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Why we found #EndSARS panel’s report unreliable – Lagos AG

By Bertram Nwannekanma, Seye Olumide, Eniola Daniel, Waliat Musa and Adelowo Adebumiti
02 December 2021   |   4:25 am
The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), yesterday, explained that many contradictions in the report of the state’s judicial panel on police brutality made the findings of the panel unreliable...

Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN)

• Adegboruwa kicks, says white paper full of inaccuracies, cover ups
• HURIWA, George, others blast Sanwo-Olu over white paper

The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), yesterday, explained that many contradictions in the report of the state’s judicial panel on police brutality made the findings of the panel unreliable, leading to the rejection of some conclusions of the report.

The state government had on Tuesday released the white paper on the reports submitted by the judicial panel. The panel had submitted two reports — one on cases of police brutality and another on the Lekki shooting incident of October 20, 2020, on November 15, where it listed nine fatalities from the Lekki shooting.

But the white paper, citing what it described as “fundamental inconsistencies,” rejected the figure, adding that the findings were not supported by evidence.

Buttressing the government’s stance in an interview on Arise TV yesterday, Onigbanjo, head of the four-man white paper committee, said the panel’s findings on the Lekki shooting at the tollgate were contrary to the evidence provided, adding that the panel’s report “created doubts and gaps and did not explain how they arrived at that conclusion, the names, who shot them and when they were shot.

“The panel said they found the report of Prof. Obafunwa, who conducted autopsy on all the bodies picked up around Lagos during the protest, not just in Lekki, credible but Obafunwa said of all the bodies he conducted autopsies on, three came from Lekki and only one out of those had gunshot injury.

“And the panel then said, ‘we believe you and accept your evidence because there is nothing to the contrary.’ It means what Prof. Obafunwa said outweighs every other piece of evidence before the panel.

“Then the panel went on to say there were nine dead. If you look at that page where the deaths from the Lekki tollgate were listed, they did not explain how they arrived at that conclusion, the names, who shot them and when they were shot. So that’s a contradiction because what Obafunwa said is different from the conclusion they are now reaching. And there were so many others.

“They also said one Nathanial Solomon died at Lekki tollgate. It turns out that Nathaniel Solomon was a witness before them and handed a petition in respect of his late brother.

“Take another example, they said nine persons died, and they awarded compensation to only one. Why, if you believe nine persons died, why are you not awarding compensation to the other eight persons?

“These contradictions and many more made that particular finding unreliable. Because, for a finding that somebody died at a scene to be acceptable, there must be no doubt.”

Onigbanjo stated that the two reports from the panels would be released to the public soon to allow the people make their own judgment from the findings.

“We are going to release the two reports of the panel to the public to judge by themselves. So, it is not just going to be a case of Lagos State analysing this in itself and coming to its conclusions. We are going to make them available to everybody to read it,” he said.

THE controversies trailing the release of the white paper continued yesterday with a member of the judicial panel, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), stressing that the white paper was full of inaccuracies, cover ups and inconsistencies.

The learned silk in a statement, yesterday, titled: ‘Panel report: The siege is over,’ said attempts were being made by the authorities to smear the image of those who served on the panel as they were accused of financial mismanagement.

According to him, since November 15, when the report of the #EndSARS judicial panel was submitted to the state government, “a good number of my colleagues, friends and admirers prevailed on me to refrain from further public pronouncements on the activities and reports of the panel since the government was studying the said reports.

“Upon submission of the said reports, lawyers on the payroll of government and other employees of government, took turns to denigrate the reports on national television, in paid adverts in newspapers and on social media.

“Ministers in the cabinet of the Federal Government have also commented on the said reports, in some cases calling members of the panel unprintable names and even comparing victims of brutality and human rights abuses to goats and taunting their already traumatised families and friends.

“On November 30, the government released two separate white papers to the general public. The panel was not informed of this action and it was not availed copies of the said white papers, till this moment.

“It has become necessary therefore for me and all other members of the panel to study the white papers and make appropriate responses thereto. There will be no holds barred, since the government itself has opened the doors for public scrutiny of the reports and the white paper.

“For the records, the panel relied upon the evidence of witnesses, documents tendered before it and the goodwill of the people of Nigeria, throughout its assignment.

“It is painful for me and the panel that the government is creating the wrong impression of financial impropriety as a tool of distraction when the panel had a secretariat that managed all its funds through the Ministry of Justice.

“Although I served on the panel free of charge without collecting a dime, I know as a fact that other members served sacrificially, giving up their time, families and careers for a whole year.

“At the appropriate time, we will respond to all the inaccuracies, the cover-ups and the inconsistencies contained in the white paper released by the government.

“Assuredly, nothing can ever cover the truth. What happened at the Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020, is already in the public domain, those who received the bullets knew what happened and the doctors that treated them knew what happened. The panel reports only confirmed what most Nigerians already knew.”

HUMAN Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), yesterday, described the white paper as a “rumpled paper, white lies and tissues of falsehoods and political gymnastics.”

The body, in a statement signed by its coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said the deliberate action of the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to play the role of a maverick by editing the heart and mind of the findings and recommendations of the panel shows that all the, while the setting up of the investigation commission, which gulped millions of taxpayers money, was simply for political gimmicks and shadow chasing.

“The so-called white paper is a total package of half-baked white lies, which were actually manufactured to satisfy the political godfather and the man who singlehandedly railroaded the little known Sanwo-Olu into office as governor in 2019,”

HURIWA said it was laughable that the governor could pick and choose, which of the findings of the panel to qualify as being politically correct or not. The group also dismissed the actions of the governor on the panel’s report as “government magic.”

HURIWA regretted that the governor missed an opportunity of a lifetime to be recognised as a true hero of democracy, but has chosen to play the well-known game of the political status quo which is anti-people and anti-progressive.

A former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George, described the white paper as outlandish, defeatist, insensitive, lacking the basic tenet of accountability and decency that ought to have guided such sensitive issue as the Lekki tollgate tragedy.

In similar vein, Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum said the position of the state government on the EndSARS report was unpopular, though it commended the government for taking a position to douse tension within and outside the state.

In a statement, George said Sanwo-Olu’s response is without justice or fairness. It is at best plastic and gestural, devoid of genuine human concern and sincere leadership.

The statement reads: “The state government stands indicted for the unfortunate incident. Sanwo-Olu perhaps may be able to bring a decent closure to the blood of the innocent that yet cry for justice by apologising to the families of the bereaved, pay them compensation and immediately scrap the two illegal tollgates and erect a monument in eternal remembrance of those who were cut down unjustly. Nothing else will suffice.”

FORMER Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Timi Frank, called on all #EndSARS activists not to partake in the proposed peace walk by the governor, describing the move as tendentious and anti-youth.

“I call on other youths not to yield to such evil and dangerous temptation being dangled before them by Sanwo-Olu until the Lagos State government fully implement the courageous recommendations of the judicial panel.

“While the truth about the Lekki tollgate massacre has been succinctly captured in the JPI report, the state government and the Federal Government are still living in denial and playing the ostrich. The truth is the truth. No amount of whitewashing, shenanigans or intimidation can erase it.

“Sanwo-Olu and Lai Mohammed must acknowledge the truth and apologise to Nigerian youth if they desire closure on this egregious matter. Any youth that marches with Sanwo-Olu without adequate and commensurate justice for our fallen heroes is a betrayer!”

THE Youth Rights Campaign (YRC) has also condemned the white paper issued by the Lagos State government. The group, in a statement, yesterday, by its National Coordinator, Michael Lenin, and National Secretary, Francis Nwapa, noted that the released white paper attempts to water down and sidestep the main recommendations of the panel.

“We think it is not only undemocratic, but also an insult to the enormous sacrifices of the judicial panel of inquiry as well as host of witnesses, lawyers, security and medical experts and victims and by extension, many Nigerians, who anxiously waited for the panel’s report for over one year, for the state government, whose actions were a subject of the panel’s investigation, to constitute a secretive bureaucratic committee to cherry-pick the panel’s findings and recommendations.

“We insist that what the government did by setting up a secretive bureaucratic committee headed by the state’s Attorney-General to evaluate the final outcomes of an independent and publicly acknowledged panel of inquiry, which held all its proceedings openly, is illogical and a rape of justice. This is democracy turned on its head. This is what the legendary Fela Anikulapo once called ‘Government Magic’.”

The group called for the full implementation of the recommendations of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry and demanded for the immediate prosecution of security personnel and all those found responsible for maiming and killings of unarmed protesters both on 20 October 2020 and during the entire #EndSARS protest.

They also asked for the immediate release of #EndSARS protesters still unjustly detained across the country.