The Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry for Restitution for Victims of SARS related abuses and the Lekki Tollgate Incident, yesterday, urged victims of the October 20 shooting of #EndSARS protesters by Army personnel to come forward with their petitions.
This came on a day a member of the panel, Mr. Ebun-olu Adegboruwa, SAN, said that the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, may have tampered with exhibits at the scene of the Lekki shooting in Lagos State.
Similarly, former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olabode George, yesterday, condemned the killings of some youths at Lekki toll gate during the protest against police brutality.
Chairperson of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi (retd), who spoke during the panel’s sitting, said that the judicial panel had so far received 15 petitions from abused victims of the disbanded SARS.
Okuwobi said that the panel is independent of the Lagos State Government and will ensure that individuals with valid complaints of human rights violations will receive immediate compensation.
She said: “If their cases are disposed off in a month or two, compensation, if recommended, should go to the victims immediately to assuage their pains.
“We are looking forward to memoranda from those affected by the unfortunate incident of the shooting at the Lekki Tollgate plaza by the military.
“The panel has received not less than 15 petitions relating to the disbanded SARS. “We are indeed ready to commence the public sitting. The petitions are here without the petitioners around, the panel will start full proceedings tomorrow (Oct. 27).
“We are relying on the civil society to assist the panel with credible evidence of the killings at the Lekki Tollgate Plaza.
“This is to ensure that there will be good evidence to assist the panel make appropriate recommendations in respect of all terms of reference of the panel.”
On its part, the Lagos State House of Assembly, yesterday, set up an Ad-Hoc Committee to ascertain the level of damage and offer suggestions. The House also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intensify the move for the creation of state police.
Members of the Committee are Deputy Speaker, Wasiu Sanni-Eshinlokun, Abiodun Tobun, Rotimi Olowo, Ajani Owolabi, Ganiyu Okanlawon, Victor Akande, Rasheed Makinde, Ibrahim Layode and Akeem Shokunle.
The House had embarked on an inspection tour of the scenes of the carnage which include the Lagos High Court, BRT Oyingbo Terminal, Fagba, Isokoko and Pen Cinema Police Stations, Oba Akiolu’s Palace, City Hall and Public Works Corporation.
While debating on the issue, members took turns to condemn the carnage and death of the protesters at the Lekki Tollgate. In his remarks, the Speaker, Mr. Mudashiru Obasa, who commiserated with victims of the looting and vandalisation, urged Lagosians to protect their properties.
He said: “The events that have taken over our state and by extension Nigeria within the past two weeks regarding the #EndSARS protests and its aftermath are such that call for concerns in their entirety.
“The Lagos House of Assembly was the first in the nation to identify with the cause of the youths asking for an end to police brutality in the nation and we threw our weight behind the movement.”
Similarly, a member of the panel, Mr. Adegboruwa, faulted Mr. Fashola saying he may have tampered with exhibits at the scene of the Lekki shooting in Lagos State.
On Sunday, Fashola was said to have found a camera while on a tour of the tollgate where #EndSARS protesters demonstrated for 13 days before they were forcefully dispersed.
In a statement, Adegboruwa said: “Since the panel has been vested with jurisdiction over the Lekki toll plaza, I verily believe that it is illegal for anyone else to conduct any visit to the said Lekki toll plaza in the absence of and without the authority and consent of the panel.
“It was reported that in the course of the visit, the former governor of Lagos State and the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), discovered a hidden camera, which he took.
This is a clear case of illegally tampering with exhibits that may become useful to the panel in the course of its assignment. “I appeal to the Governor of Lagos State to allow the panel the full autonomy and independence that was promised at the time of inauguration.
It is contempt of the panel for anyone to usurp the powers of the panel in the way that has been reported.”
Meanwhile, a PDP chieftain, Chief George said that the protest was a result of a failed system where structures of power are hindering merit and excellence.
Speaking at a press conference, George said: “Our ethos and norms have broken down. It is this very anomaly which is much pronounced in Lagos state than any other part of our nation that galvanized the ENDSARS protests.
He, however, recommended that the two Toll gates at Lekki should be dismantled saying it remains a sacred ground where innocent lives were cut short abruptly.
He said: “At the Admiralty Circle Tollgate specifically where bullets rained on that black Tuesday 20- 10-2020, a monument should be erected as a permanent memorial to honor the young men and women who stood up in peaceful protests against the ills in our society.
“I have chosen to talk. I have chosen to identify with the voiceless, the helpless, the trampled, the hapless, the selfless members of the armed forces and the police.
But I do not speak with any partisan badge. I speak as a Nigerian patriot. I speak as an Elder Statesman. I speak as the AtÍna Odua of Yorubaland. I speak as a Lagosian original.”