FG punctures Lagos #EndSARS panel report, identifies 10 loopholes | Dailytrust

FG punctures Lagos #EndSARS panel report, identifies 10 loopholes

The federal government Tuesday described as “triumph of fake news”, the report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel set up to investigate police brutality...

FG punctures Lagos #EndSARS panel report, identifies 10 loopholes
FG punctures Lagos #EndSARS panel report, identifies 10 loopholes

The federal government Tuesday described as “triumph of fake news”, the report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel set up to investigate police brutality and alleged killings at Lekki Tollgate.  

The panel, headed by a retired judge, Doris Okuwobi, had on Monday, November 15, 2021, submitted its reports to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on the alleged shooting at the Lekki Tollgate during the October 2020 EndSARS protests.

The report said there was a “massacre in context” at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, 2020, and that some protesters were killed or wounded by security operatives. 

But addressing a press conference in Abuja, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the report was riddled with “discrepancies, innuendoes, inconsistencies, speculations and errors” and that its conclusions were not supported by evidence. 

Wondering why bereaved families if there were any could not come forward to lodge complaints and claim reparation, and that the report was not signed by any member of the panel, he said that the federal government would not change its position that there was no massacre at Lekki Tollgate last year. 

Also, lawyers and activists were divided when approached by the Daily Trust to get their views on what is in the public so far.

While some of them sided with the proponents of the alleged killings, others described everything about the #EndSARS as “stage-managed” that will never stand genuine scrutiny and test of time.

Justice Doris Okuwobi while submitting the panel’s report to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu

 

‘It’s a report riddled with discrepancies’

During the press conference yesterday, Lai Mohammed said: “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.”  

The minister identified ten loopholes in the panel’s report, which, he said, was laden with the same allegations it was set up to investigate. 

“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,” he said. 

According to the minister, the report threw away the testimony of ballistic experts who testified before it. 

“The team finds that from the medical data examined, including the timeline of arrival at the medical facility and the nature of the injuries sustained by the victims, who were taken to the 5 medical facilities, that no military grade live ammunition (high-velocity) was fired at the protesters at Lekki Tollgate on 20 October 2020, within the timeframe of reference (18.30- 20.34hrs).

“The same panel that said it deemed as credible the evidence of the Forensic Pathologist, Prof. John Obafunwa, that only three of the bodies on which post mortem were conducted were from Lekki and only one had gunshot injury went on to contradict itself by saying nine persons died of gunshot wounds at Lekki!

“It did not occur to the panel to query the veracity of the testimony of a man who said he was shot and presumed dead but still had time to count dead bodies inside a supposedly dark van at night. 

“The panel was silent on the family members of those reportedly killed, merely insinuating they were afraid to testify. Even goats have owners who will look for them if they do not return home, not to talk of human beings. Where are the family members of those who were reportedly killed at Lekki Tollgate? If the panel is recommending compensation for the families, what are their identities and addresses? Who will receive the compensations when no family members have shown up to date?

“How did a man who reported seeing the lifeless body of his brother himself end up being on the list of the panel’s deceased persons?

“How can a judicial panel convince anyone that the names of some casualties of the Lekki Toll Gate incident listed as numbers 3 (Jide), 42 (Tola) and 43 (Wisdom) are not fictitious.

“Why did the judicial panel feel compelled to concoct a ‘’massacre in context’’ as a euphemism for ‘’massacre’’? A massacre is a massacre. What is ‘massacre in context?’’’ he asked.

The minister also castigated the panel for ignoring other salient issues and instead expended its energy to achieve a premeditated goal.

“We are saddened that anyone died at all during the EndSARS protest as the life of every Nigerian and indeed every human is sacrosanct. As we have disclosed many times, 57 civilians, 37 policemen and six soldiers were killed across the country during the protest, and we commiserate with their families,” he said.

He said for the federal government to change its stand, a “well-investigated report of the incident that meets all required standards and will withstand every scrutiny must be produced and presented to the public. The report in circulation does not meet those requirements.”

We’re awaiting response from the c’ttee we setup- Lagos

When contacted to respond to the alleged unsigned panel report that was leaked, including the position of the federal government, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, said the government had noted the various reactions that have followed the submission of the report of the panel. 

He, however, maintained that the Lagos Government will make known its views on all the issues raised by the panel through the release of a white paper.

Omotoso said the panel was set up by the Tribunal of Inquiry Law 2015, and a committee has been set up to bring up a white paper on the report to determine the next line of action.

FG not legally bound by panel report – SAN

Reacting, Olalekan Ojo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said legally speaking, the findings or recommendations of the Lagos State panel was not binding on the federal government or any of its agencies.

He, however, said the statements credited to Lai Mohammed could only be regarded as the minister’s personal opinion and not a statement of fact, saying “The judicial panel was properly set up and their proceeding validly conducted. Therefore, nobody can describe the proceedings and the report of such a panel as the triumph of fake news.

“There are, however, more critical, fundamental legal issues. For example, the report is that of a panel set up by the Lagos State government and even if the Lagos state government issues a white paper on it, it can only implement the part of the report it has the power to implement.

“This may bring a reaction from members of the public; but talking real law, the federal government of Nigeria is not bound by that report for so many legal reasons,” he said.

One of the reasons, according to him, was that the federal government did not make an appearance before the panel and that it must have been on that basis that the police never made an appearance and the army refused further appearance.

“Secondly, no legal or constitutional way that the Lagos State Government can impose any form of sanction on the Nigerian Army. Nevertheless, the fact will remain that there was a judicial inquiry, which came out with findings, which findings have indicted certain people, organisations or arms of the federal government. It will be a matter of posterity. It will not be more than that and it is very unfortunate,” he said.

Barrister Abdullahi Ismail Sani said the National Judicial Council ((NJC) should intervene and save the judiciary from ridicule.

“The truth is that those who presided over the panel, especially those with legal background should be made to answer some questions.

“They should check the meaning of massacre and educate us. They should also explain how possible it is for bereaved families to remain anonymous unless of course, all the so-called victims fall from the moon,” he said.

Mohammed Yakubu, a civil activist, said if anything, some people have used the #EndSARS debacle to further polarise Nigeria.

“They want to make the Lekki thing part of our history and we should ask questions; we should challenge them to produce evidence,” he said. 

Professor Paul Ananaba SAN said the response of the federal government through the minister of information lacked official backing because the state government has served an official report on the federal 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.

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