By Lukman Olabiyi
The Lagos State Government, yesterday, picked holes in the report of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry as it identified several inconsistence in the much-expected the White Paper released last night.
The Justice Doris Okuwobi (retd) headed panel inaugurated on October 19, 2020, to look into complaints of citizens against human rights abuses by the police had submitted its report a fortnight ago.
Specifically, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in the White Paper, dismissed the panel’s report that nine persons were killed at the tollgate when soldiers and the police shot reportedly at peaceful protesters as “assumptions and speculations.”
The submission of the panel that there was indeed a massacre has since attracted the outrage of Nigerians and the international community who called for the prosecution of the offending officers.
However, the White Paper faulted the “massacre” claim. It stated that the report listed names of people who died at the Lekki Tollgate but failed to offer explanation regarding circumstances of their death.
The four-member committee led by Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN) had Commissioner for Youths and Social Development, Mr Segun Dawodu, Special Adviser, Works and Infrastructure, Mrs Aramide Adeyoye and Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office, Mrs Tolani Oshodi.
Part of their report read: “It is quite astonishing that in the list of 11 deaths set on pages 297-298, two of the names appeared twice (Kolade Salam, Folorunsho Olabisi as Nos. 37 and 38). Furthermore, the person listed at No. 46 Nathaniel Solomon who testified as a witness and petitioned the Judicial Panel Inquiry in respect of his brother who he allegedly died at Lekki Tollgate was also listed dead person.”
Out of the 32 recommendations made by the Judicial Panel of Inquiry in its report of November 15, 2021, the state government accepted 11, rejected one and accepted six with modifications but said 14 of the recommendations fell outside the powers of Lagos State Government and would be forwarded to the Federal Government for consideration.
On issue of award of compensation to victims and dead’s people family, the White Paper held that it was marred with inconsistence
Earlier at a press conference, Governor Sanwo-Olu had restated his administration’s commitment to ensure peace in the state.
He also assured that government’s decision and action on the report would be based on law.
Speaking ahead of the much-expected White Paper, the governor said the state faces the hard choice of restoring harmony or doing itself a great harm and urged residents to join his administration in strengthening harmony and put the state on the path of peace.
He asked residents to reject those fueling anarchy and suspicion, clinging to unsubstantiated belief that carried no weight of verifiable evidence, while choosing emotion over facts.
His administration, he said, is ready to facilitate better communication between the youths and the State’s security machinery to resolve issues before they become intractable.
He said he would be leading ‘A Walk for Peace’ in December to herald the healing of the land and extended an open invitation to the youths, members of the diplomatic corps, civil society groups, students and the media.
The governor specifically invited Folarin Falana (Falz), Debo Adebayo (Mr. Marcaroni), Dele Farotimi, Temitope Majekodunmi, Segun Awosanya (Segalinks), Adedotun (Just Detoun), Seun Kuti, Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu and Commander of Rapid Response Squad (RRS), CSP Yinka Egbeyemi and others to join him in the “historic march for our dear Lagos.”
However, some of the youths have rejected the call.
Regardless, the governor said: “Nobody will build this city for us. Let us show the world who we are. We are Lagosians.
A people of great renown, driven by the irrepressible spirit of Lagos. It is a testimony to our strength and resilience as a people that, despite the huge losses incurred because of these terrible incidents, we have bounced back, with our economy as vibrant and virile as ever. I have no doubt whatsoever that our prospects are as bright as ever and the best lies ahead of Lagos State and Nigeria.
“We will make it easier for our young people to initiate formal complaints on human rights violations through the Ministry of Justice. We will also improve the coordination between the state government and the security agencies, including the police and the military. In this vein, we are studying how to improve security policy formulation, information sharing, and clarifying rules of engagement in times of social unrest.
“Just as we have established a mechanism to compensate all those who lost homes, businesses, and livelihoods to the violent destruction of October 2020, we shall also establish a detailed procedure for the just compensation of citizens with verified claims of police brutality committed during the protests.”
Speaking on last year’s EndSARS protests and the events that followed, especially the hijack of the protests by hoodlums, which led to the destruction of public and private property worth billions of naira, the Governor said the Government, the youth, protesters, the Police and other security agencies have learned the appropriate lessons from the EndSARS protests, particularly the Lekki Tollgate incident, with a view to averting any recurrence to the detriment of the State.
On mixed reactions following the release of the report of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry, Sanwo-Olu said his administration remained committed to the process that would bring a closure to a “painful episode” in the history of the State.
He recalled that the panel was originally inaugurated to investigate allegations of police brutality committed by the disbanded SARS and in the aftermath of what happened on October 20, 2020, he decided to expand the mandate to include investigating what happened at the Lekki Tollgate that night.
“As a matter of good faith and a sincere commitment to uncovering the truth, we constituted a panel of individuals that we believed were independent, credible, and representative of the various stakeholder communities interested in the movement against police brutality.
“Apart from the chairman of the panel being a respected retired jurist, various stakeholders including the youths, #EndSARS protesters, the police and civil society groups were represented on the panel. I am sure no member of the panel can claim that the State Government made any attempt to influence them in any way throughout the duration of its sitting.
“While I commend the panel for undertaking its task to the best of its abilities, it is however regrettable that the panel’s work and the leakage of an unauthorised version of the report have generated much tension.”