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Nigerian Army withdraws from Lekki shooting probe

Barely three months after the shooting of EndSARS protesters at the Lekki tollgate, the Nigerian Army has withdrawn participation from the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Enquiry and Restitution investigating the allegations raised by victims over the act and other brutality allegedly perpetrated by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in the state.

It was gathered that after withdrawing from the ongoing investigation, the Nigerian Army further disbanded its legal team led by Akinlolu Kehinde and Samuel Agweh, deployed to the panel chaired by Justice Doris Okuwobi (retd), inaugurated by the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

As learnt, the army disbanded the legal team after Brigadier-General Ibrahim Taiwo, gave the second testimonies at the panel, explaining the role of the military in the EndSARS protest organised to end police brutality across the country, just as he debunked claims that soldiers shot #EndSARS protesters with live bullets during the operation.

The officers left to appear before the panel were Lieutenant Colonel of the 81 Division, S.O Bello, who was the Commanding Officer of the 65 Batallion, which was at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, and Godwin Umelo, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 81 Division.

The hearing of proceedings involving the Army have been stalled as neither the officers nor their counsel were present before the panel and the last hearing on January 23 was the third time in a row, and the panel chairman warned of the consequences of the military’s failure to honour the summons.

Appearing before the panel for the Army on Saturday, Kehinde, who was represented by Agweh, disclosed that the law enforcement agency had already written to the panel to explain why he was no longer appearing before it.

Agweh said: “The letter written by Kehinde, dated 20th January, which was already sent to this panel, explains it all, that the team of legal practitioners led by Kehinde, who represented the Nigerian Army on this panel, based on the summons issued by this panel on the 28th day of October, 2020, that team has been disbanded by the Nigerian Army.

“Our job finished; I think, on 21st of November, and so, we do not have any further mandate to represent the Army in any subsequent proceedings. So, it is not a matter of disrespect that the team is no longer appearing here. In short, when this case was called, I didn’t even know the Nigerian Army was involved in it, because as at that time, these cases were not before this tribunal. We had finished our business before these cases came up.”

Following arguments by counsel, panel chair JOkuwobi ruled that all five petitions slated for Saturday involving the Army be adjourned till February 27, and fresh summons be sent to officers named as respondents in the cases.

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