The sitting of the Lagos State Panel of Judicial Inquiry probing the alleged shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki toll gate was frustrated on Saturday due to the absence of the two youth members of the panel, Oluwarinu Oduala, and Temitope Majekodunmi.
Oduala, who is one of the arrowheads of the #EndSARS protest, failed to show up for the Saturday sitting in protest against the freezing of her bank account by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The PUNCH had reported that the CBN obtained a court order freezing the accounts of 20 #EndSARS promoters till January 2021. One of those affected was Oduala.
The chairman of the judicial, retired Justice Doris Okuwobi, said the panel had no other option but to suspend Saturday sitting as it could not form a quorum in the absence of the two youths.
Justice Okuwobi said, “We are confronted with a situation which prevented her (Oduala) 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.”
Justice Okuwobi stressed that it was important for all the sittings of the panel to be 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,” she said.
The panel had scheduled Saturday to take the testimony of the Nigerian Army on the October 20 shootings by soldiers at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos.
A military person had already taken the witness stand when Justice Okuwobi announced that the sitting could not proceed.
Responding, counsel for the Nigerian Army, A. T. Kehinde (SAN), who explained that the army’s appearance on Saturday was pursuant to an October 28 summons issued by the panel, appreciated the panel for explaining its challenges to everyone.
He asked to be guided on the next date his client would appear before the panel.
Also speaking, counsel for the Lagos State Government, Olukayode Enitan (SAN), aligned himself with the submission by the counsel for the Army.
“The issue of a quorum is of utmost importance as to the competence of the panel to proceed and as to the integrity of recommendation to be made at the end of proceedings.
“Therefore, the directive for the panel to adjourn is quite appropriate,” Enitan said.
Counsel for #EndSARS protesters, Mr Adesina Ogunlana, described the development as an embarrassment to both the panel and lawyers.
Ogunlana, who claimed to have privileged information about plans to disrupt the panel sittings with thugs, 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,” he said.
Also, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, who said he was before the panel on behalf of some victims who wanted to make presentations before the panel said he would need the panel’s directive in view of the development.
Olumide-Fusika gave the names of some of his clients as Raimi Olumide, Solomon Samuel Ageze, Olamilekan Sanusi, Ayodeji Beckley, Samuel Asala, Agbese Isiawu, Onileowo Legend.
Justice Okuwobi adjourned further sitting of the panel till next Saturday, November 14.
The panel had on Friday fixed next Tuesday, November 10, to continue the viewing of the video footage of the Lekki shootings submitted by the Lekki Concession Company, operator of the toll gate.
In an interview with journalists, the #EndSARS protesters’ lawyer, Ogunlana, said the freezing of the bank accounts of the arrowheads of the protests had substantiated his submission to the panel on Friday that his life and those of his clients were being threatened.
He declared the freezing of the protesters’ accounts as a declaration of war by government.
Ogunlana said, “Why are they boycotting the panel? Why did they choose to boycott the panel? It is because one of them has been sanctioned by the Federal Government via the court.
“These people say, ‘How can you put us on a panel for the purpose of resolving this issue and then you are sanctioning us very drastically?’
“We are talking about financial squeeze; they can’t operate their accounts again; that’s declaration of war. You know one of the ways of fighting a war is starvation. So, these people are saying you can’t ask us to do a job, promising peace and progress, then you are punishing us. That is what happened. And the law setting the panel up say those young people, representatives of the youth are necessary. So, their presence is necessary for the panel to form a quorum.”