By Robert Egbe
The Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry investigating cases of brutality and human rights abuses by the Police and its disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has ended its assignment.
But the long-awaited report of the October 20, 2020 Lekki Tollgate ‘shootings’ is being prepared, Panel chair, Justice Doris Okuwobi has said.
She said the investigation of the incident, including the taking of evidence and exhibits, had been completed.
The judge emeritus assured petitioners that the panel’s recommendations would include compensation to victims, if any, of the Lekki Tollgate incident.
Police victims of the violence, if any, would also be recommended for compensation, Justice Okuwobi assured.
Untreated or unconcluded petitions, she added, will be sent to the supervising Lagos State Ministry of Justice which may set up a human rights body to handle them.
There are no fewer than 14 petitions relating to the alleged shooting incident, out of the 235 petitions received by the panel between October and December 2020.
The petitioners alleged that soldiers from the Army’s 81 Division, Victoria Island, Lagos fired live bullets on peaceful demonstrators, injuring and killing some.
They claimed that after the soldiers left, policemen arrived and shot at the protesters that returned to the scene.
But the army, which appeared thrice before the panel, denied the allegations, saying soldiers fired blank bullets in the air to disperse the crowd.
It, however, shunned repeated summons by the panel requiring it to respond to petitioners’ further questions and protesters’ evidence challenging its claims.
On October 19, 2020, the Lagos State Government inaugurated a nine-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate cases of brutality and human rights violations perpetrated by operatives of the Nigerian Police Force and the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
The panel was a response to one of the demands of youth during the #EndSARS protests, which is investigating cases of police brutality and providing restitution to the victims.
While inaugurating the panel, the Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said it was “in line with the resolution of the National Economic Council on October 15, 2020, chaired by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo.”