The Lagos State Government has employed the services of forensic experts to unearth the truth of what happened at the Lekki toll gate on October 20, 2020 during the #EndSARS protest.
This was made public on Tuesday by the Chairman of the State Judicial Panel of Enquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters, Justice Doris Okuwobi while ruling on an application filed by the Lekki Concession Company (LCC), seeking permitted access to the toll plaza.
LCC had urged the panel through its lawyer, Rotimi Seriki, to grant its leave to access the toll plaza for the purpose of evaluating the damages done at the toll gate, for the benefit of evaluating insurance claims as well as undertaking necessary repairs.
Retired Justice Okuwobi, while rejecting the application, disclosed that the forensic experts engaged by the state government would have commenced its work earlier but for the holidays which made it difficult for them to get access to relevant documents and exhibits which have previously been tendered before the panel.
She further revealed that the forensic examination is expected to be completed within the next 21 days.
The judge stated, “Forensic analysis will clear a lot of issues in the incident of October 20, 2020 and a huge sum has been paid by the Lagos State Government for it. The desire is that the panel will unearth the truth of what happened.
“The application by the LCC for permission to have access to the toll gate must therefore await the outcome of the forensic examination,” Justice Okuwobi held.
Earlier, Seriki had told the panel that security agents arrested four persons on December 14, 2020, who were in the process of vandalizing and stealing cables, iron rods and solar batteries utilized by the advertising board at the toll gate.
The lawyer also tendered a police report and photographs of the suspects as proof of the incident to the panel.
However, the Counsel to the Endsars Protesters, Adesina Ogunlana objected to the application, insisting that there was a disconnect as the police report tendered by the LCC counsel should have come from the police who were also represented before the panel.
Ogunlana also argued that the items listed as being tampered with and sought to be stolen belonged to the media and advertising companies at the toll gate and there was no connection with LCC.
He urged the court to refuse the application.
On his part, the Counsel to the Police, Cyril Ejiofor aligned with Ogunlana submissions and asked to be allowed to verify the police report submitted on behalf of his institution.
At this point the panel stood down the matter to allow the verification to be done.
When the panel resumed sitting, Ejiofor confirmed the authenticity of the police report tendered by the Counsel to LCC.
But the Counsel to the Protesters, again restated his objections to the application of the LCC. He submitted that the application was premature as the forensic examination had not been done.
Ogunlana said, “we are frustrated from doing it because neither myself nor my client, the endsars protesters have the N25 million demanded by the experts for the examination.
“The sociology on ground demands circumspection. If the panel had six months to complete its work and we have already spent three months, for actions of possession, it is better that status quo be preserved until the panel concludes its work” he said.
But the LCC counsel disagreed, he argued “the application cannot be tied to a time frame because LCC was in possession of the toll gate before the incident that the inquiry is connected with. The percuniosity of his clients cannot be a ground to prevent LCC from cutting its loss”.
The counsel to the Lagos State Government, Olukayode Enitan (SAN) aligned with the submissions of the LCC Counsel.
Enitan maintained, “LCC is also a victim here, a victim that is not asking for compensation but is sought to be further impoverished because another victim cannot afford to do the forensic examination it says it will do. That does not meet the interest of justice”.
The panel has adjourned the matter to January 29 for a further hearing.