A member of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), has said the panel will respond to the inaccuracies, coverups and the inconsistencies contained in the White Paper released by the state government.
The PUNCH had reported that the state government, in a 41-page White Paper released on Tuesday night, rejected the panel’s resolution that no fewer than nine persons lost their lives when armed soldiers stormed the Lekki toll gate to disperse #EndSARS protesters on October 20, 2020.
Out of the 32 recommendations made by the judicial panel of inquiry, the government accepted 11, rejected one and accepted six with modifications.
The government also claimed that 14 recommendations which fell outside its powers would be forwarded to the Federal Government, National Economic Council and the Nigerian Army for consideration.
Reacting to the development, Adegboruwa, in a statement on Wednesday, said the panel was neither informed nor availed copies of the White Paper before it was released for public consumption.
While emphasising that members of the panel had been subjected to unprintable names since the submission of the report to the government, Adegboruwa said appropriate responses would be given after the panel members had studied the contents of the White Papers.
He 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 committee that reviewed the reports of the panel and which produced the White Papers was headed by the Honourable Attorney-General of Lagos State.
“On December 1, 2021, the Honourable Attorney-General of Lagos State was a guest on Arise Television, where he took time to discuss the reports of the panel and the contents of the White Papers that his committee produced. 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 Papers 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.”
Adegboruwa said the government was 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 coverups and the inconsistencies contained in the White Papers released by the government.
Also reacting to the White Paper, renowned lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), while berating the state government, said it was dancing to the tunes of the Federal Government.
“This is just abracadabra from the government. It cannot act as an appellate court over a judicial panel that saw, heard, witnessed and took evidence first hand. It has merely danced to the tune of the federal government and reduced the report to thrash.
“I never expected anything better, the panel was created to douse the then raging tension and present the public with a faith accompli and verisimilitude of transparency, accountability and empathy for the public. It merely was designed to whitewash the dirty sepulchre,” Ozekhome said.
The Convener of Centre for Liberty, Ariyo-Atoye, who also reacted to the submissions contained in the White Paper, said Sanwo-Olu, was trying to protect his political ambition.
He added, “Initially, they said soldiers were not at the toll gate, later they claimed that the soldiers were there but did not shoot. We went from there to saying only one person died. This only shows confusion.
“It is also obvious that the governor is trying to protect his own political ambition and that of Tinubu. One thing they should know is that there will be a reward for the activities that happened.”
However, the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), during a live broadcast on Arise Television said the position of the government’s White Paper regarding the casualty figure from the Lekki Tollgate incident was based on evidence.
He noted that of all the bodies the pathologist, Prof. John Obafunwa, conducted autopsies on, three came from Lekki and out of the three only one had gunshot injuries.