The awaited testimony of the Nigerian military’s involvement in the #EndSARS protest at Lekki Toll Gate before the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS and Related abuse could not hold as scheduled yesterday due to lack of quorum.
The panel could not take evidence from the military personnel due to the absence of two youth representatives, Majekodunmi Temitope and Oduala Bolatito Olorunrinu.
The two youth representatives, Majekodunmi and Oduala did not make an appearance at the panel due to the freezing by the Central Bank of Nigeria of Oduala’s First Bank of Nigeria account. Her bank account was allegedly frozen on November 6 due to her alleged sponsorship of the #EndSARS protests.
At the resumed proceedings, the Chairman of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi (rtd), announced the suspension of the sitting till November 14, 2020, citing the absence of Temitope and Olorunrinu and lack of quorum.
Prior to the adjournment, counsel to the Nigerian Army, A.T Kehinde (SAN), had announced appearance before Justice Okuwobi, saying, “We are confronted with a situation, which prevented her (Oduala Bolatito Olorunrinu) from coming.
“We do not know if the two youths representatives will eventually pull out. We don’t want a situation where proceedings would go on and later it is impugned with controversy for lack of quorum.”
The retired general further said it was important that all settings of the panel are held in accordance with the law.
“In all matters, we have to wait for them (youths representatives) to join us. Without them, we are handicapped.”
However, counsel to the Nigerian Army, A. T. Kehinde (SAN), said that they came before the panel pursuant to a summon dated October 28, 2020. He appreciated members of the panel for taking them into confidence on the challenge it is facing.
He also asked to be guided on the next date his client would appear before the panel.
Counsel to Lagos State government, Olukayode Enitan (SAN), aligned himself with the submission of Kehinde on the ground that issue of quorum is important.
Enitan said forming a quorum is of utmost importance to the integrity of recommendation to be made at the end of proceedings, “therefore, the directive for the panel to adjourn is quite appropriate.”
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Adeyinka Olumide Fusika, who appeared at the panel for the first time since the sitting commenced, said he accepted to represent some victims who wanted to make a presentation before the panel.
Fusika listed some of the victims to include Raimi Olumide, Solomon Samuel Ageze, Olamilekan Sanusi, Ayodeji Beckley, Samuel Asala, Agbese Isiawu, Onileowo Legend, among others.
He said they would await further directive from the panel.
A former Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja Branch, Adesina Ogunlana, counsel for the #EndSARS protesters, also aligned himself with the submission of other counsel.
Meanwhile, Ogunlana posited that the development within the panel was not only embarrassing to the panel but also to counsel. According to him, “I’ve privileged information that there were plans to bring in thugs to disrupt the sittings of the panel.”
Ogunlana said his interest was in ensuring that the panel heard the truth about what transpired during the protest and at the Lekki Toll Gate. He, therefore, urged and as well advised the panel to be proactive and to ask the government to do the needful.
“Government cannot approbate and reprobate. This disconnect must be addressed immediately. No doubt about the competence of the panel.
“To move forward, the panel must be proactive and give ideas to the government on what must be done,” Ogunlana said.