“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”
By Daniel Kanu
At last the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution on Lekki Toll Gate Shooting Incident and Cases of Police Brutality, popularly known as #EndSARS panel, headed by retired Justice Doris Okuwobi, on Monday, November 15, submitted its report to the Lagos State government, at Government House, Alausa, Ikeja.
Since then, Justice Okuwobi has been celebrated not because she did the very difficult assignment alone, but because as the chairman of the panel the outcome of the report is a reflection and clear testimony of the sterner stuff she is made of.
She could have succumbed to compromise (knowing the workings of our system) and tactically influence others to follow suit, but she refused to toe that denigrating (but financial rewarding) path.
She set a standard, providing the moral compass that other equally men and women of integrity in the panel followed religiously.
Justice Okuwobi-led panel which showed doggedness and courage in action had sat for well over one year, listening to testimonies of aggrieved petitioners, their witnesses, forensic experts and lawyers.
The panel going by the submission of the chairman had divided its assignment and report into two principal segments to comprehensively capture and cover general cases of police abuses and the special case of the Lekki Toll Gate incident.
Expectedly, the startling revelations in the report have received massive reactions from the Nigerian public as well as the international community who have waited patiently for the outcome of the panel’s report.
Those indicted by the report, particularly the Army, Police and Lekki Concession Company (LCC) seem to be uneasy.
In the face of all denials by the Army, Police and LCC that innocent lives were wasted at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, last year, the panel’s findings revealed the truth about what really happened at the “massacre ground”, contradicting the blatant denial by the federal and Lagos State government that no deadly force was used against the peaceful protesters.
All attempts to cover-up evidence of the shocking, abominable horror at the Lekki killing field was unmasked by the Justice Okuwobi-led panel.
The courageous panel had listed desperate measures taken by the soldiers, police and officials of the government to cover up evidence of the slaughter.
There were a lot of chilling shockers revealed in the report. For instance, the soldiers “removed many bodies and corpses of fallen protesters which they took away in their vans.”
Another shocker was: “One of the protesters who was shot and taken for dead, Olalekan Sanusi, who eventually escaped to narrate his ordeal and experience stated that 11 corpses were in the van, where he was placed in and presumed dead.”
Yet another bombshell: “Several unidentified bodies were removed by security agencies and LASEHMU (Lagos State Environmental Health Monitoring Unit) and deposited at various hospital mortuaries in Lagos State.
“Immediately after the protest, there was palpable fear that the Army and Police were visiting hospitals to ‘finish up’ the protesters to the extent that some of them could not return home immediately. Some of the protesters received threats and some were being trailed by unknown persons.”
Now that the report has been submitted, Nigerians, as well as some foreign countries, world bodies like the United Nations (UN), several human rights groups, including Amnesty International have called for action on the report and not to let it gather dust going by the experience of past reports in the country.
The Federal Government is still tight-lipped officially, but President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to speak on the issue as soon as the Lagos State government document, it’s White Paper, is out.
Most commentators who spoke with Sunday Sun noted that the submission of the findings of the judicial panel would accelerate the process of justice and accountability if the government will treat the recommendations of the report with absolute sincerity.
Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), in a statement, recommended that the report of the panel be forwarded to President Buhari.
The activist said that the revelation that some of the 99 dead bodies dumped in the various mortuaries in Lagos by soldiers were traced to the Lekki tollgate has exposed the official lie that the report of the brutal killings was a figment of the imagination of the protesters.
He also urged the government to implement the recommendations of the judicial panel of inquiry to rebuild trust and start the process of healing and reconciliation.
Also Revered statesman Chief Femi Okunnu, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) told Sunday Sun that the report must not be tampered with rather a white paper on it should be produced by the Lagos State government.
He also advised the government to implement report findings as it would help rebuild trust and start the process of healing and reconciliation.
Happily enough, Sanwo-Olu, who has received kudos for granting total independence to the panel, has promised to release the White Paper within two weeks for public knowledge.
According to the governor: “The committee will very quickly, look through and bring forward a white paper within the next two weeks that will be considered at the Lagos State Executive Council and would be gazetted as a white paper coming from the panel of enquiry.
As Nigerians await the release of the White Paper this week, Justice Okuwobi’s name will go down in history as one that stood tall with competence in time of critical national duty.
The only way to honour Okuwobi’s report, according to Nigerians, who spoke with Sunday Sun is to implement all recommendations, ensuring that all those indicted are arrested, prosecuted and made to face the law.
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