Displaying items by tag: LekkiTollGate

The Spokesperson Coalition of Concerned Civil Society Groups, Comrade Nelson Ekujumi stated that the panel arrived at a conclusion without premise

The human right and good governance advocate, said this in an interview as a guest on CityTalks with Reuben Abati where he seemed to have agreed with the position of the Lagos State government on the White Paper Report.

Ekujumi opined that the Whitepaper has come to do justice to inconsistencies.

The White Paper on the Judicial Panel of Inquiry report set up to investigate the Lekki Toll Gate incident on October 20, 2020 has elicited mixed opinions.

On October 20, 2020, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu launched a judicial panel led by Justice Doris Okuwobi to investigate petitions alleging police brutality in the state and alleged protester shootings.

The panel issued two reports on November 15, one on police brutality cases and the other on the probe into the Lekki incident.

Following the panel's report's submission, Sanwo-Olu formed a four-member team to draft a white paper on the panel's recommendations.

The white-paper committee will be chaired by Lagos Attorney-General Moyosore Onigbanjo.

The Lagos State Government revealed in the 24-page document that it accepted eleven (11), rejected one (1), and accepted six (six) with modifications out of the 32 recommendations made by the Judicial Panel of Inquiry in its Report dated November 15, 2021.

Fourteen (14) proposals fall outside of Lagos State government's powers and will be referred to the Federal Government for consideration.

Ekujumi stated that he found it worrisome that the findings of the Judicial panel were not based on facts and evidence, but was premised on “hearsay.”

According to him, there are many inconsistencies and contradictions in the report that was submitted by the Justice Okuwobi’s panel.

He recalled three observations he had noticed in the report; “Nathaniel Solomon who said that his younger brother, Solomon Abuta was killed at the Lekki Toll gate.

“In the findings, I saw his name among the deceased.

“And that tells you that something is wrong with the Judicial Panel report and findings,” Ekujumi said.

He added, “When you look at the story concerning the death of his brother, this was a petitioner whose story was not corroborated by any utter of evidence.”

Another instance, Ekujumi mentioned was that of the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Maroko Police Station and his men who were alleged by petitioners of being responsible for deaths of protesters on October 20, 2020 after the army had left.

The DPO was allegedly wearing white jalabia when he led his men to the toll gate and shot at protesters and killed them. 

He said, when the petitioners were asked about photo or video evidence of the DPO with white Jalabia bearing arms with his men; they didn’t have.

He stated further, that when the counsel summoned the DPO, he challenged his accusers to produce any iota of evidence to back up their claim. In addition, he told the panel that wearing a jalabia is not part of the police uniform, and that he could never have done so for safety and security reasons while on an operation.

Ekujumi added that when the petitioners were called for a rebuttal; they had no evidence.

Another mention by Ekujumi, was that of someone who was awarded N10 million who was not a petitioner.

He said, “From my own little understanding of the Judiciary, they are not a father Christmas.

“The person is not a petitioner; how did the panel resolve that they should give her N10million?”

When field with question concerning by Dr Reuben Abati about the position of Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), where the SAN said that the Lagos State is not in the position or has no power to either accept or reject recommendations of the panel, and what is regarded as inconsistencies are basically computer errors and there are more revelations that he will be willing to bring to the table.

In a reaction by Ekujumi, “if Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN, has any quarrel with the findings of the panel’s report and as well as the white paper released by the government, he has the option of going to court to challenge the white paper or the legality of the white paper.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lagos Judicial Panel on Restitution for Victims of SARS and other related abuses, which is also investigating the Lekki shooting incident of October 20, 2020, has admitted in evidence post mortem results and CDs of all 99 corpses deposited at the Lagos morgue between the 20th and the 27th of Oct 2020.

A consultant pathologist to the Lagos State Government, Professori John Obafunwa, who is testifying before the panel brought the results following an order made on June 5, 2021 for it to be produced.

The documents were contained in two nylon bags- blue and white.

The Chairman of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi admitted the documents in evidence, following an application by the counsel to some Endsars protesters, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika (SAN) moved for the documents to be admitted.

There was no objections from other counsel in the matter.

At the June 5 sitting of the panel, Justice Okuwobi had ordered the witness to produce the autopsy reports conducted on all the 99 bodies brought in for examination from various parts of Lagos between the 20th and 27th of Oct, 2020.

The Chairman of the panel made the order after the pathologist testified that the coroner’s office conducted post mortem autopsies on 99 bodies during the period.

He had also testified that of the 99, only 3 bodies were labelled as #EndSARS Lekki.

The identities of all three male victims still remain unknown.

As of the time of this report, Olumide-Fusika has begun his cross-examination of the pathologist.

Dele Farotimi a lawyer and a political activist, says that his intention was to lead a scientific protest at the Lekki toll gate.

Justice Doris Okwuobi’s panel decision on the Lekki Toll gate has being the epicenter of the #OccupyLekki protest.

Speaking during an interview on City Talks with Reuben Abati, monitored by Abati Media on Saturday, 13 February, 2021 Farotimi said that his aim is to ensure that the operation of the Lekki toll gate is grounded to a halt when they want to commence operation.

According to him, “we shall first of all drive our cars all the way to the toll gate and park our cars there everyday; they will arrest us, but we would have successfully grounded operations there.

“We would have spent an ample time in precision to do it everyday, so that the toll gate will never commence operations,” he said.

Farotimi mentioned that the toll gate does not serve the public, but private individuals and enriches them.

The Advocate and Solicitor stated that the people in Lekki are not paying toll because they are rich, they are paying toll unhappily.

“When the time comes for people to be unmasked, we will unmask them,” he said.

According to Farotimi, “the people who live in Lekki, who understood the nature of evil we are dealing with have resolved that we have resolved that we have our intensions to protest any reopening of the toll gate.

“We enjoyed the way we are able to drive without the grinding traffic we suffer everyday,” he said.

He stated that the roads done by Late Lateef Kayode Jankande over 30years ago has never being tolled. But the people who just came into government 21years ago wants to tolled it.

Farotimi said that, “we will resist the reopening of the Lekki Toll Gate.

 

The rancor that occurred, Saturday, February 6, at the sitting of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry investigating the shootings and alleged killings at the Lekki Toll gate in Lagos in October 2020, in addition to reported cases of police brutality is most unfortunate and disturbing. It will be recalled that the clampdown on protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, the widespread mayhem that followed, in the shape of attacks on police men and police stations, the assault on warehouses where COVID-19 palliatives had been detained by unconscionable politicians, the attack on homes and businesses of both politicians and innocent persons, in general,  the needless loss of lives - attracted mass outrage. 

 

A meeting comprising the 36 state Governors, the FCT Minister, the Inspector General of Police and the Human Rights Commission  in October 2020, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo resolved at the time that all state governments should set up panels of inquiry and organize public hearings to establish the truth and ensure that justice was done, and victims duly compensated. Most states promised to set up the panels of inquiry, 29 did eventually, but some did not. As at January 30, 2021, the following states: Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara had refused to set up any panel of  inquiry. Kogi state announced that it had also constituted a panel of inquiry, but that panel has not met for even five minutes to date. 

 

In some of the states where the panels exist and have been sitting: Plateau, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Ekiti, Ogun, Edo, Ondo, Rivers, Delta, Cross River, Abia, Bayelsa, Anambra and the Federal Capital Territory, the pace of work has been rather slow and inconsistent.  In Oyo State, the panel commenced sitting in January 2021, two months after its inauguration! The panels in Niger State, Katsina, and Rivers have since concluded sitting.  But of all the states, Lagos State has been the most responsive, the most active, and one of the very first states to commit to doing a thorough job of ensuring justice and establishing the truth. The nine-member Lagos Panel of Inquiry and Restitution, as announced, was set up on October 16, 2020. Justice Doris Okuwobi (rtd) was named Chair of the Panel. It began sitting on Tuesday, October 27, 2020. The Okuwobi panel has received more coverage than any other panel in the country, perhaps because of its consistency, its proximity to the Lagos-Ibadan media, the international media as well, and the fact of the Lekki Toll Gate being the epicentre of the #ENDSARS protests.    

 

In October 2020, the Lekki Toll gate and its satellite, the Ikoyi Bridge Toll gate managed by the same company, the Lekki Concession Company (LCC) were the primary  locations of the protest against police brutality in Nigeria, with specific focus on the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The protests soon spread to other parts of the country, even if the Northern parts of the country adopted another label and were significantly different in orientation from the protests in the South. Nigeria’s Southern protesters talked about an end to police brutality. Northern youths who would later be joined by Governors of the North and traditional rulers called for an end to insecurity. Both groups were linked by a common thread – the crisis of insecurity in Nigeria, the failure of the security agencies and the urgent need for government to deliver on its mandate under Section 14(2) (b ) of the 1999 Constitution, to wit: the responsibility to protect the people and ensure their welfare. Nigeria thus found itself in the grips of a movement: an organized, but decentralized rebellion against the Nigerian state and its ineffectuality, more desperate than the youth protests of 1962 against the Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact and far more incendiary than the Ali-Must-Go-Protests of 1978. It was youth revolt in ebullition against mis-governance, bad politics, poor leadership and elite greed. The youths had five specific demands. The battle was fought on the streets and social media. The youths called for reform. They demanded change. They even asked for better welfare for policemen.  But then everything went out of hand. 

 

The Nigerian Government’s expressed commitment to accede to the five demands and to investigate the reported killings and acts of inhumanity and ensure justice gave intimations of hope. In the course of its proceedings, the Lagos Panel of Inquiry offered useful details that kept that hope alive: all those stories about the number of persons that died or were shot, whether or not live bullets or blank bullets were used, how and why anyone asked for the deployment of soldiers to confront harmless, unarmed and defenceless protesters, and shoot in whatever direction, the role of the police, the state government, state officials… Every week, testimonies and revelations at the Lagos Panel of Inquiry provided useful insights. But all of a sudden, that panel is now in disarray, and that is what is disturbing. Last Saturday, it must have been common sense that retrained members of the panel from engaging in fisticuffs.  How sad 

 

But the signs of impending chaos were foreseeable. Earlier in the year,  the Nigerian Army stopped appearing before the panel. Army counsel disclosed that their mandate with their clients, that is the Nigerian Army, expired in November 2020 and the panel had been so informed. Justice Okuwobi however, affirmed the rights of the panel, appropriately under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, and adjourned the date for the response of the Army to already issued summons to February 27. I am not too sure any soldier will show up to respond to those summons. After the embarrassment that the Nigerian Army has received with its testimonies over whether or not its officers used live bullets and killed persons at the Lekki Toll Gate, the military hierarchy may have opted for the option of decided contempt in the face of and away from the face of the panel, knowing of course, that the likely penalty may be inconsequential. 

 

To worsen matters, the Lagos Panel of Inquiry degenerated into near-chaos on Saturday, February 6, 2021. The source of confusion was the decision of the panel announced by five panel members, including Justice Okuwobi, to approve the re-opening of the Lekki and Ikoyi Bridge Toll Gates by their managers, the afore-mentioned LCC. Four members of the panel objected to this resolution and immediately made public their position in a now widely-circulated Dissenting Opinion signed by Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN. By the weekend, the same panel hitherto praised for being an exemplar, had become a divided house. The video of the proceedings that is in circulation is embarrassing to say the least. We saw  members of the panel having a shouting match. I do not want to re-hash the arguments: about whether or not a quorum was formed, the right of the civil society representatives to be in attendance and whether or not they were, the fact that a civil society member - Segun Awosanya (aka Segalink) is on the Chairperson’s side in the matter, and the reasonableness or not, of the dissenting quartet apparently led by Ebun Olu Adegboruwa SAN who has been accused of adopting tactics that would be considered strange in a Court of Appeal procedure even if the Okuwobi panel is quasi-judicial. The legal correctness of the proceedings of the panel, and the dissensions within would require a closer scrutiny of the facts to which we are not full seised but it is sufficient to express alarm about how a process that was meant to calm nerves and promote truth and reconciliation has now become a catalyst for conflict. By Monday morning, the matter before the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry had spilled back onto the streets, with implications for public safety.

 

For, by the morning of Monday, February 8, a coordinated protest against the decision of the Lagos Panel of Inquiry to grant the Lekki Concession Company the permission to re-open its toll gates had gone viral on social media with such hashtags and banners as #RevolutionNow, #OccupyLekkiTollGate and a protest is purportedly planned for Saturday, February 13 at 7 am. The LCC had approached the Lagos Panel to ask for permission to resume operations. The two toll gates under its management have been shut down since October 2020.  The position of the dissenters  is that a reopening of the toll gates will compromise evidence and forensic analysis and hence, the status quo should be maintained until the work of the panel is concluded. The Okuwobi Five argued that the forensic investigation had been concluded and there was no justification to continue to shut LCC out of business indefinitely. Outside the panel,  those who want to #OccupyLekkiTollGate on February 13 are convinced that re-opening the toll gate will derail the course of justice. Whichever way you look at it, another Lekki Gate protest is not an encouraging prospect. The way the arguments are packaged on both sides, every proposition sounds and looks plausible and ominous. But I guess this is the time to advert our minds to a number of fundamental issues.  

 

One –in principle, the investigations and judicial inquiry emplaced by the state governments of Nigeria over the 2020 #EndSARS protests were meant to reassure the people and demonstrate government’s readiness to respond to popular yearnings. The Lagos Panel in particular had proved promising. Now, that it is divided, it is difficult to see how its objectives have not been compromised, and how this has not provided a bad example for other states where the panels have been slow and non-committal. Will the panel still be able to work as a team?   

 

Two - those who argue that the Lekki Toll Gate is a crime scene that should be left intact till the conclusion of the work of the panel may be missing the point. That toll gate is no longer a crime scene.  It was never treated as such. Elsewhere, crime scenes are preserved, cordoned off, to protect the integrity of evidence and investigations. This so-called crime scene was never protected. It was in fact subjected to a thorough clean up, and whatever was hidden was picked up by visiting inspectors and trespassers, including a certain camera, the content of which has not been disclosed.  Vehicles and motorists have been passing through, glad that they have not had to pay any tolls for more than three months. Whatever has not been established before now, may be difficult to prove again. The dissenters in the panel may have the legal right to hold a different opinion, but they risk being accused of sabotage and fuelling another round of protests.

 

Three- the Lekki Toll Gate is a public-private partnership scheme. The investors have to pay back loans, maintain the staff who have been kept at home for months, process insurance claims and fix the offices and infrastructure destroyed during the #EndSARS protests. But majorly, they are  paying a price for identity politics. Most of the protesters are angry in part, because of deep-seated suspicions about the ownership of the toll gate. Even in the absence of verifiable evidence, the Lekki Toll gate has become a symbol of power, oppression and graft in the eyes of many. Does it belong to the Lagos State Government or some oppressors? Whatever the truth is, the managers of the Lekki and Ikoyi Toll Gates have had to pay so much. They have lost money and time. They have been vilified. Their brand has been dragged in the mud. What if on top it all, they are truly innocent? How about their staff who have been jobless for months? Even in the worst of circumstances, the toll gates would still be re-opened anyway at some point.

 

Four – But will the re-opening sabotage the investigations? May be not. The US Congress was attacked by a domestic terrorist mob on January 6, 2021. Five persons died on that occasion. Congress has since re-opened and continued its work, but that has not stopped the investigations. What we are actually dealing with in our case, is a terrible lack of trust in the Nigerian process. Nobody trusts the government. The people would rather trust anybody who is willing and ready to attack the government or raise doubts about its methods. This alienation is self-inflicted by government itself. Here is an example: During the October 2020 #EndSARS protests, the Nigerian government promised to accept and address the five demands by Nigerian youths. But shortly after, the same government clamped down on the protesters. Bank accounts belonging to known leaders of the protests were frozen. The airports of Nigeria became a no-go-area for such persons.  Even now, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s decision to ban financial institutions from cryptocurrencies has been linked to an attempt to cut off financial oxygen for protests. Here is another example: the Governor of Lagos State was accused of lying to the public! The combination of these factors has ignited the anger of the average Nigerian youth again. The flame of that anger could result in an inferno that we do not need. The fire this time could be worse than the explosion last time. 

 

Five – will the Lagos panel of inquiry reverse itself because of the threat of a resumption of protest on February 13?  I doubt. But I worry more about the damage that may have been done to the Okuwobi panel. Nothing must be done to derail the work of this Panel of Inquiry. Its original mandate should be preserved: to investigate, to unmask the truth, to make recommendations that will ensure justice, and to ensure the compensation of victims. 

 

Nigeria lost so much last year. To shut down Lagos again and initiate another round of chaos is difficult to imagine. The security agencies, whatever the provocation, must not behave like goats this time around. The Lagos State Government must act and think wisely, must not tell lies, and take steps to prevent further trouble at the Lekki Toll Gate.