By Olalekan Awojodu
A suit has been instituted against the Lagos state government at a Federal High Court, Lagos to disband the ongoing Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution for victims of SARS related abuses in Lagos State and Lekki toll gate Incident.
The Plaintiffs in the case, Adekunle Augustine and Semion Akogwu, prayed the court to disband the panel on the ground that the Lagos state governor, being a party in the matter, did not exercise his power in public interest by setting up the panel.
Apart from the judicial panel of inquiry, other defendants in the suit are the Governor of Lagos State, the Chairman of the panel and the Attorney-General of the state who are 1st, 3rd and 4th defendants respectively.
In the case dated November 11, 2020 with number FHC/L/CS/1572/20 and filed at a Lagos federal high court, the Chairman of the panel is listed as the 2nd respondent in the case.
The plaintiffs are praying the court to make a declaration that the Lagos State Governor, being a party cannot set up a panel to investigate itself and the outcome of the panel will be in favour of the state.
The plaintiffs averred that he who pays the piper dictates the tune.
The plaintiffs, Augustine and Akogwu, in the suit, filed through their counsel, Samuel Adama, Esq. seek the determination of the following questions:
- WHETHER having regards to section 36(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Exhibits A and Exhibit B, the 2nd Defendant being an Agent/Appointee of the 1st Defendant can ensure fair hearing for the Plaintiffs under the auspices of the 3rd Defendant in a mater in which the 1st Defendant is a party?
- WHETHER having regards to section 5(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Exhibits A and Exhibit B, the 1st Defendant validly exercised his powers in public interest by setting up the 3rd Defendant to investigate a matter in which the 1st Defendant himself is a party?
- WHETHER having regards to Exhibits A and Exhibit B, the 1st Defendant is a party to be investigated under the terms of reference for the 3rd Defendant in the discharge of its mandate?
- WHETHER the 4th Defendant being the Chief law officer of the State ought to act in public interest by advising the 1st Defendant against the setting up of the 3rd Defendant and ought to do all things legally possible to ensure fair hearing in the matter?
Upon the determination of the questions, the plaintiffs also prayed the court for the following reliefs:
- A DECLARATION that having regards to section 36(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) together with Exhibits A and Exhibit B, the 2nd Defendant being an Agent/Appointee of the 1st Defendant cannot ensure fair hearing for the Plaintiffs under the auspices of the 3rd Defendant in a matter in which the 1st Defendant is a party.
- A DECLARATION that having regards to section 36(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Fepublic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) together with Exhibits A and Exhibit B, the 1st Defendant, being a party in the matter, did not exercise his power in public interest by setting up the 3rd Defendant.
- A DECLARATION that the appointment of the 2nd Defendant and the setting up of the 3rd Defendant by the 1st Defendant is tantamount to making the 1st Defendant a Judge in his own cause and ipso facto breaches the Plaintiffs rights to fair hearing.
- AN ORDER of this Honourable Court disbanding the 3rd Defendant and nullifying its proceedings and whatsoever actions taken thereby so far to give way for a credible and independent commission of inquiry to be set up by the Federal Government to take over the mandate of the 3rd Defendant as contemplated by its establishment abi nitio.
In the affidavit in support of the originating summon, the plaintiffs said, ”That on the 20th of October, 2020, the 1st Defendant caused the deployment of troops to Lekki Toll gate, Lagos State where a large number of youths were gathered in peaceful protest against police brutality; and the troops fired several artillery weapons at the scene leading to various degrees of bodily injuries and alleged death of several people.
”That the 1st Defendant admitted that he authorized the deployment of troops to Lekki Toll Gate on that 20th October, 2020 to stop the peaceful protest which by extension occasioned the use of artillery weapons by the soldiers at the scene, leading to some life threatening injuries, grievous hurt and alleged death of many of the protesters. A newspaper publications to the fact that the 1st Defendant admitted he authorized the deployment of troops to Lekki Toll Gate Lagos on that 20th October, 2020 is hereby annexed and marked Exhibit ‘A’.
”That the 1st Defendant thereafter set up of the 3rd Defendant consisting of 20 members with the 2nd Defendant as the Head, for the purpose of investigating the Lekki Toll Gate military invasion and other matters thereto and to make recommendations to the 1st Defendant on the findings. A newspaper publication on this fact is hereby annexed and marked Exhibit ‘B’
”That the 1st Defendant constituted the 3rd Defendant and appointed all the members thereof at his pleasure.
”That I am desirous of seeking justice in the matter but I strongly believe I will be prejudiced by the setting up of the 3rd Defendant, hence this suit.
”That since the 1st Defendant authorized the military invasion that led to the various degrees of bodily hurt and alleged death of many Nigerians who were at the scene at Lekki Toll Gate on the 20th October, 2020, he is a principal figure to be investigated and hence I will not have fair hearing on the platform of the 3rd Defendant which is a creation of the 1st Defendant that is equally on the threshold of investigation over the matter”.
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