Human RightsNews

#ENDSARS: Confusion As Judicial Panel Orders Reopening Of Lekki Toll Gate

Lagos state judicial panel receiving petitions from the public relating to the #ENDSARS protest has okayed Lekki tollgate’s reopening, after a voting session among panel members.

A mild drama broke out on Saturday at the sitting of the Lagos State Judicial Panel set up to look into the events of police brutality and shooting of #ENDSARS protesters on Oct. 20, 2020, at the Lekki tollgate after members of the panel disagreed over the reopening of the toll gate plaza approved by the panel.

On Tuesday, Oct. 20, personnel of the Nigerian Army allegedly shot at demonstrators protesting against the high-handedness of the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) at the Lekki tollgate after Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor of Lagos State, had imposed a curfew the same day to contain the violence which had broken out in some parts of the state.

While Amnesty International put the death toll at 12, the army, at the beginning of the panel sitting, denied killing anyone and insisted that the soldiers had fired only blank bullets at the protesters.

Neither of the claims could be ascertained as street lights and surveillance cameras —usually around all corners of the tollgate—were put off on the night of the incident with the Lekki Concession Company (LCC), the operators in charge of them, claiming network problems caused the cameras to stop working at 20:00, some moments before the shooting.

Responding to allegations that the company deliberately switched off the lights and cameras at the protest ground, Abayomi Omomuwasan, the Managing Director of the LCC, said the curfew had prevented the company staff from putting on generators to power the lights.

Amidst the controversy, the tollgate was indefinitely shut down.

Repossession

On Saturday the nine-man panel handed over the control of the tollgate back to the Lekki Concession Company (LCC), after the company, through Rotimi Seriki, its counsel, had entered a plea for repair and insurance claims last December.

But the panel first stalled the hand-over because a forensic expert was to examine the toll gate, concerning the Oct. 20 shooting incident.

Slated for release on Tuesday, the forensic examination report was yet to be disclosed by the panel.

Presenting the repossession application, Seriki argued that the possession of the toll gate plaza was for the purpose of “evaluating the damage done so as to be able to make insurance claims needed to effect the necessary repairs which he said would last about two months.”

As the Chairman of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi listened to the argument for the reopening of the plaza, four members of the panel including Segun Awosanya (popularly known as Segalink), Oluwatoyin Odusanya (Director, Citizen’s Right), DIG Taiwo Lakanu ( representing the police) and Lucas Koyejo (from the National Human Rights Commission), gave their nods in support.

Disagreement

But as Justice Okuwobi ruled that the LCC be allowed to repossess the toll gate, other aggrieved members of the panel bickered over the ruling, arguing that it was “premature” to open the tollgate.

The four members, led by Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said the LCC hid evidence from the forensic expert sent to examine the Lekki shooting incident; thus, their disapproval of the panel’s decision to reopen the tollgate.

The others were Patience Udoh, a lawyer and human rights activist (representing the civil society organisations), Rinuola Oduola and Temitope Majekodunmi (representing the youth).

“The Youth Reps at the Lagos judicial panel of inquiry and restitution for victims of SARS related abuses & Lekki Toll Gate Incident will like to formally express our dissent to the order allowing for the repossession of Lekki Toll Gate,” the representative of the youth said.

“We’d like to remind the public this panel was set up on our 5 For 5 demands during the nationwide protests against police brutality. So any decision without considering the opinions of the Youth Reps reflected in the rulings will be in violation of rules that set up this panel.”

“We have made efforts to communicate our position on the application by LCC to take repossession of the Lekki Toll Gate to the Chairlady as required by the rules of the panel but our dissent wasn’t reflected in the ruling.”


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Aishat Babatunde

Aishat Babatunde heads the digital reporting desk. Before joining HumAngle, she worked at Premium Times and Nigerian Tribune. She is a graduate of English from the University of Ibadan.

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