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Controversy threatens Lagos #EndSARS panel report

As the nation awaits the white paper on the report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up by the Lagos State Government…

As the nation awaits the white paper on the report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up by the Lagos State Government over the October 2020 #EndSARS protests, controversies may stall its implementation.


The panel was set up following outrage over the allegations of human rights violations by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force and the further violence that followed public protests, especially in Lagos.

The panel, which was chaired by Justice Doris Okuwobi, a retired Lagos High Court judge, also had other members such as (representative of civil society), retired D. I .G. Frederick Taiwo Lakanu; Mr. Lucas Koyejo, Esq. (National Human Rights Commission) by the Youth, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) and Mrs. Ouwatoyin Odusanya (Director, Citizens’ Rights).

The rest are Majekodunmi Temitope Oluwaseun (youth representative nominated, Patience Patrick Udoh (representative civil society), Mr. ‘Segun Awosanya (human rights activist) and Mr. Babajide Boye (secretary). 

Lagos human rights lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), had first raised the alarm last week saying despite the efforts of members of the panel to discharge their responsibilities as a national duty, they are being subjected to attacks and threats.

He said the panel was composed of men and women of integrity, independence and not subject to manipulation. 

He added that allegations that members were influenced by bribes in the discharge of their duty were false. 

The panel had on November 15 indicted the Nigerian Army and the police for the fatal shooting of protesters in the wake of the street protests against police brutality in the country, describing it as a “massacre”. 

The panel also awarded about N500 million as compensation to victims and petitioners for the brutality, harassment, extortion and extrajudicial killing of their relatives by the police.

The panel found that nine persons were shot dead at the Lekki Tollgate when soldiers were deployed to disperse protesters and 24 individuals were injured. 

It said at least 48 bodies of gunshot victims were found in parts of Lagos. 

This is even as the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor and the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, faulted the leakage of the report of the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry on the EndSARS protests to the public, without following due process.

Giving more insight, Adegboruwa said the panel members were carefully selected by the state government but wondered why some persons would resort to calling them unprintable names and making allegations. 

“I can confirm that no member lobbied to be appointed into the panel. As a matter of fact, in my case, the governor of Lagos State appealed to me to accept my appointment, which I saw as a call to national service,” he said.

“The primary reason the governor gave to me then was that he wanted men and women of integrity, independence and not subject to manipulation, to be on the panel,” he said.

He said the panel has been waiting on Lagos State Government, which set up a four-member panel to review the recommendations and produce a white paper on the report it submitted to it. 

Adegboruwa said further; “I have in my custody certified true copies of all proceedings of the panel and all exhibits tendered before the panel in respect of the Lekki Toll Gate investigation. 

“I urge the government to call its agents and lawyers to order so as not to provoke aggravated responses.”

Reacting, the armed forces boss said, “Whatever it is currently, I’d like to indicate that the armed forces of Nigeria are a professional armed force. We are peopled by Nigerians and we remain committed to the constitutional mandate. 

“So we will not at this point think that Nigerians should make disparaging remarks regarding the armed forces of Nigeria, in the sense that we are professional armed forces. If there are issues, of course, we address them within the ambit of the provisions.”

In refuting the report, Lai said it was riddled with discrepancies, speculations and errors.

“Without mincing words, let me say that never in the history of any judicial panel in this country has its report been riddled with so many errors, inconsistencies, discrepancies, speculations, innuendoes, omissions, and conclusions that are not supported by evidence. 

“What is circulating in the public space is simply a rehash of the unverified fake news that has been playing on social media since the incident of October 20, 2020,” he said.

“It is simply incredible that a judicial panel set up to investigate an incident has submitted a report laden with allegations, the same allegations it was set up to investigate in the first instance.

“Instead of sitting for all of one year, the panel could have just compiled social media ‘tales by the moonlight’ on the incident and submitted, saving taxpayers’ funds and everyone’s time. That report is nothing but the triumph of fake news and the intimidation of a silent majority by a vociferous lynch mob.”

But the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and senior lawyers criticised the minister’s comments which rubbished the #EndSARS report as being hasty and without facts

NBA publicity secretary, Dr Rapulu Nduka, said the government’s condemnation of the judicial panel report without waiting for the white paper shows that it is not open-minded and does not want to know the truth about what happened at the toll gate.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Professor Paul Ananaba said the response of the federal government through Minister of Information Lai Mohammed lacked official backing because the state government has served an official report on the government. 

“Where did the minister get the copy of the report he is commenting on? The Lagos State government has said it will release a white paper on the report of the judicial panel in seven days, that report had not been released. So, we cannot countenance whatever the minister is saying,” he said. 

Also reacting, Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) described the response by the federal government as disturbing and discouraging.

“As acknowledged by the minister, the Lagos State government would have to issue a white paper on the report before the report can enjoy official recognition one way or the other. That being so, the minister should have waited for the white paper by the Lagos government before this published response,” he said.

“The way the minister has spoken does no credit to the Lagos State government whose initiative in setting up the panel cannot be faulted in whatever way. It is my candid view that the Lagos State government should be commended rather than denigrated for setting up the panel. What the minister has done, in my honest view, is simply undeserving for the Lagos State government.”

Different bodies both within and outside Nigeria have reacted to the panel findings while calling for action. But nobody is sure if the findings and recommendations would not be drowned in the controversy dogging it.

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