NO QUORUM: CBN INTERFERENCE HINDERS LAGOS JUDICIAL COUNCIL

The Lagos Judiciary Panel setup to investigate accusations of misconduct against law enforcement officials ground to a halt last weekend when its two citizen representatives, Rinu Oduala and Temitope Majekodunmi announced they would be boycotting further sittings. Their boycott is in response to several actions taken by several high ranking government officials already accused of censorship. Inspector General Mohammed Adamu recently released an official directive permitting members of the Nigerian Police to ‘defend’ lives and property with any means necessary,  in clear violation of the constitutional right to gather. 

This was further compounded by the recent communication from the Central Bank of Nigeria confirming its Governor, Godwin Emefiele had ordered the freezing of accounts of individuals associated with the #EndSARS protests. Douala and Majekodunmi highlighted these attacks and more as proof of the unwillingness to obey the eventual results of the Lagos Judiciary panel and have insisted they will boycott until tangible action on the parts of the organizations involved to reverse these actions. According to Lagos Tribunal Law, with a quorum of 90% of the panel, any cases heard or actions taken can be contested as illegal or dismissed by the parties involved. 

Rinu Oduala and Temitope Majekodunmi

“We find it dishonourable that the same government that claims to seek justice would unjustly oppress citizens at the same time” 

Rinu Oduala and Temitope Majekodunmi

This puts the panel at a standstill and delays justice for so many Nigerians who have risked much to tell their stories in the pursuit of justice. 

It doesn’t help the cause that the Nigerian military has consistently changed its stance since the October 20th shooting, first dismissing preliminary reports of military action at the Lekki Toll as ‘fake news’ before circling back to amend their public statements. Its most recent statements, given by Brigadier General Musa Etsu-Ndagi at the last sitting of the Lagos state judiciary council on police brutality, suggests that Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu called him in the thick of the shootings to inquire about reports he had received of a Colonel Bello shooting at the protest grounds at Lekki toll. Nigerians have a deep seated distrust for the Nigerian military thanks to several decades of oppressive dictatorships and successive civilian governments have learnt to only engage them in the direst of conditions or risk alienating their constituencies. Etsu-Ndagi conceded that said Colonel was only authorized to shoot blank bullets into the air and not live rounds at protesters as protesters have alleged. 

Ndagi also alleged protesters were happy to see soldiers at the protest ground, soldiers that the Army insisted only days before were nowhere near the protest grounds. This testimony, from an army general no less, contradicts a previous statement that suggested Governor Sanwo-olu himself had called for military support to dispel protesters at the toll. Its statements inserting the governor into its chain of command before clarifying the context in which the governor became aware of military involvement in the October 20th curfew were at best inappropriate and contributed to the challenges the panel currently faces in asserting its legitimacy and bringing citizens much needed justice. The question of who ordered the shooting remains unanswered, and the premature derailment of the Lagos state judiciary council will only prolong the journey to much needed answers. 

There are many channels the state government is privately pursuing to get the judicial panels back on track and justice for the citizens affected by the violence during the protests. Governor Sanwo-olu is working hard to restore the trust of the protest groups in the tribunal, and has committed to personally engaging the presidency via a second in-person meeting (the only governor to do so since the protests began) to update the presidency on events around reconciliation for individuals and businesses. There is reason to hope that this visit will yield an agreeable result for all involved.