The Lagos State Judicial Panel on Restitution for victims of defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) related abuses and other matters has suspended its sitting indefinitely, barely one month to the first anniversary of the shooting at the Lekki Tollgate in the state.
According to the panel, the indefinite suspension of sitting was to ensure prompt completion of work on petitions that were already heard, before the approved date for the conclusion of investigations.
Speaking on the development on Saturday, the Chairman of the panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi (retd), said that the present session would be the last and that the panel would contact all stakeholders whenever there is a need for fresh sitting.
Okuwobi noted that the panel’s tenure was expected to elapse before the first anniversary of the Lekki shooting, October 20th, and that there were works yet to be completed by members of the judicial panel.
She said: “There are two reports that we are expected to work on; we are not close enough to any of them. We cannot continue with the sitting and end the assignment without concluding. So, we will not be sitting from today.
“We have to collate and evaluate petitions already heard so as to make findings and recommendations, even on the Lekki shooting. But as soon as we find ourselves in a comfortable situation, we will send hearing notices for cases that have been listed.
“Please bear with us, we cannot speculate on any further extension. We have to work towards completing the assignment as early as we can.”
“This is without any prejudice to us coming back to conclude on part-heard cases. Dates will be communicated to petitioners who have petitions pending,” Okuwobi added.
After the announcement, the panel went on to hear and conclude the cross-examination of a pathologist and Lagos State University (LASU) former Vice Chancellor, Prof. John Obafunwa, and one of the EndSARS coordinators, Serah Ibrahim.
Following the completion of their cross-examination by counsel to parties involved in their cases, both witnesses, who gave testimonies to further buttress their claims, were asked to leave by the chairman.
Following the extension of its tenure by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, with another three months, the panel was expected to conclude its sitting by October 19.
Meanwhile, lead counsel to the Lagos State government, Abiodun Owonikoko, however, told the panel that with regards to the Lekki shooting, the state intended to call two expert witnesses – a ballistician and a security expert.
“One of the experts was commissioned from the UK and the other is a highly placed security expert. We want an indication on when the panel will reconvene so that we can guide them on when specifically they will appear,” he added.
After this submission, the panel rose for a break and to make a decision on how to proceed with the sitting particularly as it concerns the invitation of witnesses and others.
On return from the recess, Justice Okuwobi maintained an earlier stance, announcing that the panel regretted that it would not be able to take the witnesses before embarking on the break.
“On the application, the quality of the witnesses we envisage will slow the panel down… we only have 27 working days to the end of this assignment. We are of the firm view that we cannot accommodate such evidence at this time.
“It will be highly impossible and impracticable to take the two witnesses and it is the panel’s greatest concern that we get our report ready for the terminal date of this assignment.”