The Lagos State Government has written the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on the Restitution and Compensation of Victims of SARS Related Abuse and other Related Matters, to get the petition of Emmanuel Pelumi Onifade, a 20-year-old journalist murdered by the Nigeria Police Force in October 2020, thrown out of the panel.
A notice of preliminary objection exclusively obtained by FIJ and raised by Olukayode Enitan, SAN, representatives of the Lagos State government, stated that the panel has no jurisdiction to hear the case of Onifade’s murder, and that the case should therefore be thrown out of the panel.
The notice further stated that the murder of Onifade was not perpetrated by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and thirdly that Onifade was killed on October 25, 2020, which was “long after the SARS had been disbanded and the Amended Instrument establishing the Panel of Enquiry was promulgated ”.
On Saturday at the panel sitting, the deliberateness of the Lagos State government to deny Onifade justice became more obvious when the two advocates representing the government said, while choosing dates for the next hearing, that they had specific instructions on Onifade’s case and would want to be available for the taking of the application.
Onifade’s case was brought before the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Lagos State of Ministry of Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN. However, the state is bent on getting the case dismissed.
FIJ spoke to Onfiade’s lawyer, Lekan Egberongbe, who stated that the panel had listened and prviously given judgement on cases that did not involve SARS officers. He further stated that the panel was not restricted to only hearing cases of brutality by SARS. A case involving the Area C Police who assaulted Felicia Opara, a protester, was brought before the panel. Felicia was represented by Ridwan Oke and was awarded N750,000 as settlement.
A human rights lawyer who did not want to be named told FIJ the recent tactics by the Lagos State government to get Onifade’s case thrown out of the judicial panel are an attempt to shield the President of the Yoruba Youth Forum (YFF), Abiodun Bolarinwa, who was captured on camera by Onifade shooting at peaceful protesters at Abule Egba Under Bridge in Lagos.
Pelumi was killed by the Nigerian Police Force attached to the Lagos State Environmental Task Force, Oshodi while on assignment for GboahTV, a private media platform. Onifade had gone to cover the looting of Covid-19 palliatives at the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture , Warehouse, at Abattoir, Oko-Oba, Agege.
“I have gone through his application (preliminary objection) and what he (Lagos State lawyers) is saying is that it is EndSARS matter and Lekki Toll Gate matter that the panel is looking into. But if you go into the terms of reference, it talks about police brutality in general, EndSARS is just a launch pad. If somebody is now isolating that related matter and you are now saying that for that reason the case of Pelumi cannot be attended to, honestly it gives me a lot of worries,” Egberongbe said, commenting on the application by the lawyers representing Lagos State.
On March 18, FIJ spoke with Mrs Bose Onifade who was yet to see the corpse of her son since his death. At the time, it had been 144 days since her son had been killed and the Lagos State had refused to release his corpse. Mrs Onifade had gone for DNA tests to prove she was the mother of Pelumi and yet the body of her son is still held by the Lagos State government till today.
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