Femi Falana, a human rights lawyer, has described the White Paper produced by the Lagos State government from the state’s Judicial Panel of Inquiry into the Lekki Toll Gate shooting as illegal.
Falana, who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), made his stance known in a statement on Friday.
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”.
The government also faulted the duplication of names and details in the report, saying it created contradictions, as well as “doubts and gaps”.
But speaking on the development, Falana said the White Paper committee set up by Governor Sanwo-Olu lacked the legal backing and competence to edit, modify, alter or reject the report of the commission.
Citing section 15 (2) of the Tribunals of Inquiry Law of Lagos State, Falana said the report of the judicial panel is as effective as a judgment of the Lagos state high court, thus its findings can only be challenged in a competent court.
He wrote: “When the government set up a White Paper committee a fortnight ago, I questioned its legal validity. It was my view that since the committee is unknown to law, the members were 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.
“I argued further than that the governor cannot reject the report, summary of evidence and findings of the Okuwobi Judicial Commission in any material particular.
“I am not unaware that it is the practice of governments to issue a white paper on the report of a commission of inquiry. But since there is no provision for a White Paper under the law the Lagos state government is bound by the findings and recommendations of the Panel.
“Therefore, any institution and individual indicted by the commission may wish to approach the High Court to challenge any aspect of the report. Since the White Paper committee is illegal its findings are of no moment.
“By insisting that only one person was killed at the Lekki Toll Gate, the writers of the White Paper contradicted an earlier statement by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu that two people were killed following a violent attack on peaceful protesters by Nigerian soldiers.”