Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), a member of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry, has tackled the Lagos State government over the release and contents of the White Paper concerning the Lekki Toll Gate shooting, as well as claims regarding members of the panel.
Adegboruwa made his stance known in a statement on Wednesday in reaction to comments made by Moyosore Onigbanjo, the Attorney-General of Lagos State, earlier in the day.
The Lagos State government on Tuesday released its White Paper of the panel’s report, which was submitted to Babajde Sanwo-Olu, the state governor, on 15 November.
The panel had in its report stated that nine persons were killed during the #EndSARS protest at the toll gate on October 20, 2020, adding that the action of the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force on the night could be equated to a massacre.
However, the state government dismissed the findings of the panel, describing the report of deaths as “assumptions and speculations”.
Providing more details on the state’s verdict, Onigbanjo, who headed a four-man committee that prepared the White Paper, accused members of the panel of mismanaging the funds issued to them through the state Ministry of Justice.
Reacting, Adegboruwa faulted the manner of release of the White Paper, saying the state government is yet to provide members of the panel with the document to study it.
He also chided the Lagos Attorney-General over the claim of funds mismanagement, insisting that members of the panel sacrificed in order to get the report well-prepared.
The statement read: “Since November 15, 2021, when the Reports of the #EndSARS Judicial Panel were submitted to the Lagos State Government, a good number of my colleagues, friends and admirers prevailed on me to refrain from further public pronouncements on the activities and reports of the Panel since the government was studying the said reports.
“Upon the submission of the said reports, lawyers on the payroll of the government and other employees of the government, took turns to denigrate the reports, on national television, in paid adverts in newspapers and on the social media.
“Ministers in the Cabinet of the Federal Government have also commented on the said reports, in some cases calling members of the Panel unprintable names and even comparing victims of brutality and human rights abuses to goats and taunting their already traumatized families and friends.
“On November 30, 2021, the government released two separate White Papers, to the general public. The Panel was not informed of this action and it was not availed copies of the said White Papers, till this moment.
“The Committee that reviewed the Reports of the Panel and which produced the White Papers was headed by the Honourable Attorney-General of Lagos State.
“On December 1, 2021, the Honourable Attorney-General of Lagos State was a guest on Arise Television, where he took time to discuss the Reports of the Panel and the contents of the White Papers that his Committee produced. The impression was also created that the Panel mismanaged funds released to it.
“It has become necessary therefore for me and all other Members of the Panel to study the White Papers and make appropriate responses thereto. There will be no holds barred, since the government itself has opened the doors for public scrutiny of the report and the White Papers.”
The senior lawyer also criticised the content of the White Paper, noting that the panel made its findings and recommendations based on the evidence presented before it during its sitting.
He added that “nothing can ever cover the truth” concerning the toll gate shooting.
The statement read: “For the records, the Panel relied upon the evidence of witnesses, documents tendered before it and the goodwill of the people of Nigeria, throughout its assignment.
“It is painful for me and the Panel that the government is creating the wrong impression of financial impropriety as a tool of distraction when the Panel had a Secretariat that managed all its funds, through the Ministry of Justice.
“Although I served on the Panel free of charge without collecting a dime, I know as a fact that other members served sacrificially, giving up their time, families and careers for a whole year.
“At the appropriate time, we will respond to all the inaccuracies, the coverups and the inconsistencies contained in the White Papers released by the government.
“Assuredly, nothing can ever cover the truth. What happened at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, was already in the public domain, those who received the bullets knew what happened and the doctors that treated them knew what happened. The Panel reports only confirmed what most Nigerians already knew.”