EndSARS: Lagos panel resumes sitting
By Romanus Okoye
Lagos State Judicial Panel of Enquiry and Restitution for Victims of Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS) related abuses and other matters, yesterday resumes its sitting after Christmas and New Year break.
The panel resumed sitting with first petition by the Lekki Concession Company (LCC) represented by its counsel, Rotimi Seriki. The company seeks to renew an application it had previously made twice before the panel, seeking to be permitted to have access to the toll gate plaza for the purpose of evaluating the damage done there for the benefit of its insurance claims.
The counsel said the application became imperative after security agents arrested four persons on December 14, who were in the process of vandalizing and stealing cables, iron rods and solar batteries utilized by the advertising board at the toll gate. He tendered a police report and photographs of the suspects as proof.
Counsel to the #EndSARS protesters, Adesina Ogunlana, strongly objected to the application. He said there was a disconnect as the police report tendered by the LCC counsel should have come from the police who were also represented before the panel.
Ogunlana argued that the items listed as being tampered with and sought to be stolen belonged to the media and advertising companies at the toll gate and there was no connection with LCC. He stated that the arrezt of the suspects showed that the security in place was effective. He, therefore, urged the court to refuse the application. The counsel to the Police, Cyril Ejiofor, aligned with his submissions and asked to be allowed to verify the police report submitted on behalf of his institution.
In his reply, the counsel to LCC insisted that there is obvious desperation not to allow the company go back to the toll gate. “It’s a crime scene with millions of people passing there, so what’s wrong with LCC going there to assess the level of damage,” he asked
On his part, the counsel to the Lagos State Govt, Olukayode Enitan (SAN), had no objections to the application. He urged the panel to allow it so that the infrastructure at the toll gate is not further degraded by vandals.
“Should the panel turn its eye to further destruction of these assets? I think that won’t be fair to every citizen of Lagos,” he said.
The chairman of the Panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi in a short ruling stood down the matter for the police to confirm the authenticity of the documents tendered by the LCC counsel.
In the second petition among six cases slated for hearing , the police witness,Ibrahim Yusuf narrated how a stray bullet hit the deceased, Kudirat Adebayo on April 4, 2017.
He testified that a team of policemen attached to Mushin Olosa Police Station while on routine patrol had tried to arrest Kayode Yusuf. According to him, when the suspect resisted arrest, the leader of the police team, Inspector Augustine handed over his rifle to Sgt Chibueze Njoku and then proceeded to drag the suspect into their vehicle.
But with the suspect further resisting arrest, the sergeant who now had the rifle shot sporadically and it hit the deceased, Kudirat. “The atmosphere at the crime scene became tense and the officers had to return back to the police station. Later they went back to retrieve the body of Kudirat and she was confirmed dead at the hospital,” Yusuf told the panel.
Recall that shooting during a protest against police brutality at the Lekki toll gate in the commercial hub, Lagos, led to condemnation across the world. But beyond the fact that shots were fired, there is little agreement between the protesters and the security forces over what exactly happened that night.
It was hoped that a judicial inquiry set up to look into the events at Lekki as well as the wider issue of police brutality would bring some clarity. But that has not yet been the case. The presence of the army at the toll gate during a peaceful protest has attracted a lot of criticism but it is still not clear who gave the order.