The Lagos State Judicial Panel on Restitution for Victims of SARS and the Lekki Tollgate Incident on Saturday suspended its sitting until further notice, a decision that raised concerns in some quarters.
The panel announced its suspension shortly before one of its members, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), alleged an attempt by some powerful persons to frustrate it from reaching meaningful conclusions.
The Chairman of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi (rtd), announced the decision at the resumed sitting held at the Lagos Court of Arbitration, Lekki-Epe Expressway, Lekki Phase I Estate, Lagos.
The state governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had set up the judicial panel investigate the brutality of the operatives of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and look into the grievances of victims of SARS abuses and the incidents at the Lekki Toll Gate, among other terms of reference.
Alongside Okuwobi, a retired judge of the Lagos State High Court and Adegboruwa, the seven-man panel comprises a former Deputy Inspector General of Police (AIG), Mr. Taiwo Lakanu; Director, Lagos Citizens Mediation Centre, Mrs. Olutoyin Odusanya; a civil society practitioner, Ms. Patience Udoh and two representatives of the youths.
After its proceedings yesterday, Okuwobi explained the rationale behind the decision of the panel to defer its sitting indefinitely, ascribing it to two reports that the panel had to work on.
She said: “There are two reports that we are expected to work on. We are not close enough to any of them. 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.
Just before the panel announced its decision to adjourn its sitting indefinitely, Adegboruwa, a human rights activist, alleged attempts to frustrate the panel from reaching meaningful conclusions.
Adegboruwa alleged that some powerful individuals in the state were behind the attempts to truncate the panel from completing its mandate to look into the grievances of victims of SARS abuses and the incidents at the Lekki Toll Gate.
He raised the alarms in a terse message he released to THISDAY yesterday, warning against attempts by any individuals or power-that-be to prevent the panel from concluding its mandate.
In his two-paragraph message, Adegboruwa claimed that there “are attempts to frustrate the EndSARS Judicial Panel from reaching meaningful conclusions on investigations into the Lekki Toll Gate Incident of 20th October 2020.”
The senior lawyer also promised to give details of attempts by powerful individuals to frustrate the panel from making meaningful conclusions.
Adegboruwa had initially threatened to withdraw from the judicial panel.
The senior advocate claimed that the consideration “is based on the arrest of protesters at the Lekki tollgate.”
He had then claimed that he was totally overwhelmed seeing images and videos of unarmed protesters being dehumanised, stripped half-naked and cramped together in a rickety bus.
Sanwo-Olu had constituted the judicial panel after some military officers arrived at the Lekki Toll Gate in Toyota Hilux vans and shot at peaceful protesters that converged on the tollgate.
The protesters, who were largely youths, were waving the green-and-white flag and reciting the national anthem, calling for the dissolution of SARS over unprecedented records of brutality and extra-judicial killings.
The army, which initially denied shooting at the protesters, later admitted that its men carried live bullets that night but only to tackle armed hoodlums who had hijacked the protests.