Doris Okuwobi, chairperson of the Lagos state judicial panel, says there is nothing the panel can do if the Nigerian army refuses to honour summons.
The army is a respondent in several petitions before the panel set up by the Lagos state government to probe police brutality, especially the involvement of the army in the Lekki tollgate shooting of October 20, 2020.
Although a representative of the army, Ahmed Taiwo had appeared before the panel three times previously, it has refused to honour further summons of the panel despite several petitions against army officers.
At the panel hearing on Saturday, Okwuobi, a retired justice, said petitions with summons have been forwarded to Tukur Burutai, ex-chief of army staff, for some officers to appear before the panel but there has been no response.
“All other petitions affecting the Nigerian army, were which complaints have been made against them, have been forwarded to the chief of army staff with summons,” she said.
“The summons for then to appear, if they failed to appear there is nothing the panel can do with that.”
Okwuobi’s comments came after Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, counsel representing seven #EndSARS protesters, demanded the army’s response to the comment of Babajide Lawson, a doctor at Reddington hospital, where some protesters were treated after soldiers invaded the Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020.
The doctor had said a bullet was found in the chest region of one of those treated after the incident.
Reacting, Samuel Agweh, a representative of Kehinde Akinlolu, the counsel representing the Nigerian Army, said the army disbanded the legal team representing them at the panel on November 21, 2020, adding that the Akinlolu-led team does not have the mandate to represent the army in the panel.
“That team representing the army led by Kehinde, based on the summons issued by the panel, that the team has been disbanded by the Nigerian Army on 21st November,” he said.
“We do not have any mandate to represent the army in any subsequent proceedings. It is not out of disrespect that this team is not appearing before the panel.
“Any subsequent summons issued by this panel was not brought to us, as a matter of fact we do not have the mandate of the army to represent them.”
Reacting, Olumide-Fusika said the army would not cross-examine Lawnson, the doctor from Reddington hospital, after rejecting the panel’s summons.
Also, Adeshina Ogunlana, counsel representing another group of #EndSARS protesters, said the refusal of the army to honour the summons will set a negative precedent for the panel as civilians can also refuse to honour summons.
Ogunlana said there should be penalties against army officers who refuse to honour summons, adding that leadership change in the military should not have affected the attitude of officers towards summons.
Responding, Okuwobi said the petitions of parties who refuse summons will be judged by the panel as if they were defended, adding that the panel will not be frustrated by the refusal of the army
“It will not frustrate the panel, we have rules guiding our proceedings. If they have nothing to say, we will take on the petition as if they were defended. I made that clear,” she said.
“We have tried our best, we have served the chief of army staff beyond that there is nothing the panel can do.”
However, Kayode Enitan, counsel representing the Lagos state government, requested that the army be served summons again.
The panel adjourned all petitions involving the army till February 27 for hearing.