By Steve Omoriayewa
The report of the Lagos State Panel of Inquiry and Restitution, which was submitted, last Monday, to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has continued to generate mixed reactions from residents and those with vested interests outside the State.
It is not unexpected that the recommendations of the panel, led by Justice Dorcas Okuwobi, have been trailed by strong statements of support and condemnation by those who, prior to the panel’s final verdict, had locked in protracted arguments to validate or invalidate alleged carnage at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020.
Of course, this vexed issue returned to be a dominant topic of debate, despite the latitude of time allotted to the panel to probe into the incident at the toll gate and produce a believable evidence. The report turned in by the panel, sadly, has invoked another round of controversies and brought out more puzzles than answers to claim a massacre.
However, this is not the crux of this piece. Rather, it is the disturbing outburst of a member of the panel, who has been on a binge of self-adulation and pathetic display of self-glorification, speaking from both sides of the mouth as though, he is a Praetorian Guard for the law and morality. In all, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa has consistently displayed inconsistencies in his attempts to whip up sentiments, setting aside the basic principle of the law, which is evidence and going for emotions and sentiments.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN!
No doubt, Adegboruwa is a sound and venerated star in the legal galaxy. His nomination and eventual enlistment into the panel raised people’s hopes and expectations, given his pedigree in human rights activism. But the legal practitioner failed woefully to prove his mettle and support evidence-based report.
That the report of the panel is being torn apart by surfeit of inconsistencies by people whose hopes were dashed by the sloppiness of the panel to establish a massacre are beginning to question Adegboruwa’s professional integrity.
To begin with, since Monday when the panel submitted its report, Adegboruwa had issued series of scathing, yet contradictory statements to railroad Lagos State government into adopting the blemished report which many now describe as “predetermined conclusions”.
The statements are a face-saving attempt by the petulant lawyer to cover for his professional negligence after the reality dawned on him that people would question the panel members for a report saturated with fundamental errors and unsubstantiated claims.
Less than an hour after Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor of Lagos, received the report, Adegboruwa released a statement on his social media page, threatening to reveal the content of the panel submission should the Governor make an attempt to cover-up.
“I will…keep observing the turn of events and at the appropriate time, one may be forced to state the FULL contents of the report if the promises made are not fulfilled. I can NEVER and will NEVER subscribe to anything that would amount to covering up the report of the Panel,” Adegboruwa wrote.
For any discerning person, that statement came across as hasty and preemptive. Ironically, Adegboruwa, in the same statement, attested that the Governor did not interfere throughout the period of the panel sitting. Why the inconsistencies? In one breath, you doubted the integrity of the Government to do the right thing, in another applauded the Governor for his uprightness.
If the Panel members had been accorded such indisputable latitude to be independent, why then would Adegboruwa insinuate and subtly accuse the Government of an attempt to cover up? This is highly offensive.
Let’s now look at the gross display of professional ineptitude by the Senior Advocate of Nigeria when he said in his first press release via his Facebook page that Government should just release the recommendations of the flawed panel report without mindful of an existing law backing the setting up of such panel.
Ebun wrote: “It is my view that Lagos State having appeared before the Panel as a party, having tendered documents before the Panel and led witnesses to take a position on the Incident of the Lekki Toll Gate, it will be unfair and improper for Lagos State to be a judge in its own cause, by seeking to review the report of the Panel. However, the Governor explained to me that this would only be done to enable the government implement the findings and recommendations of the Panel and not to tamper with it or mutilate it. I believe His Excellency.”
But Ebun clearly forgot to read the provisions of the Tribunal Law 2015 in arriving at his conclusion on the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters.
However, Ebun made a quick turn around and called for the White Paper after the erudite lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria Abiodun Owonikoko appeared on Arise TV to set the record straight and reminded him of the legal necessity for the White Paper.
Another flip to Adegboruwa’s inconsistencies is seen here where he said ” it will be unfair and improper for Lagos State to be a judge in its own cause, by seeking to review the report of the Panel”. Same man later confessed his vested interest in Lekki Toll Plaza. He wrote:
“My principled struggles in respect of toll fee collection started way back from 2011, almost nine years before the Panel was inaugurated.”
The above then places huge moral burdens on Adegboruwa on the question of what qualifies him to serve in a committee on matters affecting the Lekki Toll Plaza if he felt as stated above that Lagos State Government should not review his flawed reports on the same Lekki Toll Gate, because it has interest in it. Ebun is simply inconsistent!
What about the oath of confidentiality sworn to by members of the Panel? The Lagos Lawyer breached that oath with his rush for media accolades and self-aggrandisement.
Also, the pugnacious lawyer, whom we expect not to be told the procedure of such exercise, made an indicting conclusion when he wrote: “Nigerians should demand for justice against all culprits who have been named in detail, in our report.” Is this to set the tone for the expected White Paper from Lagos Government?
Now that holes are daily being picked in the report, should Adegboruwa still be taken seriously as a lawyer?
The report was ‘leaked’ to the press on the same Monday by a member and less than an hour after Adegboruwa released his press statement! Adegboruwa, who apparently wanted to deflect attention away from himself as the culprit, quickly issued another statement (November 18), saying members of the panel were being vilified unjustly by those suspected to be government agents.
Must anyone work or have affiliation with the government to decipher the falsehood packaged as independent recommendations of the panel? Adegboruwa probably could not adequately dissect the disappointment of his admirers who expected him and other members of the panel to be thorough in their findings and submission.
As it is, the panel’s recommendations are not convincing enough to debunk the insinuation that the so-called “Lekki massacre” is nothing but a weaponised narrative being used to blackmail the government.
Given his strong ideological stance, Adegboruwa’s inclusion in the panel was well applauded and expected to stimulate unbiased inquiry and adherence to ethical standards throughout the sitting. But, Ebun was said to have been absent at the panel more than six months consecutively than the time he was present. Yet, he gleefully appended his signature to the conclusions of the panel he barely attended.
While offering weak explanation for his absent days, Adegboruwa claimed it was an understanding between him and the Governor upon his enlistment to be a part-time member at the sitting.
This argument punctured Adegboruwa’s sense of self-glorification which has been on the display, albeit pathetically, after the panel turned in the report last Monday. How sensible does it sound to Adegboruwa himself, that an absentee judge go all out to pontificate over a verdict he was not fully present in deciding?
Those who believe Adegboruwa betrayed the ethical standards of his calling and personal ideology are not necessarily saying that the legal practitioner has curried pecuniary gain; they are rather disappointed by the fact that the panel’s recommendations relied mostly on unsubstantiated narratives which time has exposed as tissue of lies. Yet the ‘respected’ lawyer appended his signature and deployed all his intellect to support, justify and make attempts to railroad the embarrassing claims into becoming content of the government’s White Paper.
We must also not lose sight of Adegboruwa’s attempts to railroad the Government into accepting the garbage he concocted into the failed report hook, line and sinker without interrogation by saying:
“I urge the government to focus on the findings and far-reaching recommendations contained in the report, in order to pursue the laudable objectives of setting up the Panel to achieve true healing and reconciliation, instead of seeking to demonize Panel members and their report or to evade responsibility.”
By every standard, this is an act of professional carelessness on the part of Adegboruwa and being haughty cannot make him to look like someone who has a mind of his own. He pledged to be thorough in the discharge of his duty at the panel, but his involvement has compounded our confusion rather than establishing the truth.
Finally, Adegboruwa should learn something from this exercise that the truth is constant. You cannot manufacture what did happen. It must have happened before you come forward to report it, with fact based evidence that it truly happened. Ebun should stop his ridiculous tirade in his attempts to cover up the mess he brought upon himself.