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28.11.2021 EndSARS Watch How Lagos Judicial Panel Silenced Family of Journalist Murdered by Police

Published 28th Nov, 2021

By Yakubu Mohammed

A year after police officers attached to Lagos State Task Force killed Pelumi Onifade, a 20-year-old journalist interning with Gboah TV, the Lagos State Judicial Panel on Restitution for Victims of SARS-Related Abuses and Other Matters has failed to give justice to the family.

The young journalist was killed while interviewing a crowd of people assembled at a place where COVID-19 palliative was being looted in Oko Oba, Agege, Lagos.

Pelumi, a second-year student of history at Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, was on the front line of the #EndSARS event that shook Nigeria on October 2020. Sadly, he was murdered four days after the protest by a police team led by one Yinka Egbeyemi.

READ ALSO How Lagos Policemen Brutalised Engineer Working With Army, Left Him With Blood Stains

Abosede Onifade, the deceased’s mother still suffers from the incident. In an interview with FIJ, the woman recounted how her only male child was killed by the police. 

“Eyewitnesses told us that the police shot our child and went away with his body in their van,” Abosede told FIJ. “We started searching for him from one police station to another, but we could not find him until we were told his body was found at a morgue in Ikorodu.”

THE FRUITLESS SEARCH

For one week, the family searched various police stations in Lagos, starting from the day the incident occurred. However, on October 30, delegates from a church the family attended broke the news to them. “We were told our son was found dead at a mortuary in Ikorodu,” the mother said.

The family had gone to several police stations searching for him. “I personally went to Ojuelegba Police Station, but I could not find him. I also went to a police station in Ikeja. The people in the cell told me they were all from Lekki,” Abosede told FIJ.

READ ALSO: Lagos Police ‘Beg LASTMA’ for Permission to Extort N50,000 From Commercial Driver

The body would later be transferred to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), where the family was asked to do a DNA test to confirm if the deceased was their child.

Olatunde Onifade, the bereaved father told FIJ, “After the body was found at a morgue in Ikorodu, we went there and they told us that all dead persons had been moved to LASUTH”.

“When we went to LASUTH, a doctor asked for our son’s name and we told him. He further informed us that autopsies had been carried on the bodies brought to the facility. He then advised us to take a DNA test and we did, but we never got the result.”

The doctor later revealed to the family why the result was not out: Lagos State Government took responsibility for the DNA test done, but had not paid for them. 

DENIED JUSTICE AT LAGOS #EndSARS PANEL

In a bid to get justice for their slain son, the Onifades, on November 6, 2020, submitted a petition to the Lagos #EndSARS panel. But their efforts were frustrated on several occasions.

Olatunde, Pelumi’s father, said they went to the panel seven consecutive times, hoping justice would be served.

READ ALSO: EXCLUSIVE: Names, Ranks… All 58 Policemen Indicted by Lagos Panel for Brutalising #EndSARS Protesters

“Some days, the panel would say only five matters would be treated. We would patiently wait, but they wouldn’t call us.”

When the panel would eventually hear the petition, Abiodun Owonikoko, the lead counsel to the Lagos State Government, convinced the panel that a preliminary objection defied the panel’s jurisdiction to hear it.

FIJ had reported how the Lagos State Government plotted to dismiss Pelumi’s case from the panel through three objections in a five-page preliminary objection Owonikoko earlier filed. The objection document is dated April 10, 2020.

Below are the three objections:

(a) That the subject matter of the petition as presently constituted does not fall within the terms of reference upon which the panel was constituted and as such the panel lacked the justification to entertain the petition.

(b) That it is ultra vires the jurisdiction of the panel to entertain the person as the unfortunate events recounted therein were not alleged to be perpetrated by the disbanded SARS.

(c) That the unfortunate incident in the petition allegedly occurred on the 25th day of Oct 2020, long after SARS had been disbanded and the amended instrument establishing the panel of inquiry was promulgated.

However, the deceased’s family, through its lawyer, Lekan Egberongbe, rejected the objections, arguing that the panel, by appellation, was constituted to address ‘other related matters’. They also contended that the incident happened during the #EndSARS protest and as such deserved to be treated like others.

READ MORE: PORTRAITS OF BLOOD (II): Names, Photos, Videos… How Lekki #EndSARS Protesters Were Massacred

The panel chaired by Doris Okuwobi, closed sitting on October 19, 2021, without addressing Onifades’ petition.

The family had since been living in despair with their son’s body helplessly lying in the cold in LASUTH morgue.

“We want FIJ to get justice for us. At least get our child’s body for us,” Olatunde and Abosede chorused. 

Published 28th Nov, 2021

By Yakubu Mohammed

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