17 min read

By Aishat Momoh. O.

Residents and those with vested interests outside the State have had diverse reactions to the findings of the Lagos State Panel of Inquiry and Restitution, which was submitted to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu last Monday.

It is unsurprising that the panel’s recommendations, led by Justice Dorcas Okuwobi, have been met with strong statements of support and condemnation from those who, prior to the panel’s final verdict, had engaged in lengthy arguments to validate or invalidate the alleged carnage at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020.

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Despite the ample time allowed to the panel to investigate the occurrence at the toll gate and present credible proof, this vexing problem has resurfaced as a hot topic of controversy. Regrettably, the panel’s findings has sparked a new round of debates and produced more questions than solutions in the case of a massacre.

This, however, is not the point of the article. Rather, it is a member of the panel’s frightening outburst, who has been on a binge of self-adulation and sad exhibition of self-glorification, spewing from both sides of his mouth as if he is a Praetorian Guard defending the law and morality.

Overall, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa has shown a pattern of inconsistency in his attempts to stir up emotions, ignoring the primary basis of law, which is proof, and instead relying on feelings and sentiments.

Without a doubt, Adegboruwa is a reliable and revered legal luminary. Given his history of human rights work, his nomination and subsequent enrollment on the panel heightened people’s hopes and expectations. However, the lawyer failed miserably to demonstrate his worth and back an evidence-based report.

People whose hopes were disappointed by the panel’s sloppiness in establishing a massacre are beginning to doubt Adegboruwa’s professional honesty as a result of the report’s abundance of discrepancies.

To begin with, since the panel’s report was filed on Monday, Adegboruwa has made a series of harsh, yet inconsistent statements in an attempt to force the Lagos State administration to adopt the tainted report, which many now refer to as “predetermined conclusions.”

The assertions are a desperate attempt by the petulant lawyer to hide his professional carelessness after realizing that the panel members would be questioned about a report riddled with fundamental mistakes and unsupported accusations.

Adegboruwa issued a statement on his social media page less than an hour after Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu received the report, threatening to publish the content of the panel submission if the Governor attempted to cover-up.

“I will…continue to monitor the course of events, and if the promises made are not kept, one may be forced to declare the FULL contents of the report at the right moment.” Adegboruwa added, “I can never and will never consent to anything that amounts to hiding up the Panel’s report.”

That statement comes seen as hurried and preemptive to any discerning individual. Ironically, Adegboruwa claimed in the same statement that the Governor did not meddle during the panel’s deliberations. Why are there so many contradictions? You questioned the government’s ability to do the right thing in one breath and praised the Governor for his honesty in the next.

Why would Adegboruwa infer and indirectly accuse the Government of attempting to cover up if the Panel members had been given such unquestionable independence? This is quite insensitive.

Let us now consider the Senior Advocate of Nigeria’s egregious display of professional ineptitude when he stated in his first press release on his Facebook page that the government should simply release the recommendations of the flawed panel report without regard for an existing law supporting the formation of such a panel.

Ebun penned: “It is my opinion that because Lagos State has appeared before the Panel as a party, has presented documents to the Panel, and has led witnesses to testify about the Lekki Toll Gate Incident, it will be unjust and improper for Lagos State to seek to examine the Panel’s report. The Governor assured me, however, that this would only be done to allow the government to implement the Panel’s findings and recommendations, not to tamper with or mutilate it. His Excellency, I believe you.”

However, in reaching his opinion on the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters, Ebun plainly neglected to read the requirements of the Tribunal Law 2015.

After the erudite lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria Abiodun Owonikoko appeared on Arise TV to put the record straight and remind him of the legal necessity for the White Paper, Ebun quickly reversed his position and demanded 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.

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