A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, has raised an alarm over the investigations into the October 20, 2020 shooting at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos State.
He alleged that there was an attempt to frustrate the Lagos State Judicial Panel on Restitution for Victims of SARS-related abuses and other matters, from reaching meaningful conclusions on its probe into the incident.
Adegboruwa raised the alarm on Saturday in a chat with Channels Television in reaction to the announcement that the panel was suspending its sitting indefinitely.
Although he did not return with the panel after it rose to deliberate on the submissions by the Lagos State counsel to call expert witnesses, the senior lawyer promised to give further details on the claim.
Adegboruwa represents the civil society in the panel set up by the state government to probe the excesses of police personnel in the state.
At the resumed sitting, Chairman of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi, said sitting would be suspended until further notice, after Saturday’s session.
“There are two reports that we are expected to work on; we are not close enough to any of them,” she said. “We cannot continue with the sitting and end the assignment without concluding. So, we will not be sitting from today.
“We have to collate and evaluate petitions already heard so as to make findings and recommendations, even on the Lekki shooting. But as soon as we find ourselves in a comfortable situation, we will send hearing notices for cases that have been listed.
“Please bear with us, we cannot speculate on any further extension. We have to work towards completing the assignment as early as we can.”
“This is without any prejudice to us coming back to conclude on part-heard cases. Dates will be communicated to petitioners who have petitions pending,” Okuwobi added.
The Way Forward
Meanwhile, lawyers appearing before the panel have suggested ways in which the panel could speed up its work.
A counsel to the Lagos State government and SAN, Olukayode Enitan, said the panel should have adopted the “front-loading method” when he suggested it at the beginning of the hearing.
He stated that if their application was not considered, “it will be like a bird flying with one wing,” adding that the state has never wasted time or occasioned delay at the panel.
“We have always been present, at no point were we not here and never have we requested an adjournment except for once.
“It will be most unfair to not want to hear what we want to say. I would advise that the panel adopt a process that will ensure that all sides are heard,” Enitan said.
On his part, the lawyer representing the Lekki Concession Company (LCC), Rotimi Seriki, also urged the panel to hear the expert witnesses.
“I believe that in the interest of justice and given that this is a fact-finding exercise, any piece of evidence that will allow this panel in arriving at a decision should not be shut out,” he said.
When the panel enquired if the expert witness could be flown in immediately, Enitan said no as he explained that the UK witness would be required to observe the COVID-19 travel protocol and go into quarantine before he could appear.
Adeshina Ogunlana, a lawyer representing some of the #EndSARS protesters, suggested that the panel could take the expert witness by virtual means.
He also proposed that the sitting of the panel be either extended or an additional weekday be added.