The review of the Retired Justice Doris Okuwobi’s #EndSARS panel findings on the incident which occurred at the Lekki Toll Gate in October 2020 by Lagos state government has been described as illegal.
Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana, said the White Paper committee set up by the Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu did not have the legal backing and competence to edit, modify, alter or reject the report of the commission.
He said, “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.
“The governor cannot reject the report, summary of evidence and findings of the Okuwobi Judicial Commission in any material particular.
“In a bid to discredit the findings of the Lagos State Judicial Panel on Restitution for victims of SARS-Related Abuses and Other Matters, the White Paper Committee acted ultra vires by advising the governor to accept, reject or refer the recommendations of the panel to the Federal Government. Thus, the state government arrogantly stated that the claim that nine people died at LTG on October 21, 2020, from gunshots fired by the military are based on assumptions and speculations.”
Recall, that the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, had given reasons why the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, cannot reject the report of the judicial panel on police brutality.
In a speech delivered on Thursday when some leaders of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights visited him in Lagos, Falana said, “Pursuant to the Tribunals of Inquiry Law, Laws of Lagos State, 2015, the Justice Doris Okuwobi Commission of Enquiry was instituted by the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, last year to probe allegations of police brutality in the State.
“Upon the conclusion of the assignment last week, the commission submitted ‘a full report in writing of its proceedings, findings and recommendations, records, opinions, and reasons leading to its conclusions’ in line with Section 15(1) of the Law.
“Thereafter, the governor set up a four-member committee of cabinet members headed by the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), to advise him with respect to the position of the Government which will be contained in a White Paper.
“We are not unaware of the purported rejection of the report of the commission by the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, and the pressure on the White Paper Committee by some anti-democratic forces to advise the governor to jettison the findings and recommendations of the commission.”
Falana said critics were not aware that there is no provision for the issuance of a White Paper under the law.
He described a White Paper as a mere administrative medium for conveying the decision or position of the government on the report of an administrative or judicial enquiry.
He added, “Since the White Paper Committee is not known to law, its members are not competent to edit, modify, alter, edit or reject the report of the Commission. More so, that the members of the White Paper Committee did not have the opportunity of taking evidence from the witnesses who had testified before the Commission.
“Having regard to the letter and spirit of the Tribunal of Enquiry Law, it is submitted that the Federal Government lacks the legal competence to reject the report of a panel of enquiry duly constituted by the Lagos State Government. Therefore, Governor Sanwo-Olu should not hesitate to reject the gratuitous call for the rejection of the report of the Lagos Judicial Commission by Mr Lai Mohammed.
“Once a White Paper is issued by the governor on the recommendations, the institutions and individuals indicted by the commission may wish to approach the High Court to challenge any aspect of the report.”