CRACKS EMERGE IN LAGOS ENDSARS JUDICIAL PANEL

Lagos Panel of inquiry

By Muhaimin Olowoporoku

Cracks emerged in the Lagos State Judicial panel on Saturday over whether the Lekki Concession Company should repossess Lekki Toll Gate, the scene of the alleged shooting on 20 October, 2020.

Justice Doris Okuwobi, with four other members agreed that LCC should take over the toll gate, in a ruling.

Panel members representing the Civil Societies and the youths in the panel were absent when the ruling was delivered.

When they joined the panel, they gave divergent views in their minority rulings.

Quorum or No quorum Saga

The first problem on Saturday, was the issue of quorum.

While the case of Lekki Concession Company (LCC) was ongoing, counsel to some #EndSARS protesters, Mrs. Fawenhimi Morakinyo raised the issue of quorum.

Missing then were the CSO’s representatives, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) and Ms. Patience Patrick-Udoh.

Also missing were the Youth representatives Miss Olorunrinuola Oduala and Mr. Temitope Majekodunmi.

Justice Doris Okuwobi, however, dismissed the objection, as she said it was not based on any rule guiding the panel.

She said the panel already formed a quorum with five members seated.

Present, apart from Justice Doris Okuwobi, were four other members, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Oduanya, DIG Taiwo Lakanu (rtd), Mr. Olusegun Awosanya and Mr. Lucas Koyejo.

Lekki Toll Gate takeover confusion

After the panel ruled that Lekki Concession Company (LCC) should take over the Lekki Tollgate Plaza, the four members absent at the time, gave dissenting rulings, opposing the majority judgment.

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Justice Doris Okuwobi had ruled that the LCC can take over control and begin repairs at the toll facility based on the application of Mr. Rotimi Seriki (SAN) counsel to the LCC.

It was Seriki’s fourth application.

Mr. Seriki noted that all principal actors in the October incident have moved on with their daily business including the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Police, the #EndSars protesters.

He said the LCC is the only entity with its hands tied in spite of huge financial loss since the incident took place.

Mr. Adesina Ogunlana, counsel to some #EndSARS protesters objected to Mr. Seriki’s application.

He said the application was an amended one, since he had previously applied that LCC be permitted to return to the plaza for insurance and repairs and not to begin business.

Ogunlana argued it was premature to allow LCC to take possession of the facility, a crime scene, as the report of forensic experts has not been submitted.

Mrs. Majekodunmi, counsel to some other #EndSars protesters aligned with Mr. Ogunlana.

She said since investigations have not been concluded, it would be prejudicial and premature for the panel to allow the LCC return to the toll-gate plaza.

She also pointed that there are no less than 10 petitions before the panel to ascertain claims of massacre which occurred on 20 October 2020.

Mr. Seriki counter-argued that when LCC retakes possession of the plaza, it won’t prevent further visitation of forensic experts to the site.

Counsel to the Lagos State Government, Mr. Kayode Enitan aligned himself with Mr. Seriki.

Justice Doris Okuwobi however ruled in favour of LCC taking possession of the Plaza, since forensic analysis of the site has been concluded.

Dissenting rulings

Members of the panel, who came in after the ruling did not support Justice Okuwobi’s ruling.

But Mr Ebun-olu Adegboruwa was stopped from reading his dissenting ruling by LCC counsel, Mr Seriki and Lagos State counsel, Mr. Kayode Enitan, on the ground that Adegboruwa had sued LCC in the past.

They claimed that Adegboruwa would be biased.

Patience Patrick-Udoh, the second person representing civil societies, ruled that the judgement read by Justice Okuwobi should be set aside for lack of quorum.

She said the application to reopen the toll gate is premature.

Mr. Temitope Majekodunni in a dissenting view, also aligned with Mrs. Patrick-Udoh.

Miss Olorunrinuola Oduala said the judicial panel was set up on the-five-for-five demand of the youth during the protest by against police brutality.

She said any decision of the panel not reflecting the youth representative opinion is in violation of rule setting up the panel.

She noted their presence is to restore the trust of the public in the government and the Nigerian government is for all.

In as much as she respected Seriki’s application for LCC to repossess the toll gate, she said the panel must ensure that a thorough investigation into the toll gate incident and that everyone found culpable is identified and appropriate sanctions recommended under the law.

According to her, from the forensic report by experts employed by the panel, the LCC has repeatedly failed to provide information that includes access to servers, location of the CCTV and mounted cameras.

The LCC, she claimed has not provided answers on the person ordered extraction of the footage, date and time of the extraction, how it was extracted and other information useful for the purpose of the forensic examination and report.

Based on this, she ruled that the toll gate should be shut until full investigation is concluded.

Mr Ebun who did not deliver his dissenting judgment said the panel was inaugurated at the request of the youths and the panel decided that the panel won’t sit except the youths representative are present.

“So their absence means no quorum.”

He noted that the CSO and youths have two representative on the panel and if no representative of the two sectors are not present, a quorum could not be formed.

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