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Steve Omoriayewa

The report of the Lagos State Panel of Inquiry and Restitution, which was submitted, last Monday, to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has continued to generate mixed reactions from residents and those with vested interests outside the State.

It is not unexpected that the recommendations of the panel, led by Justice Dorcas Okuwobi, have been trailed by strong statements of support and condemnation by those who, prior to the panel’s final verdict, had locked in protracted arguments to validate or invalidate alleged carnage at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020.

Of course, this vexed issue returned to be a dominant topic of debate, despite the latitude of time allotted to the panel to probe into the incident at the toll gate and produce a believable evidence. The report turned in by the panel, sadly, has invoked another round of controversies and brought out more puzzles than answers to claim a massacre.

However, this is not the crux of this piece. Rather, it is the disturbing outburst of a member of the panel, who has been on a binge of self-adulation and pathetic display of self-glorification, speaking from both sides of the mouth as though, he is a Praetorian Guard for the law and morality. In all, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa has consistently displayed inconsistencies in his attempts to whip up sentiments, setting aside the basic principle of the law, which is evidence and going for emotions and sentiments.

Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN!

No doubt, Adegboruwa is a sound and venerated star in the legal galaxy. His nomination and eventual enlistment into the panel raised people’s hopes and expectations, given his pedigree in human rights activism. But the legal practitioner failed woefully to prove his mettle and support evidence-based report.

That the report of the panel is being torn apart by surfeit of inconsistencies by people whose hopes were dashed by the sloppiness of the panel to establish a massacre are beginning to question Adegboruwa’s professional integrity.

To begin with, since Monday when the panel submitted its report, Adegboruwa had issued series of scathing, yet contradictory statements to railroad Lagos State government into adopting the blemished report which many now describe as “predetermined conclusions”.

The statements are a face-saving attempt by the petulant lawyer to cover for his professional negligence after the reality dawned on him that people would question the panel members for a report saturated with fundamental errors and unsubstantiated claims.

Less than an hour after Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor of Lagos, received the report, Adegboruwa released a statement on his social media page, threatening to reveal the content of the panel submission should the Governor make an attempt to cover-up.

“I will…keep observing the turn of events and at the appropriate time, one may be forced to state the FULL contents of the report if the promises made are not fulfilled. I can NEVER and will NEVER subscribe to anything that would amount to covering up the report of the Panel,” Adegboruwa wrote.

For any discerning person, that statement came across as hasty and preemptive. Ironically, Adegboruwa, in the same statement, attested that the Governor did not interfere throughout the period of the panel sitting. Why the inconsistencies? In one breath, you doubted the integrity of the Government to do the right thing, in another applauded the Governor for his uprightness.

If the Panel members had been accorded such indisputable latitude to be independent, why then would Adegboruwa insinuate and subtly accuse the Government of an attempt to cover up? This is highly offensive.

Let’s now look at the gross display of professional ineptitude by the Senior Advocate of Nigeria when he said in his first press release via his Facebook page that Government should just release the recommendations of the flawed panel report without mindful of an existing law backing the setting up of such panel.

Ebun wrote: “It is my view that Lagos State having appeared before the Panel as a party, having tendered documents before the Panel and led witnesses to take a position on the Incident of the Lekki Toll Gate, it will be unfair and improper for Lagos State to be a judge in its own cause, by seeking to review the report of the Panel. However, the Governor explained to me that this would only be done to enable the government implement the findings and recommendations of the Panel and not to tamper with it or mutilate it. I believe His Excellency.”

But Ebun clearly forgot to read the provisions of the Tribunal Law 2015 in arriving at his conclusion on the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters.

However, Ebun made a quick turn around and called for the White Paper after the erudite lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria Abiodun Owonikoko appeared on Arise TV to set the record straight and reminded him of the legal necessity for the White Paper.

Another flip to Adegboruwa’s inconsistencies is seen here where he said ” it will be unfair and improper for Lagos State to be a judge in its own cause, by seeking to review the report of the Panel”. Same man later confessed his vested interest in Lekki Toll Plaza. He wrote:

“My principled struggles in respect of toll fee collection started way back from 2011, almost nine years before the Panel was inaugurated.”
The above then places huge moral burdens on Adegboruwa on the question of what qualifies him to serve in a committee on matters affecting the Lekki Toll Plaza if he felt as stated above that Lagos State Government should not review his flawed reports on the same Lekki Toll Gate, because it has interest in it. Ebun is simply inconsistent!

What about the oath of confidentiality sworn to by members of the Panel? The Lagos Lawyer breached that oath with his rush for media accolades and self-aggrandisement.

Also, the pugnacious lawyer, whom we expect not to be told the procedure of such exercise, made an indicting conclusion when he wrote: “Nigerians should demand for justice against all culprits who have been named in detail, in our report.” Is this to set the tone for the expected White Paper from Lagos Government?

Now that holes are daily being picked in the report, should Adegboruwa still be taken seriously as a lawyer?

The report was ‘leaked’ to the press on the same Monday by a member and less than an hour after Adegboruwa released his press statement! Adegboruwa, who apparently wanted to deflect attention away from himself as the culprit, quickly issued another statement (November 18), saying members of the panel were being vilified unjustly by those suspected to be government agents.

Must anyone work or have affiliation with the government to decipher the falsehood packaged as independent recommendations of the panel? Adegboruwa probably could not adequately dissect the disappointment of his admirers who expected him and other members of the panel to be thorough in their findings and submission.

As it is, the panel’s recommendations are not convincing enough to debunk the insinuation that the so-called “Lekki massacre” is nothing but a weaponised narrative being used to blackmail the government.

Given his strong ideological stance, Adegboruwa’s inclusion in the panel was well applauded and expected to stimulate unbiased inquiry and adherence to ethical standards throughout the sitting. But, Ebun was said to have been absent at the panel more than six months consecutively than the time he was present. Yet, he gleefully appended his signature to the conclusions of the panel he barely attended.

While offering weak explanation for his absent days, Adegboruwa claimed it was an understanding between him and the Governor upon his enlistment to be a part-time member at the sitting.

This argument punctured Adegboruwa’s sense of self-glorification which has been on the display, albeit pathetically, after the panel turned in the report last Monday. How sensible does it sound to Adegboruwa himself, that an absentee judge go all out to pontificate over a verdict he was not fully present in deciding?

Those who believe Adegboruwa betrayed the ethical standards of his calling and personal ideology are not necessarily saying that the legal practitioner has curried pecuniary gain; they are rather disappointed by the fact that the panel’s recommendations relied mostly on unsubstantiated narratives which time has exposed as tissue of lies. Yet the ‘respected’ lawyer appended his signature and deployed all his intellect to support, justify and make attempts to railroad the embarrassing claims into becoming content of the government’s White Paper.

We must also not lose sight of Adegboruwa’s attempts to railroad the Government into accepting the garbage he concocted into the failed report hook, line and sinker without interrogation by saying:

“I urge the government to focus on the findings and far-reaching recommendations contained in the report, in order to pursue the laudable objectives of setting up the Panel to achieve true healing and reconciliation, instead of seeking to demonize Panel members and their report or to evade responsibility.”

By every standard, this is an act of professional carelessness on the part of Adegboruwa and being haughty cannot make him to look like someone who has a mind of his own. He pledged to be thorough in the discharge of his duty at the panel, but his involvement has compounded our confusion rather than establishing the truth.

Finally, Adegboruwa should learn something from this exercise that the truth is constant. You cannot manufacture what did happen. It must have happened before you come forward to report it, with fact based evidence that it truly happened. Ebun should stop his ridiculous tirade in his attempts to cover up the mess he brought upon himself.

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‘Our administration has strengthened ties among arms of govt’ – Oyetola

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…pledges to continue to support Judiciary in Osun to perform its role

… Oyetola’s Administration has been very supportive to our cause – CJ, Adepele Ojo

The Governor of Osun, Adegboyega Oyetola, on Tuesday, said his Administration had strengthened the fundamental ties between the three arms of government as reflected in the peaceful cohesion existing in the State.

He said the Administration has given the other arms of government a pride of place to operate without being internally or externally influenced, saying they occupied a conspicuous place in the ranking of Osun as the most peaceful State in Nigeria.

The Governor pledged to continuously strengthen independence of the judiciary, noting that the right mechanisms had been put in place for that arm of government to perform its role as the hope of the common man.

This is even as the Chief Judge of Osun, Justice Oyebola Adepele Ojo, noted that the Administration of Governor Oyetola holds the judiciary in high esteem as evidenced in his continuous support and commitment to strengthen the administration of justice and guarantee the welfare and well-being of judicial officers.

Governor Oyetola spoke during the Special Religious Services and Inspection of Guard of Honour at the Grand Finale marking the beginning of 2021-2022 Legal Year of Osun State Judiciary, at State High Court, Osogbo.

Oyetola who had earlier identified with the members of the judiciary at the Osogbo Central Mosque and Osogbo Anglican Church Cathedral for inter-denominational prayer sessions, acknowledged the harmonious and cordial relationship between the three arms of government in the State.

According to him, the Osun Judiciary has demonstrated on all fronts that it is on the side of the people at all times and it is incumbent on the government to allow the testimony to persist.

The Governor who noted that the judiciary had been part of the success story of his Administration, said “we are lucky in Osun for having harmonious and cordial relationship between the three arms of government as the existing symbiotic relationship has yielded positive impacts and unprecedented transformation in the last three years of our Administration.”

He implored members of the judiciary to continue to dispense justice and uphold the ethics of their profession.

“I therefore urge you to sustain this confidence by always allowing the fear of God and truth to be cardinal considerations in the dispensation of justice.

“You must also ensure that you sustain professionalism and the ethics of your profession that have stood you out as the friend of the common man and the hope of the people in a democracy.

“Our Administration holds the Judiciary in high esteem. We shall always ensure that the right mechanisms are put in place to ensure its independence at all times so that it can perform its role as the hope of the common man and the people.

“The three arms of Government have been remarkably united in serving the people without compromising their independence and distinctive roles under our Administration.

“The Judiciary occupies a conspicuous place in the ranking and recognition of Osun as the most peaceful State in Nigeria in view of its commitment to ensuring that justice is served in all situations and at all times. I thank the Officers in the Temple of Justice for this display of professionalism and patriotism,” Oyetola said.

He said his Administration has been working hard to ensure social inclusion and sustain peace hence the need to institutionalise inclusive and participatory governance.

Oyetola stated further: “The ultimate goal of instituting these laudable objectives is the delivery of a stronger, more prosperous and better Osun. This is only achievable in an atmosphere of peace.

“We invite the Judiciary to continue to complement our efforts by dispensing justice in a manner that will not only ensure peace but make the people to believe in and trust government.

“As you have wisely committed this Legal Year into the hands of God, I have confidence in the Almighty that it shall be a peaceful, eventful and successful year and a prosperous and rewarding one for Osun.”

In her remarks, the Chief Judge of Osun, Hon. Justice Oyebola Adepele Ojo, expressed gratitude to Governor Oyetola for giving the judiciary the pride of place to operate without interference or hitches.

Justice Ojo lauded the Administration of Governor Oyetola for continually allowing mutually-beneficial relationship between the three arms of government, this, she said had helped to retain and sustain the relative peace existing in the State.

She appreciated the Governor for always coming to their aid, saying this had gone a long way to ensure smooth dispensation of justice at all levels.

“The relationship between the Osun State Judiciary and other arms of government remains ever cordial with mutual respect for each other. We must commend Mr. Governor for his good sense of leadership duty and for his prompt response to issues affecting the Judiciary as occasions call for them.

“We are equally grateful to Mr. Governor for his unending love for Osun State Judiciary and we know that with Your Excellency’s support, this new legal year will be best ever in our history,” she added.

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EndSARS: SANWO-OLU CALLS FOR HARMONY

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… Invites youths for Peace Walk to herald ‘healing of Lagos’

Lagos State deserves true healing after the disturbances that trailed last year’s protests against police brutality, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said on Tuesday.

He said only sustenance of harmony can guarantee the realisation of aspirations of all residents.

Sanwo-Olu spoke in a live broadcast held at the State House, Alausa, on the State Government’s position on the recommendations of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on EndSARS submitted a fortnight ago.

The Governor said the State currently faced the hard choice of restoring harmony or doing itself a great harm, urging residents to join his administration in strengthening harmony and put the State on the path of peace.

Sanwo-Olu asked residents to reject those fueling anarchy and suspicion, clinging to unsubstantiated belief that carried no weight of verifiable evidence, while choosing emotion over facts.

His administration, he said, is ready to facilitate better communication between the youths and the State’s security machinery to resolve issues before they become intractable.

He said he would be leading ‘A Walk for Peace’ in December to herald the healing of the land, extending an open invitation to the youths, members of the diplomatic corps, civil society groups, students and the media as well as other stakeholders to join him in the Peace Walk.

The Governor specifically invited Folarin Falana (Falz), Debo Adebayo (Mr. Marcaroni), Dele Farotimi, Temitope Majekodunmi, Segun Awosanya (Segalinks), Adedotun (Just Detoun), Seun Kuti, Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu and Commander of Rapid Response Squad (RRS), CSP Yinka Egbeyemi and others to join him in the “historic march for our dear Lagos.”

He said: “Nobody will build this city for us. Let us show the world who we are. We are Lagosians. A people of great renown, driven by the irrepressible spirit of Lagos. It is a testimony to our strength and resilience as a people that, despite the huge losses incurred because of these terrible incidents, we have bounced back, with our economy as vibrant and virile as ever. I have no doubt whatsoever that our prospects are as bright as ever and the best lies ahead of Lagos State and Nigeria.

“We will make it easier for our young people to initiate formal complaints on human rights violations through the Ministry of Justice. We will also improve the coordination between the state government and the security agencies, including the police and the military. In this vein, we are studying how to improve security policy formulation, information sharing, and clarifying rules of engagement in times of social unrest.

“Just as we have established a mechanism to compensate all those who lost homes, businesses, and livelihoods to the violent destruction of October 2020, we shall also establish a detailed procedure for the just compensation of citizens with verified claims of police brutality committed during the protests.”

Speaking on last year’s EndSARS protests and the events that followed, especially the hijack of the protests by hoodlums, which led to the destruction of public and private property worth billions of naira, the Governor said the Government, the youth, protesters, the Police and other security agencies have learned the appropriate lessons from the EndSARS protests, particularly the Lekki Tollgate incident, with a view to averting any recurrence to the detriment of the State.

On mixed reactions following the release of the report of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry, Sanwo-Olu said his administration remained committed to the process that would bring a closure to a “painful episode” in the history of the State.

The much-expected White Paper, the Governor pledged, will be issued later in the day.

He recalled that the panel was originally inaugurated to investigate allegations of police brutality committed by the disbanded SARS and in the aftermath of what happened on October 20, 2020, he decided to expand the mandate to include investigating what happened at the Lekki Tollgate that night.

He said: “As a matter of good faith and a sincere commitment to uncovering the truth, we constituted a panel of individuals that we believed were independent, credible, and representative of the various stakeholder communities interested in the movement against police brutality.

“Apart from the chairman of the panel being a respected retired jurist, various stakeholders including the youths, #EndSARS protesters, the police and civil society groups were represented on the panel. I am sure no member of the panel can claim that the State Government made any attempt to influence them in any way throughout the duration of its sitting.

“While I commend the panel for undertaking its task to the best of its abilities, it is however regrettable that the panel’s work and the leakage of an unauthorised version of the report have generated much tension. Sadly, a deep wound has been reopened.

“The heated exchanges among various shades of opinion on the report have unfortunately put us all at the risk of missing the larger picture; the fact that what we all seek in common is a land in which we are all safe and secure, law enforcement agents are trusted, and justice is guaranteed for all.

“We have no intention to engage in histrionics or further inflame passion on a matter that has generated intense interest and controversy nationally and internationally. Our decisions and actions will be based entirely on the law, the weight of evidence, and unblemished respect for the truth.”

Governor Sanwo-Olu, while expressing his administration’s commitment to end human rights abuses, said he has never been in any doubt as to the sincerity, patriotism and noble motivations of both organisers of EndSARS protests and those who participated in the movement to see an end to the human rights abuses by the now disbanded Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS).

He said it is also on record that the Federal Government accepted all the demands of the protesters, including the immediate scrapping of SARS, adding that the National Economic Council (NEC) also recommended the establishment of State Panels of Inquiry into cases of police brutality and the Lagos State Government was the first to set up its own panel.

He said: “I can boldly say that no State took the advocacy for police reforms and justice in the face of documented brutality more seriously than we did in Lagos. We have so far paid N420 million in compensation to victims of police brutality, in line with the recommendations of the panel.

“My good people of Lagos State, you will also recall that in solidarity with the protesters, I joined our youths at various points during the demonstrations, particularly at the Lekki Tollgate and Alausa.

“I received the charter of demands of the protesters and promised to pass them on to the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari.

“I kept my word and passed on the demands to the President, who promised to act promptly on the issues raised. However, perhaps as a result of entrenched lack of trust between the government and the governed over the years, the protesters responded to the government’s concessions with skepticism, and the demonstrations continued, even growing in intensity.

“Regrettably, what had been very well organized and peaceful protests were subsequently hijacked in different parts of the country, particularly in Lagos. In the ensuing descent into anarchy, many of our compatriots were caught up in the violence. Several policemen were killed. Public and private property, including critical infrastructure, were set on fire, leading to losses estimated at several billions of naira.

“At that point, I imposed a curfew to restore normalcy in Lagos. We had only one goal in mind: the maintenance of law and order, and the protection of citizens going about their daily lives. This is more than a legal duty. It is a sacred obligation under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which I swore to uphold,” the governor explained.

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