Counsel for the Lagos State government at the judicial panel of inquiry, Olukayode Enitan, says the Lekki Concession Company is a victim of the #EndSARS protests.
He said this on Tuesday while supporting an application for the reopening of the Lekki Toll plaza for repair and insurance reasons.
Mr Enitan aligned himself with the position of the counsel to the LCC, Rotimi Seriki, that the plaza be opened for LCC to resume charge.
“The basis for setting up this panel is justice to whoever might have been a victim of the #EndSARS protest which Lekki Concession Company also is.
“It is a victim. A victim that is not asking for compensation from the panel but is now being sought to be made further impoverished because another victim says I cannot afford to do what I want to do. That will be unfair and I urge the panel to take side to meet the cause of justice,” he said.
Tuesday’s proceeding kicked off with Lekki Concession Company’s counsel, Mr Seriki, applying for the company be allowed access to the toll plaza.
The application generated much arguments by the legal counsel present was stood down to enable the police counsel verify a police report sought to be tendered as exhibit by the company.
At the continuation of the matter, Cyril Ejiafor, the counsel to the police, said they have confirmed the report.
The report stated that some men were arrested at the plaza on December 14 for vandalising and looting rods, solar batteries and cables belonging the advertising agency.
Mr Seriki, the counsel to the LCC, made a fresh application for the Lekki Toll plaza to be opened to LCC for insurance claims and repair.
Objecting to the application, Adeshina Ogunlana, the counsel to #EndSARS protesters, said the application was premature as the issue for the panel not granting the application at the last adjourned date is yet to be resolved.
Mr Ogunlana said neither him nor his clients has the N25 million being demanded for the forensic examination. He urged the panel not to grant the application until investigation is complete.
“Also, the request is at large, there is no time frame attached to it.”
He said application for accessing damage for insurance without time frame attached to it should be disallowed and the status quo preserved for the safety of all.
Reacting to the objection, Mr Seriki said there is no indication whatsoever that the counsel to the #EndSARS protesters want to call a forensic expert to examine the Lekki shooting scene.
“The application cannot be tied to a time frame because LCC was in possession of the toll gate before the incident that the inquiry is connected with.
“What my learned colleague is suggesting is that if the incident had taken place at a private property, that property will remain shut down indefinitely because a party says he cannot afford to conduct forensic analysis,” he said.
Mr Seriki said the reason for objection cannot be a valid ground to prevent LCC from cutting its loss.
“The tribunal should be mindful that LCC is not a party to the inquiry, we appeared based on a witness summon. The witness has been discharged after testifying. If the LCC was not summoned as a witness, would we need to have come before this tribunal to be making this application?
“We are here because we were summoned and out of respect for the panel is why we keep coming to repeat this application, ” he said.
Mr Seriki added that the basis of LCC making this application repeatedly if to demonstrate that it is a responsible corporate company which is ready to give full cooperation to the tribunal and not interfere with whatever inquiry the tribunal conducted.
Mr Enitan, who represented the state government at the hearing, aligned himself with the position of Mr Seriki.
“What would have been expected of Mr Ogunlana is to honour the panel with a report of having conducted the examination or his inability to conduct the examination on grounds of impecuinity. He did not make that report, which he owed a duty to have made, yet he seeks to leave the ground in further disrepair.
“On the grounds of impecuinity that has been stated, it is clear that he or his client will never be able to do it.”
Mr Enitan said the objection to the application of the reopening of the Lekki Toll plaza by the counsel to #EndSARS protesters does not meet the interest of justice, given that LCC is also a victim of the #EndSARS protest.
Giving her ruling on the matter, Doris Okuwobi, the retired judge heading the panel, said the panel has stated its desire for a forensic evidence.
“Forensic evidence is most needed in this inquiry. Gladly, the panel has engaged the service of a forensic expert who would have commenced the terms of engagement today but for the difficulty in accessing our exhibits and documents which were locked up during the break, ” she said.
She said all exhibits and documents have been handed over to the expert who has assured the panel that the report will be ready within 21 days.
“We cannot sacrifice justice on the altar of speed. The forensic analysis will clear a lot from evidence admitted in the cause of the investigation of the event of the October 20, 2020.
“A huge sum has been paid for the forensic examination by the Lagos state government with the desire to unearth the truth.
“In the circumstance, the order sought for the repossession of the Lekki Toll plaza must await the conclusion of the exercise of the forensic expert of the panel,” she said.
The judge added that the reopening of the plaza can affect the forensic examination and spark reactions.
She adjourned the matter till January 29 for further consideration of the application of the LCC.