooting and death. 

“There can’t be peace without justice. The peace walk is a farce, in fact, the real waste of precious time.”

On his part, a human rights lawyer, Chief Nkereuwem Akpan said: “I find the position of the Lagos State Government with regards to the recommendations made by the EndSars panel truly disturbing.

“It does appear that the entire thing was a jamboree which was expected to end with a whitewash. I say so because having set up the panel at taxpayers’ expense and turning around to pick and choose what recommendations to accept and implement is a slap on the good people of Lagos State. 

“It must be remembered that the panel exercised judicial functions, which functions must be accepted and implemented to the later unless greater public goodwill occasion its report being varied.

“It is sickening and reprehensible to refuse to indict people who shed blood on Lagos soil on those pedestrian and lame excuses.”

White Paper is insensitive — Bode George

Also speaking, former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Bode George said: “Governor Sanwo-Olu’s White Paper on the report of the EndSARS Panel is outlandish, defeatist, insensitive, lacking the basic tenet of accountability and decency which ought to have guided such sensitive issue as the Lekki tragedy.

“His response is without justice or fairness. It is at best plastic and gestural, devoid of genuine human concern and sincere leadership. 

“The Lagos state government stands indicted for the unfortunate incident. Sanwo-Olu perhaps May be able to bring a decent closure to the blood of the innocent that yet cry for justice by apologizing to the families of the bereaved, paying them compensation and immediately scrapping the two illegal toll gates and erecting a monument in eternal remembrance of those who were cut down unjustly. Nothing else will suffice.” 

Rejection of panel report, a worrisome devt — CISLAC 

On his part, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Mr. Auwal Miss Rafsanjani, said: “It is worrisome that the Lagos State government would set up a panel, and spend so much time and resources, but the report is submitted to the same government, it will turn around and reject the recommendations. This does not show seriousness any form of seriousness to learn from the mistakes and make corrections.

“The dismissal of the #EndSARS panel report by LASG will have implications as many credible individuals may not accept future offers to serve the Lagos State Government in this kind of capacity. The idea was to have this independent, unbiased, fact-finding panel come up with recommendations about the #EndSARS violence.

  “But it now appears that the state government is been unduly influenced by the positions of some Federal Ministers against the #EndSARS panel findings and recommendations. It is not a good development, and we can’t learn any meaningful lesson from the impunity that happened during the protests in 2020. 

“If the Lagos State government can dismiss this report, then why did it make budgetary provisions for the #EndSARS victims in Lagos? There are too many contradictions that show the government is not interested in promoting and protecting human rights in the country.”

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