FEMI ADEOTI COLUMN
He is struggling intensely with himself. He strives hard to please
himself all alone. He is at the greatest risk to trust himself.
The more he tries, the more he goes down low, down the drain and
frustrated. To satisfy himself has become a huge cross. The harder he
shouts hoax, the better for us.
Without mincing words, Alhaji Lai Mohammed perfectly fits this
mysterious bill. And this is not palatable at all. He holds sway as
Minister, Information and Culture.
But each time he appears anywhere. Anytime he chooses to talk to us,
we easily pick the ruse in him. We can close our eyes and fault him
effortlessly. Even without stress or strain. We don’t think twice to
do this wonderfully. And we are always better for it.
He labours all the time and at all times. He toils day and night to
curry our favour all to no avail. He needs it so badly. But we won’t
He burns both ends of the candles. These come in different ugly
shapes, moulds, types and forms. But we refuse to give him a second
chance. That could be eternally disastrous.
For the first weeks, he lost his bearings totally. The so-called
leaked report of Lekki Toll Gate (LTG) massacre jolted him. It threw
him off balance.
The report ran riot to his eerie position on Lekki shootings from “top
to bottom.” He didn’t like it a hoot. So, he went into reclusion. He
withdrew to his shell unannounced.
But The Punch editorial of that Monday,h November 29, 2021, threw him
out. The paper had run a brilliant comment on the report. That forced
Lai out of his self-imposed seclusion on Tuesday.
In his usual uncanny character, he drew his awful conclusion: “That
report is nothing but the triumph of fake news, tales by the
moonlight. What is circulating in 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.”
And for The Punch: “How can any news organization worth its salt write
an editorial validating this kind of report? In a shocking twist, a
Nigerian newspaper chose to hail what it calls ‘detailed investigative
Festus Keyamo followed closely on the heels of Lai. He is a junior
minister in the Ministry of Labour and Employment. He is anxiously
taking after Lai.
Trust him, he is learning the robe very fast. He goes at the
incredibly alarming speed. All are worried. Help, Keyamo needs urgent
intervention to halt the drift.
He came out ferociously as a back-up for Lai. In the process, he made
the matter messier for his principal. He literally walked the law on
its head. And he wanted us to clap for him.
Keyamo, just listen to yourself: “For me, that panel was an illegal
panel. It is totally illegal. All lawyers who are listening to me
should go back and read the Tribunal of Inquiry Act of Lagos State.
“It says that the governor will have power to inquire into the conduct
of any person and chieftaincy matters and any matter that would
promote the good of the public.
“However, any person there was defined in section 21 to mean public
officers of the state. It is defined to mean somebody within the
public service of the Lagos State or the local government as the case
“However, if you look at section 21 again of the tribunal of inquiry
law, it says that it has to be within the legislative competence of
“In other words, it is only a person over which whom the Lagos state
has control that they can inquire into their conduct. If you don’t
have control over me, you can’t inquire into my conduct.
“The policemen, the armed forces, the military are not officers of
Lagos state. They are officers of the federal government.
“By virtue of the constitution, it is only the federal government that
can control the conduct of policemen and the military. Lagos state
cannot be in control, cannot legislate too regarding police matters
and military matters.
“To inquire into the conduct of policemen and military, no state
government can’t do that.”
Keyamo would not go unchallenged. He had a match in his namesake,
Festus Ogun. I found Ogun’s response an apt response to Keyamo’s
outburst. He practically took Keyamo to the cleaners:
“On Sunday, Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Labour and
Employment, said the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution
for Victim of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters was ‘illegal and a
waste of time’ on the ground that the Lagos State Government lacks the
power to probe the conduct of police and military officers.
“With due respect, the position of the learned Senior Advocate of
Nigeria (SAN) is grossly misconceived, suspiciously misleading and
does not reflect the true position of the law. The Lagos EndSARS panel
was constituted within the ambits of law and its investigative powers
are neither overreaching nor beyond the scope of the 1999
“First, Section 1 of the Tribunal of Inquiry Law, Cap T7, Laws of
Lagos State, 2015, confers power on the Governor of Lagos State to
constitute the judicial panel to investigate ‘any matter in respect of
which in the opinion an inquiry would be for the public welfare.’
Instructively, it is settled law that the Federal Government lacks the
power and authority to constitute judicial panels or any tribunal
whatsoever for state governments.
“With a clear understanding that the Federal Government lacks the
constitutional vires to constitute tribunal for states, the National
Economic Council (NEC), last year directed the immediate establishment
of state-based judicial panels of inquiry to investigate complaints of
police brutality or related extrajudicial killings with a view to
delivering justice for all victims of the dissolved Special
Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) and other police units.
“In the popular case of Fawehinmi v. Babangida (2003) 3 NWLR (Pt.808)
604, the Supreme Court succinctly held that: ‘The National Assembly
cannot enact a general law for the establishment of tribunals of
inquiry for and applicable in the Federation of Nigeria. The power to
enact such a law has become a residual matter for the states in
respect of which the houses of assembly can legislate for their
respective states by virtue of Section 4(7)(a) of the 1999
Constitution. Although the Tribunals of Inquiry Act is an ‘existing
law,’ its application is limited and has no general application.’
“Flowing from the decision of Supreme Court, it is clear like crystal
that the Federal Government of Nigeria can only set up tribunal for
the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and not for states of the
“It is not in doubt that matters relating to the police and other
security agencies established by law are on the exclusive legislative
list. It is equally not a subject of controversy that Section 21 of
the Tribunal of Inquiry Law of Lagos State empowers the governor to
exercise his powers under the law in respect of matters within the
legislative competence of the state.
“My only question is whether issues of human rights are within the
legislative competence of state governments and whether the panels so
constituted can look into the atrocities and human rights violations
committed by the police and other security agencies?
“In AG Abia State v. AG Federation (2006) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1005) 265, the
Supreme Court clarified that matters not included in the exclusive and
concurrent lists are residual and are meant for the state, not the
federal, to legislate upon. Human rights related matters are neither
on the exclusive nor concurrent lists, therefore, they are within the
legislative competence of Lagos State. Thus, the Lagos State
Government can validly make laws in respect of human rights and
constitute panels to investigate cases of human rights violations
recorded within the state.
“While the Lagos State Government cannot make laws to control,
discipline or regulate security officers of the Federal Government, it
has the constitutional powers to set up panels to investigate human
rights abuses and in any case where the conducts of federal officers
like the police and army come under checks or scrutiny, the panels so
constituted have the powers in law and equity to investigate them and
make valid recommendations.
“There is a fundamental difference between the Lagos State government
legislating over matters on officers of the Federal Government and a
case where officers of the Federal Government who committed heinous
crimes against humanity in Lagos State become subjects of a panel of
inquiry set up by the Lagos State Government. Those that perpetrated
the massacre cannot use the law as a shield from being answerable for
“Meanwhile, it is a rude shock that the learned silk just discovered
his alleged ‘illegality’ of the panel over a year since it was
constituted up till the point that it submitted its reports. This
sudden attack on the legal validity of the panel is strange and quite
suspicious. One wonders if the minister would have maintained the same
position if the panel reports and recommendations absolved the Federal
Government of any wrongdoing.
“I daresay that the opinion of the minister is calculated to discredit
the valid reports of the panel. Too late! The truth is in the open and
no attempt to thwart the genuine efforts of the EndSARS panel will
“I find it self-immolating that the same Federal Government that
directed that the panel be set up and submitted itself to its
jurisdiction is coming forward to challenge the constitutionality of
the panel. It shows a great level of dissimulation and
“Why is the Federal Government blowing hot and cold? Why is the
Federal Government approbating and reprobating? It is illegal and
immoral for the Federal Government to submit to the jurisdiction of
the panel and later retract when the verdict is ‘unfavourable.’
“In the light of the foregoing, I call on well-meaning Nigerians to
disregard the views of Mr Keyamo as it is grossly misleading, made in
bad faith and calculated to distract the incontrovertible fact that
Nigeria is currently ruled by merchants of death.”
Ogun really nailed it hard on point.
Lai and Keyamo are boastful and arrogant. Their pronouncements have
great negative implications. They rubbished their principal and the
regime they serve.
Days before they talked down on us something happened. President
Muhammadu Buhari said he was waiting for Lagos and others with similar
panel. He encouraged them to turn in their findings as fast as
He swore before the whole world that his regime would look diligently
into their reports. He made the vow in the presence of the United
States Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken. It was in the open. No
But Lai thought differently. He came out boldly to defy Buhari. With
all the strength in him, he swept Buhari’s statement under his dirty
carpet. And he thought we would keep quite.
That insult was enormous. He simply took Buhari to the cleaners. He
was sure nothing would happen. Truth to his belief, nothing has
happened so far. And nothing may actually happen.
As if that was not enough. A junior minister was emboldened to go even
extra miles. He added salt to the wounds already inflicted by Lai.
Keyamo pointedly told us the Lagos #EndSARS panel was illegal.
Yet, the Lagos State Government came out in wholesome condemnation of
the report. It feigned complete ignorance of the issues raised. It
wanted the report buried. That it never existed.
That action is widening gap by the day. Government and the people are
fast going their separate ways. Things are rapidly falling apart
between the leaders and the led. They no longer see eye-to-eye.
The little trust the followers thought they could hold on to
disappeared that Tuesday night. The leaders abandoned them as usual.
We are more than confident we cannot believe our government again.
That white paper confirmed all that. Its description of the report was
damning. It captured government thinking even before the panel was
consummated. The reason it christened it in a three-letter word:
“Assumptions and speculations.”
Help, our government has completely gone haywire, ravaging all the
way. They are having a field day unhindered at our expense. They can
only have a sarcastic laugh. But they won’t have the last laugh.
They would only secure a bitter laugh if at all any. They have
murdered sleep. It’s now nightmares galore for them. Since October 20,
2020, they have being doing everything in bitterness.
The report of their panel was a bitter pill for them. They couldn’t
stand it. They could not swallow it. So? They leaked it with
bitterness. They then sponsored make-believe critics to condemn the
report with bitterness.
They were overwhelmed with bitterness. The reason they could nail it
Exactly what they did on Tuesday, under the cover of night. What a
tribute to the night of October 20, 2020; the night of Lekki Toll Gate
“A massacre without bodies.” Courtesy: Lai.