By Romanus Okoye And Lukman Olabiyi
Lawyers across the country have expressed divergent opinions over the leaked report of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters. They include, Dave Ajetomobi, the former Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja Branch; Malachy Ugwummadu, a human rights lawyer; Ebun-Olu Adegoruwa (SAN), member of the Panel; Ade Dosunmu, former DG, NIMASA and Public Affairs Analyst, Kunle Adegoke (SAN), and Kabir Akingbolu, who represented a victim at the panel sitting.
The panel report was on Monday, November 15, presented to the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu. And, upon submission, the governor set up a four-man committee chaired by the Attorney General of the State. The committee had two weeks to review the report after which government will issue a White Paper in accordance with the provisions of the Tribunal of Inquiry Law 2015.
While this was on, Abiodun Jelili Owonikoko Owonikoko picked holes in the report and accused the panel of corrupt practice. In his defence, Ebun-Olu Adegoruwa (SAN), a member threatened to release the full report if the government fails to publish their findings and recommendations.
Speaking on the leaked report, Kunle Adegoke (SAN) called on Nigerians not to take it seriously until the committee set up by the governor comes up with its White Paper. The senior lawyer who described the controversies generated by the leaked report as un-called-for, urged all stakeholders to be mindful of their actions and utterances so as to stop creating bigger problem.
Dave Ajetomobi who described the leaked report as a draft, as long as it was not signed by any member of the panel to show that it is authentic, or officially released by the panel, said that it is not worth debating. He nonetheless, deplored Owonikoko’s allegation of corruption. “If it’s true that one of the counsels to Lagos State government is attacking persons of the members of ENDSARS panel, and putting their integrity at stake, it is grossly unfortunate. I believe he should be prepared to defend and substantiate such a grievous allegation in the court of law.”
Kabir Akingbolu likened comments on the purported report to taking a jump in darkness. “By law, such report can only be valid after a White Paper had been issued on it. For this reason, all the news making the rounds cannot be conveniently relied upon”. He, however, accused the panel of shielding “some powerful policemen,” from prosecution. “It is sad,” he said. “I have not the slightest regards for the panel report. “
Ade Dosunmu disagreed with his view. “There is no need trying to change the narrative,” he said. “The details of the report are already in public domain and many people have taken their positions. The government should go ahead and implement the recommendations of the panel and take full credit for setting-up the panel in the first place.”
Malachy Ugwummadu said: “President Buhari’s reported comment during his meeting with the US Secretary of State that he, and by implication, the Federal government, is waiting for the reports of the Lagos State government and those of other state governments indicates that our President and the FG are leading from behind on this matter.
“Imagine that the Lagos government is one of the state governments that didn’t constitute a panel of inquiry on this matter or yet to conclude or submit its report. How long is the President and FG willing to wait before they act in respect of the reported killings, by law enforcement agencies of the Federal government, of innocent, unarmed Nigerian youths peacefully exercising their fundamental rights?”
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) regretted that since the submission of the EndSARS Panel Report to the Governor of Lagos State, members of the Panel have become subject of vicious attacks by those suspected to be agents of the government. “All manner of allegations have been heaped upon panel members, with some of them unprintable names,” he said.
“I can confirm that no member lobbied to be appointed. As a matter fact, in my own case, His Excellency, the Governor of Lagos State, appealed to me to accept my appointment, which I saw as a call to national service. The primary reason he gave to me then was that he wanted men and women of integrity, independent and not subject to manipulation, to be on the Panel.
“Just today, my attention has been drawn to an interview by a Senior Counsel to the Lagos State Government, to the effect that panel members collected bribe in the course of the assignment. It is unfair, ungodly and least expected of the government and its lawyers.
“The Lagos State Government asked for two weeks to enable it release a White Paper on the report submitted to it by the Panel. And we have been waiting. But it would seem that it has now unleashed mindless propaganda upon Panel members whilst at the same time asking for restraint from the general public.
“I have in my custody, certified true copies of all proceedings of the Panel and all exhibits tendered before the panel in respect of the Lekki Toll Gate investigation. I urge the government to call its agents and lawyers to order so as not to provoke aggravated responses.”