On LASG white papers on Endsars panel reports
The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses (Panel) was constituted and officially inaugurated on 19th October, 2020. Upon completion of its assignment, the Panel submitted two sets of Reports to the Lagos State Government, (LASG) on November 15, 2021. There have been several developments since the submission of these Reports, the most prominent of which were that the LASG and indeed the Federal Government, through some Ministers, rejected part of the said Reports, especially the one relating to the incident of October 20, 2020 at the Lekki Toll Gate, (LTG).
The LASG subsequently released two White Papers on the two Reports of the Panel on November 30, 2021. Please find below comments on the said White Papers, for your kind information and review.
White Paper On General Police Brutality Cases (WP1)
Inconsistency of facts in WP1
It is important to state from the outset that the Panel did not sit on any Petition dated 10th October, 2021, contrary to the facts stated on the Cover Page of WP1. Indeed, the Panel stopped receiving Petitions from the general public from 22nd December 2020. This is a total misconception of facts from the Committee that reviewed the Reports of the Panel. It is necessary to point out this grave error or misconception, as the case may be, in view of the needless hullabaloo following the minor error of tabular alignments contained in one of the Reports of the Panel, as raised by the LASG.
Execution of panel’s decisions
As could be seen in paragraph 2.4 of WP1, the Panel paid the total sum of N409,700,000:00 to Seventy (70) Petitioners in respect of police brutality and general human rights abuses. The LASG provided the funds for the compensation. Thus, decisions of the Panel on Petitions were self-executory and not subject to review or rejection by the LASG. This was the agreement and modality adopted from the very day of inauguration of the Panel and it is covered by the extant Tribunal of Inquiry Law section 15, under which the Panel was set up.
Illegality of white paper
There is no provision for the issuance of a White Paper under the law setting up the Panel. Under and by virtue of section 15 of the Tribunal of Inquiry Law, upon conclusion of any inquiry, the Governor is only empowered to issue directive for the enforcement of any decision emanating from the inquiry. The Governor cannot issue a White Paper to overrule the decisions of a Judicial Panel of Inquiry.
Inconsistency of policies by LASG
It is important to note the fact that the police is part of the security agencies of the federal government over which the LASG has no control statutorily, but it still accepted to pay compensation to victims of police brutality, which act in itself is very commendable, save that the LASG dithered when it came to compensation for victims of brutality by soldiers, apparently it was connected to the Incident of the Lekki Toll Gate of October 20, 2020.
Petitions by police officers
In Paragraph 4.0 of the WP1, the LASG accepted decisions of the Panel in respect of Petitions submitted by policemen and women who were victims of one abuse or the other before, during or after the EndSARS protests. These petitions relate to deaths, grievous injuries and loss of property. This is contrary to and disproves the earlier narratives of lawyers and agents of the LASG that the Panel did not consider the cases of police officers.
Investigation and prosecution of police officers
The Panel recommended the investigation and prosecution of certain police officers whose names featured prominently in the Petitions heard and determined. In Paragraph 4.0 (ii) (a) & (b) of WP1, LASG undertook to request for the casefiles of the outcome of investigations of these police offices which would then be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions for action.
This is another clear instance of the game of pick and choose, adopted by the LASG in respect of complaints against the police and the army, both of which are outside the statutory control of the LASG but for the fact that the complaints against the army relate to the Lekki Toll Gate, the LASG would not touch them with a pole.
White Paper on Lekki Toll Gate incident (WP2)
The assignment of the Panel in respect of the Lekki Toll Gate (LTG) Incident of 20th October 2020 was divided into two, being the general investigation and hearing of individual petitions. This can be confirmed in Paragraph 2.5 of WP2. It is instructive that it is the Report of the Panel on LTG that has been the source of attack from the government as it accepted and indeed commended the Panel on the Report on general police brutality, even though both reports emerged from the same process and from the same Panel.
Petitions relating to Lekki Toll Gate
A total of Thirteen (13) Petitions were received by the Panel in respect of the LTG, Twelve (12) were heard and one (1) was struck out. A total sum of N237,000,000:00 was awarded by the Panel as compensation in respect of these Petitions but the LASG government did not make any comment on these awards, especially those of the individual petitions. These Petitions were heard during the open proceedings of the Panel and the LASG through its counsel participated actively in these hearings. The Petitioners whose cases have been determined as successful should be paid like all others.
Refusal by LASG to comply with decisions of the Panel
There is no provision in the Tribunals of Inquiry Law of Lagos State which permits the Governor to overrule decisions of the Panel conducted through open hearing. As stated earlier, the decisions of the Panel were self-executory and compensations were paid to victims upon the success of any Petition.
It is improper for LASG to pick and choose which decision of the Panel it would comply with, on the alleged ground that the soldiers/officers involved are outside its statutory control, whereas the same LASG conveniently paid compensations awarded in respect of police brutality and the police are similarly outside its statutory control.
Errors and misconceptions of WP2
WP2 overlooked critical evidence that the Panel considered and it also misrepresented the findings and recommendations of the Panel in many areas, to suit its narrative, such as Exhibit LLC A, which confirmed that soldiers shot at unarmed peaceful protesters at the LTG on October 20, 2020, the report of the forensic expert, Sentinel, that both live and blank bullets were fired by soldiers, the testimony of many doctors that treated victims of gunshot wounds, etc.
How the panel arrived at finding of massacre
The Panel considered several definitions of the word massacre and adopted one of the dictionary meanings of massacre as being ‘the act or instance of killing a number of usually helpless or unresisting human beings under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty.’ The Panel reviewed the following documents and testimonies before it:
(i) Exhibit LCC A which was tendered by the Lekki Concession Company, (LCC), being a Press Release issued by LCC on 21st October, 2020, the day after the LTG Incident. In that document, it is stated that “LCC strongly condemns the shooting of unarmed peaceful protesters at the Admiralty Circle Toll Plaza yesterday, 20th October, 2020”. Panel found that the evidence corroborated the case of the EndSARS protesters that the protest was peaceful, orderly and coordinated, that soldiers invaded the protests and shot at unarmed, helpless, unresisting and peaceful protesters, which the Panel considered as cruel and atrocious. It was in the context of the nature of the peaceful protest and the atrocious and cruel actions of the soldiers which led to several deaths, that the Panel concluded on massacre.
To be continued tomorrow
Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) was a member of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses (Panel).