…Berates Lai Mohammed for Executive Rascality …Fears Gov Sanwo-Olu May Be Presented with a Fait Accompli …Asserts White Paper Not Legally Recognized Leading Human Rights Lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), says that the Federal Government is not competent to reject the report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry On Restitution For Victims of
…Berates Lai Mohammed for Executive Rascality
…Fears Gov Sanwo-Olu May Be Presented with a Fait Accompli
…Asserts White Paper Not Legally Recognized
Leading Human Rights Lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), says that the Federal Government is not competent to reject the report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry On Restitution For Victims of SARS Related Abuses And Other Matters, insisting that the position of the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed on the issue amounts to “utter display of executive rascality.”
In a statement in Lagos titled, “FG IS NOT COMPETENT TO REJECT THE REPORT OF OKUWOBI JUDICIAL COMMISSION OF INQUIRY,” Falana narrates:
“On November 18, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari held a meeting in Abuja with Mr. Anthony Blinken, the United States Secretary of State. During the meeting, President Buhari said that the state governments in the country would have to take steps on the reports of their panels, before the federal government acts on the recommendations.
“In particular, the President said, “We at the federal have to wait for the steps taken by the states, and we have to allow the system to work. We can’t impose ideas on them. Federal government has to wait for the reaction of the states.”
“But in utter display of executive rascality, Mr. Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information has overruled the President by rejecting the report of the Lagos Panel on behalf of the Federal Government. By not waiting “for the reaction of the states” the Minister has overruled the President of the Republic. As if that was not enough the Minister decided to insult the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwoolu by rejecting the report of the Judicial Commission instituted by him under the Tribunal of Enquiry Law of Lagos State.
“Thus, the Governor who is currently studying the report has been presented with a fait accompli by the Minister. As far as Mr. Mohammed is concerned the Governor must toe his line since the Lagos.
“Mr. Mohammed has described the 309-page report of a Judicial tribunal as “fake news”. As a lawyer of many years’ standing, the Minister ought to have known that it is the height of arrogant contempt to describe the report of a Judicial Commission of Enquiry constituted under the Tribunal of Enquiry Law as “fake”.
“It is regretable to note that the Minister has failed to realise that the Lagos State Government is not an extension of the Federal Government but a sovereign entity under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Since the name of the Federal Government is not clothed with any power under the Tribunal of Enquiry Law the purported rejection of the report by the Minister ought to be treated with disdain by the Lagos State Government.
“In a press conference held on October 20, 2021, Mr. Mohammed had recalled that the National Economic Council had “directed State Governors to immediately forward copies of final reports of the panels to their Attorneys-General for prompt arraignment and prosecution of all indicted persons. Where incidents in the reports relate to matters of discipline, in addition to prosecution, NEC urged the Nigeria Police Force to take disciplinary action on the affected officers in line with the provisions of the Police Act 2020.” Has Mr. Mohammed overruled the collective decision of the National Economic Council?
“However, it is pertinent to point out that Mr. Mohammed’s comment on the report lacks originality as it is a mere regurgitation of the jaundiced views of a couple of aggrieved individuals. The two individuals, have tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to discredit the findings and recommendations of the body.
“In a desperate attempt to mislead the Governor, both aggrieved persons have been campaigning for the total rejection of the report because of the so called discrepancies and inconsistencies contained in the document. No doubt, these individuals are entitled to express their opinions on the report of the Commission. But the call for the rejection of the report is illegal in every material.”
Narrating a closely related case, Falana says,
“In December 2015, the Nigerian Army massacred hundreds of Shiites in Zaria and hurriedly buried their bodies in a mass grave at Mango in Kaduna State on the orders of the then Chief of Army Staff. Even though Mr. Mohammed said that the report of the genocidal attack was a hoax the Justice Garba Judicial Commission of Enquiry instituted by the Kaduna State Government confirmed a casualty figure of 348 Shiites.
“Six years therafter, the Authorities have ignored the recommendation of the Judicial Commission that the culprits be prosecuted. The Lagos Judicial Commission of Enquiry accepted the evidence of forensic experts to the effect that 99 dead bodies were dumped in the various mortuaries in Lagos State during the protests. Mr. Mohammed has described the massacre as “fake news”.
“Finally, Mr. Mohammed’s callous comment on the cold murder of unarmed citizens at the Lekki Toll Gate is a sad reminder of his own experience under the same forces of brutalization.
On August 8, 2014, Mr. Mohammed, the then Publicity Secretary of the APC had left Lagos for Osogbo, Osun State in support of Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s re-election bid. Later that night it was reported that he had been kidnapped by a team of hooded operatives of the State Security Service.
“I was aroused from my sleep by Govenor Aregbesola who requested me to assist in searching for Mr. Mohammed. However, a couple of hours later, i was relieved when it was reported that he had regained his freedom. But the PDP dismissed the kidnap story as a hoax emanating from the fecund imagination of Mr. Mohammed. Having complety crossed to the other side of the political divide, Mr. Mohammed conveniently regards news of the tragic massacre of unarmed citizens as fake.
Positing that Mr. Mohamned’s steps is capable of undermining the rule of law and social justice in the land, Falana wants President Buhari to call him to order.
Continuing further, the senior advocate explains,
“Pursuant to the Tribunals of Inquiry Law, Laws of Lagos State 2015 the Justice Doris Okuwobi Commission of Enquiry was instituted by the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwoolu last year to probe sundry allegations of police brutality in the State.
“Upon the conclusion of the assignment last week the Commission submitted “a full report in writing of its proceedings, findings and recommendations and record an opinion and reasons leading to its conclusions” in line with Section 15 (1) of the Law.
“Thereafter, the Governor set up a 4-member Committee of cabinet members headed by the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo SAN, to advise him with respect to the position of the Government which will be contained in a White Paper.
“We are not unaware of the purported rejection of the report of the Commission by the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed and the pressure on the White Paper Committee by some anti democratic forces to advise the Governor to jettison the findings and recommendations of the Commission.
“Such critics are certainly not aware that there is no provision for the issuance of a White Paper under the Law. In other words, a White Paper is a mere administrative medium for conveying the decision or position of the Government on the report of an Administrative or Judicial Enquiry.
“Therefore, since the White Committee is not known to law its members are not competent to edit, modify, alter, edit or reject the report of the Commission. More so, that the members of White Paper Committee did not have the opportunity of taking evidence from the witnesses who had testified before the Commission.
“Having regard to the letter and spirit of the Tribunal of Enquiry Law it is submitted that the Federal Government lacks the legal competence to reject the report of a Panel of Enquiry duly constituted by the Lagos State Government.
“Therefore, Governor Sanwoolu should not hesitate to reject the gratuitous call for the rejection of the report of the Lagos Judicial Commission by Mr. Lai Mohammed. Indeed, the Governor may wish to draw the attention of the Minister to the case of Fawehinmi v Babangida (2003) 12 WRN 1 where the Supreme Court held that the power of the President to set a Tribunal of Enquiry is limited to the Federal Capital Territory as “the National Assembly cannot enact a general Law for the establishment of tribunals of inquiry for, and applicable in the Federation of Nigeria.”
“With respect, the Governor cannot reject the report, summary of evidence and findings of the Okuwobi Judicial Commission. Thus, by virtue of section 15 (2) of the Law, the Governor is only empowered to “make any order in relation to any property or other matter dealt with in the report; and such order when made may be delivered to the Registrar of a High Court (which order the Registrar is empowered and required to receive and register without payment of fee) and when so delivered the order will have effect as a judgment of that High Court and may be enforced accordingly but will not be reviewed in any Court by prerogative order or by any other means and, no appeal will lie from the order.”
“In the case of Williams v Dawodu (1988) 4 NWLR (PT 87) 189 the Court annulled the aspect of the law that equated the order may pursuant to the findings of a Judicial Commission to the judgment of the High Court. Once a White Paper is issued by the Governor on the recommendations the institutions and individuals indicted by the Commission may wish to approach the High Court to challenge any aspect of the report.
“The order of the Governor in respect of the findings and recommendations of the Judicial Commission “may be delivered to the Registrar of a High Court (which order the Registrar is empowered and required to receive and register without payment of fee) and when so delivered the order will have effect as a judgment of that High Court and may be enforced accordingly…”
“Once the order is registered by the Registrar any institution or individual who is dissatisfied with any aspect of the report of the Commission is at liberty to approach the High Court for legal redress. In Williams v Dawodu (supra) the Lagos State High Court had granted an interim order of injunction restraining the Judicial Commission of Enquiry set up to probe the cold murder of the Dawodu brothers in Lagos during a riot. The ground for the injunction was that the Police had charged the persons suspected to have killed the deceased.
“But the Court of Appeal deprecated the injunctive relief. Speaking for the Court, Akpata JCA (as he then was and of blessed memory) held that “… if the tribunal ascertains and determines the extent of damage or loss suffered by the said families, and this is followed by reparation by the State government of such damage or loss, the reparation may assuage their pain or sense of loss.
“Also an inquiry may prevent a future occurrence of such civil disturbances. It seems to me both morally and legally wrong to prevent the State government from carrying out its responsibilities to the generality of the people of this State.”
“The Governor should not succumb to the blackmail of the merchants of death who have asked him to reject the report of the Commission in spite of the unchallenged evidence that 99 people were killed in Lagos by security forces during the #endsars protests.
“Finally, the Okuwobi Judicial Commission has recommended a number of measures to ‘assuage the pain or sense of loss’ of the victims of the brutality meted out to them and the bereaved family members of the 99 persons whose bodies were dumped in the various mortuaries in Lagos State by police and military personnel.
“Meanwhile, on the directive of Governor Sanwoolu the Okuwobi Judicial Commission has awarded reparation to the tune of N409 million to other victims of police brutality that had occurred in Lagos State. Therefore, Governor Sanwoolu is legally obligated to implement the remaining recommendations of the Commission.
“On moral grounds, the Governor is equally bound by the directive of the National Economic Council to “immediately forward copies of final reports of the panels to their Attorneys-General for prompt arraignment and prosecution of all indicted persons”.