Human Rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, yesterday, urged Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State not to be pressurized in jettisoning the report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution to Investigate Cases of Police Brutality and the Incident of October 20, 2020 at Lekki Toll Gate.
He also tackled the Federal Government for faulting the report, insisting that it is not competent to reject the report.
Falana spoke when some leaders of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, CDHR, visited him in Lagos.
The legal luminary, however, urged the four-member Committee, headed by the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, not to tamper with the report of the panel.
He said: “According to the Tribunals of Inquiry Law, Laws of Lagos State 2015 the Justice Doris Okuwobi Commission of Enquiry was instituted by the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu last year to probe sundry allegations of police brutality in the State. Upon the conclusion of the assignment last week the Commission submitted “a full report in writing of its proceedings, findings and recommendations and record an opinion and reasons leading to its conclusions” in line with Section 15 (1) of the Law. Thereafter, the Governor set up a 4-member Committee of cabinet members headed by the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, to advise him concerning the position of the Government which will be contained in a White Paper.
“We are not unaware of the purported rejection of the report of the Commission and the pressure on the White Paper Committee by some anti democratic forces to advise the Governor to jettison the findings and recommendations of the Commission. Such critics are certainly not aware that there is no provision for the issuance of a White Paper under the Law. In other words, a White Paper is a mere administrative medium for conveying the decision or position of the Government on the report of an Administrative or Judicial Enquiry. Therefore, since the White Committee is not known to law, its members are not competent to edit, modify, alter, edit or reject the report of the Commission. More so, that the members of White Paper Committee did not have the opportunity of taking evidence from the witnesses who had testified before the Commission.
“Having regard to the letter and spirit of the Tribunal of Enquiry Law it is submitted that the Federal Government lacks the legal competence to reject the report of a Panel of Enquiry duly constituted by the Lagos State Government. “Therefore, Governor Sanwo-Olu should not hesitate to reject the gratuitous call for the rejection of the report of the Lagos Judicial Commission.
“With respect, the Governor cannot reject the report, summary of evidence and findings of the Okuwobi Judicial Commission.
“The Governor should not succumb to the blackmail of the merchants of death who have asked him to reject the report of the Commission despite the unchallenged evidence that 99 people were killed in Lagos by security forces during the #EndSARS protests.
“Finally, the Okuwobi Judicial Commission has recommended several measures to ‘assuage the pain or sense of loss’ of the victims of the brutality meted out to them and the bereaved family members of the 99 persons whose bodies were dumped in the various mortuaries in Lagos State by police and military personnel. Meanwhile, on the directive of Governor Sanwo-Olu, the Okuwobi Judicial Commission has awarded reparation to the tune of N409 million to other victims of police brutality that had occurred in Lagos State.
“Therefore, Governor Sanwo-Olu is legally obligated to implement the remaining recommendations of the Commission. On moral grounds, the Governor is equally bound by the directive of the National Economic Council to “immediately forward copies of final reports of the panels to their Attorneys-General for prompt arraignment and prosecution of all indicted persons.”