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Mixed reactions have continued to trail the Lagos State government White Paper on the report of the #EndSARS Judicial Panel of Inquiry (JPI).
Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN) maintained that the report on the Lekki shooting was unreliable.
But, legal luminary Prof. Paul Ananaba (SAN) dismissed the controversy over the report as unnecessary, saying that government should be held accountable for the White Paper.
He said the White Paper should be implemented to forestall a reoccurrence of the 2020 protests.
Ananaba said: “I am not interested in controversy. People have died, people have been wounded, even if it is one person in Nigeria who died in the Lekki Toll Gate protest, it is worth something, it is worth attention of everybody. I am interested in making sure that we don’t have a second occurrence of that event. Government should implement the white paper and let us move on.”
On the rejection of the invitation for ‘A Walk for Peace” extended to #EndSARs campaigners and celebrities by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Ananaba said the only thing desirable now is peace in the land.
He said: “I am in support of peace. Peace is important at any point. Because of peace, even things that have not been resolved can be looked into. Having conflict in the society, seriously, I don’t support it. I think we should hold government accountable and make sure that they remain within the peace circle.
“When people are peaceful and working together, they can achieve more. Some of the things that even the white paper would not do, peace can do it. I will encourage everybody to let us move forward, embrace the course of peace, peace walk, peace gathering, in the course of peace, we would achieve more.”
A panel member Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) declined comment, saying that no member of the panel was informed of the release of the White Papers by the government. He also said neither were they given copies of the documents.
In a statement titled “#EndSARS panel report: the siege is over”, the lawyer accused the government of creating the wrong impression of financial impropriety against panel members to distract the public.
Adegboruwa said: “For the records, the panel relied upon the evidence of witnesses, documents tendered before it and the goodwill of the people of Nigeria, throughout its assignment.
“It is painful for me and the panel that the government is creating the wrong impression of financial impropriety as a tool of distraction when the Panel had a Secretariat that managed all its funds, through the Ministry of Justice.
“Although I served on the panel free of charge without collecting a dime, I know as a fact that other members served sacrificially, giving up their time, families and careers for a whole year.
“At the appropriate time, we will respond to all the inaccuracies, the coverups and the inconsistencies contained in the White Papers released by the government.
“Assuredly, nothing can ever cover the truth. What happened at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, was already in the public domain, those who received the bullets knew what happened and the doctors that treated them knew what happened. The panel reports only confirmed what most Nigerians already knew.”
Former Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Monday Ubani faulted the White Paper.
He said: “Lagos State failed to meet its own expectations. The whitepaper failed all expectations and I am sorry to say that Lagos State has lost the most golden opportunity to show itself as a humane government.
“No wound has been healed by this white paper. The white paper I am sorry to say is ‘stained’.”
Onigbanjo justified the White Paper and argued that the report and recommendations of the Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel on shooting at Lekki Toll Gate were contrary to the evidence provided.
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He maintained that the state complied with the laws and the weight of evidence presented at the Judicial Panel of Inquiry to reach a decision on panel’s reports.
The commissioner said the positions of the Lagos State Government as stated in the White Paper was based on evidences, especially that of the Pathologist, Prof. John Obafunwa, who said only three of the bodies that he conducted post-mortem examination on during the EndSARS protests were from Lekki, and out of them, only one had gunshot injury.
Onigbanjo spoke during a Morning Show interview programme on Arise Television to discuss the White Paper released by Lagos State Government on the report of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality and the Lekki Toll Gate incident of October 20, 2020 in Lagos.
He said the inconsistencies and contradictions in the leaked reports of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Lekki incidents that nine people died at Lekki Tollgate last year made the panel’s finding on deaths at the tollgate unreliable, saying that for a finding that somebody died at a scene to be acceptable, there must be no doubt.
He said: “The position of Lagos State Government is based on the findings of the panel itself. So, it is not that Lagos State Government just conjured things from the air. We went through the report and what we saw particularly in reference to the death of nine persons is that they found the evidence of the Pathologist, Prof. Obafunwa, who conducted an autopsy on all the bodies picked up all over Lagos during the protests, not just at Lekki Tollgate but statewide, credible and there was no evidence to the contrary.
“Prof. Obafunwa said that of all the bodies he conducted autopsies on, three came from Lekki and out of the three only one had gunshot injuries. And the panel then said we believe you, we accept your evidence because there is nothing to the contrary. So, in law, if you put that on the imaginary scale, it means what Prof. Obafunwa said outweighs every other evidence before the panel.”
Onigbanjo also debunked the allegations that the Judicial Panel of Inquiry made no reference to policemen nor took them into consideration.
“They (JPI) issued two reports. The report that leaked only dealt with the issues from the Lekki Toll Gate. There is another report which they issued which was not leaked; that report deals with all the EndSARS petitions that were about 253 in number and of the 253, policemen also brought their own petitions and in that report, the panel awarded a sum of about N36.2million to the policemen who were affected one way or the other by the protests.
“So, to be fair to them, they did consider the plights of the policemen too. And even if you look at most of their recommendations, they are for better welfare for the police, better equipment, more training, psychological evaluations, so they took them into consideration,” he said.
The attorney-general also denied the allegations that Lagos State Government was put under pressure by the Federal Government to discredit the panel’s report, adding that at no time did the state government encourage personal attacks against any member of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry.
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He said: “The Federal Government never put the Lagos State government under any pressure to discredit the panel or anybody. If you check the records, nobody from Lagos State government discredited the panel. In fact, they submitted the report on the 15th of November, 2021, the governor praised them and thanked them for the job they did.
“Even yesterday, in his speech, which he made before the White Paper was released, he thanked them again. So, nobody from the Lagos State government directly or indirectly, has sought to discredit members of the panel. We appreciate the job they did for almost 13 months. We do not condone such attacks on anybody.
“I think we have conducted ourselves in such a manner that we strive to always do what is right. We complied with the law; we set up the panel. So, if we didn’t even want the panel, there are so many ways it could have been stopped. They asked for an extension, we gave them. The initial funding was N200 million; they exhausted it and asked for more, we gave them.
“We appointed independent-minded people into the panel. And the panel itself said in its report that they give credit to the Lagos State government for allowing them to be completely independent. Lagos State government has fulfilled all its promises to the public. We set up an independent panel, we said we will release a White Paper and we did. We have complied with the law all the way.”
On Governor Sanwo-Olu’s plan for a Peace Walk, Onigbanjo said the government will persuade civil society members to change their minds.
He said: “The government will seek to persuade them to change their minds, because ultimately, we all thrive in peace. There is no government that wants to see a war-torn city, a war-torn state or even a state in which there is so much tension.
The Center for Leadership and Good Governance and Movement for Justice lamented the destruction of public assets during the protests.
The group said in a statement: “Despite the glaring inconsistencies and falsehood, that characterized the report of the judicial panel, we cannot but appreciate the governor of Lagos, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for accepting the report, and proceeding to release a white paper consideration of the panel’s report, with the clear intention to execute the credible recommendations of the panel.”
The group urged the Lagos State government to focus on reform by stopping abusive police practices, ensuring justice for victims and overhauling law enforcement.
Lagos State Government’s counsel at the panel, Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), said the white paper passed the test of fairness and integrity.
He said: “It is, however, noteworthy that only one recommendation out of the 32 in the JPI report was rejected outrightly. It is unprecedented in many respects; starting from public acceptance of the independence and non-interference in the work of the panel.
“I score the white paper high on fairness to all concerned, balanced and rigorous interrogation of findings made in the report in a manner which may not be too surprising if it finds endorsement by the courts in the event any of the accepted recommendations (or as modified) were challenged by way of judicial review.
“The standard applied by the government in reviewing the findings raised the quality of the eventual decision to a level which May pass muster in a court of law – it mitigated the weakness of the original report that was not premised on legal test of evidential credence.
“In a court of law, the proof of those findings will be strictly evaluated in accordance with law on admissibility – and nobody will be bound by the findings of the panel .
“For instance, because the panel was not bound by law of evidence, and did not apply it during hearing, most pieces of evidence received were hearsay with notable exceptions of expert testimonies of pathologist and forensic scientists.
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“Regrettably, crucial findings were based on hearsay evidence while advantage was not taken of expert testimonies to resolve conflict and contradictions in testimonies of witnesses.
“Findings of the panel on criminal allegations were not based on proof beyond reasonable doubt, understandably.
“But in a court of law where those allegations are to be established whether in a civil proceedings or criminal trials of those recommended for prosecution, the test to be applied is proof beyond reasonable doubt.
“No prosecution will risk such a trial satisfied that it can be proved by that degree of credibility. The time constraints which beleaguered the panel might excuse this defect in the report – but government has done well to open fresh windows for victims to pursue their unresolved claims through the office of DPP.
“It is also a welcome development that the Lagos State Government did not overreach itself of play to the gallery by taking positions on the rather explosive and emotive matters more appropriately suited to be addressed by the Federal government as falling within the exclusive competence of the executive branch at the federal level.
“I want to believe that if the accepted recommendations that fall within the remit of the state government are faithfully implemented, the exercise and good work of the panel will not have been in vain.
“If the Federal Government can likewise adopt the open-minded approach of Lagos State Government to address the portions on recommendations remitted to them, we would perhaps come out a better country trusted by a greater majority of its citizenry.”
Pop star Shakira faces tax-fraud trial in Spain
Colombian pop singer, Shakira, will face tax-fraud trial in Spain, a Spanish Judge said on Tuesday.
The music superstar faces eight-year jail term after she rejected a plea deal on accusations of tax evasion, Spanish prosecutors in July 2022.
Prosecutors in Barcelona will also demand a fine of nearly 24 million euros ($24.5 million) from the 45-year-old “Hips don’t Lie” songstress, whom they accuse of defrauding the Spanish tax office out of 14.5 million euros on income earned between 2012 and 2014.
The Spanish prosecutor had offered a deal to settle allegations she defrauded Spain’s government of 14.5 million euros ($15 million) in taxes.
The Colombian pop singer had claimed innocence and wanted the law to determine her fate.
But on Tuesday, the court in Esplugues de Llobregat near Barcelona said that Shakira would face six counts of tax fraud.
The date for the trial has yet to be fixed, according to AP.
The case hinges on where Shakira lived during 2012-14. Prosecutors in Barcelona have alleged the Grammy winner spent more than half of that period in Spain and should have paid taxes in the country, even though her official residence was in the Bahamas.
Shakira, whose full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, has been linked to Spain since she started dating soccer player Gerard Pique.
The couple, who have two children, used to live together in Barcelona but recently ended their 11-year relationship.
Retired soldiers protect against non-payment of security allowance
Some retired soldiers on Monday protested in Abuja over non-payment of their security debarment allowances, among others.
The protesters who defied the rains demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Defence headquarters, clutching mats and banners as well as singing.
The protesters lamented the non-payment of their Security Debarment Allowance, among others.
They were joined by some relatives of deceased military personnel, blocking access road to the ministry located at Ship House on Olusegun Obasanjo Way in the Federal Capital Territory.
The military veterans under the aegis of the Retired Members of Nigerian Armed Forces and the Coalition of Concerned Veterans, accused the Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi (retd.), of being insensitive to their plight.
Addressing reporters during the protest, spokesman for the CVV, Abiodun Durowaiye-Herberts, vowed that they would not leave the ministry’s entrance until their demands were met.
He said they had already made arrangement to sleep overnight if the situation warranted it.
“We are here alongside our wives and children, and the widows of late military personnel and veterans who died in service, some of whom died fighting Boko Haram terrorists. We’ll be sleeping over at this place until the Minister of Defence, Magashi accede to our demands,” he said.
On his part, the National Secretary of RMNAF, Roy Okhidievbie, explained that the demonstration was to demand the payment of their security debarment allowance owed them by the Federal Government.
He accused the minister of refusing to disburse the allowances despite approval by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We have had meetings with the Defence Minister, Magashi, but he appears to be headstrong, heartless, and unperturbed concerning the grievances of retired military officers, as he never paid nor showed any interest or concern to pay these allowances, especially the Security Debarment Allowance.
“Interestingly, President Buhari-led administration has approved the payment of this allowance, but Magashi has refused to make disbursements,”
In January, some retired soldiers under the aegis of the Coalition of Concerned Veterans protested against the non-payment of their pension arrears for 24 months.
The veterans who gathered at the Ministry of Finance headquarters, Abuja, insisted on getting answers to their demands, or else they would continue protesting.
They were seen with placards on which various inscriptions were written. One of the placards reads, “CCV demands immediate payment of security debarment allowance.” Another read, “Military veterans demand 24 months arrears of minimum wage approved.”
Nationwide outage as grid collapses to zero megawatts again
Nigeria was thrown into a total blackout Monday morning as the national grid collapsed to zero megawatts (MW).
The latest incident, which reportedly occurred at 10:51am Monday, is the seventh time the power grid would collapse this year.
This came just days after electricity consumers said they had enjoyed improved supply.
Some power distribution companies including Kaduna Electric, Enugu and Kano have already communicated the nationwide outage to their customers, adding that efforts were being made to restore supply.
The national electricity grid as of 10am on Monday had 3,712MW generated from 21 power generation companies (GenCos) before it dropped to 0MW one hour after, Daily Trust reported.
It stated that information from the System Operations, a section of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), indicated only Afam IV was on the grid but with zero supply as of 12noon.
It also showed that as of Sunday, the highest generation was 4,100MW while the lowest was 3,652MW with the frequency hovered between 49.04 Hertz (Hz) and 50.34Hz.
Electricity consumers have attested to improvement in supply in their various areas since July this year.
For instance, the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) recently confirmed increment in its daily allocation to over 500MW from the actual 300MW it had distributed before then.
Though the national grid had not cross 5,000MW, Daily Trust observed that level of load rejection especially around the DisCos’ networks had dropped significantly with some customers entitled to five-hour supply, recording over 12 hours daily.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had attributed the improvement in power supply nationwide to the partial activation of contracts seeking to hold sector operators liable for deliberate incompetence.
The national grid collapsed twice, in July and in August but was quickly restored and power supply improvement was sustained before the latest system collapse on Monday.
Although the TCN, the national grid manager, was yet to establish the cause of the crash, some insider said it could be as a result of a maintenance of the 330 kilovolts Jos – Bauchi transmission line maintenance slated for Monday.
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