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  • Opinion
  • Updated: Mar 27, 2021

#ENDSARS Perspectives: Reopening Lekki Tollgate Despite Pending Proceedings

#ENDSARS Perspectives: Reopening Lekki Tollgate Despite Pend

The decision of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry to return the control of the tollgate to the Lekki Concession Company (LCC) has been heavily criticized by Nigerians.

Following October 2020 Lekki shootings during the #ENDSARS campaign, the Lagos State Government had set-up the panel to investigate the incident. While investigations and proceedings are still ongoing, the panel of inquiry gave the ruling for the reopening of Lekki tollgate. One of the reactions to that ruling, which many terms to be insensitive was the recent #OccupyLekkiTollgate that took place on February 13, 2021, to protest against the reopening.

There have been back and forth arguments about the propriety of the move, since the objective behind setting up the panel is yet to be realised with victims yet to get justice.

Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN, a member of the panel of inquiry that voted against the reopening, described the decision of the panel as hasty and premature. 

According to Reports, Adegboruwa SAN said;

"Investigation by the Panel over the Lekki Toll Gate incident is still ongoing. It will therefore be premature to hand over the Toll Plaza that is still subject of the Panel’s investigation and proceedings, to LCC.

“The Panel is yet to come to any finding in respect of the Lekki Toll Gate Incident of 20th October 2020. A takeover of the Toll Plazas by LCC will be prejudicial to the ultimate findings of the Panel."

READ ALSO Falz Condemns Arrest Of Lekki Toll Gate Protesters

Olayinka Akinwole Esq, the Assistant Secretary of Nigeria Bar Association, Sango Ota Branch said;

"I am of the opinion that because of the sensitivity of issues involved, lawyers and non-lawyers are getting sentimental. It's an investigative panel. A quasi-judicial body. It can't make an order enforceable under the Sheriff and Civil Processes Act. The only order it can make is to order a person to appear before it i.e issue a subpoena and deal with those who willfully ignore its invitation. It can't commit to prison by its findings, which will be subjected to another disciplinary body or court. For instance,  Policemen found wanting by the panel will undergo orderly room trial, the military men will be tried by the appropriate Military Tribunal. Some can also be charged to court by the office of the Attorney General/Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) directly and/or additionally under certain circumstances. Opening of the Toll Gate at this time is insensitive to those who have suffered physical and emotional losses. Especially those whose relatives died.

 "I read Ebun Olu Adegboruwa's (SAN) dissenting view and I share all his sentiments and findings except where he raised the issue of "Parties".

According to Mr. Akinwole; "anyone who is directly or indirectly affected by the proceedings of the Panel can always approach the Panel at any time to air their grievances in respect of a particular matter. The issue of Locus Standi doesn't have the same flavour as that of a properly constituted Court. The business consortium managing Lekki Toll Gates was caught in the web of political recklessness and military highhandedness in quelling a peaceful protest. Are they complicit in the atrocities committed on that fateful night? Well, that's for the Panel to establish. Does the Panel have the discretion to allow the place to be reopened for business? Yes. Is the decision insensitive? Yes. What makes economic sense doesn't often make conscionable sense."

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