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Lekki shootings: Again, Army shuns Lagos panel

Published by The Nation on Sat, 09 Jan 2021


By Robert EgbeFor the second consecutive time, the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, yesterday failed to honour a summons to appear before at the Lagos State Judicial Panel probing the Lekki Toll Gate incident.The armys counsel, Akinlolu Kehinde SAN, was also, again, absent.At the last adjournment of the proceedings on December 12, further hearing in the case involving the Armys alleged role in the Lekki shootings of October 20 was stalled following the absence of two key military officers.The panel, chaired by Judge Emeritus Doris Okuwobi, heard that the army rejected summons requiring the appearance of a lieutenant colonel attached the 81 Division, S.O Bello, who led the battalion involved in the Lekki shooting.It heard that another witness summons served on Godwin Umelo, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 81 Division, was accepted, but he was also absent at the days proceedings.The panel heard that their absence might not be unconnected with the outbreak of COVID-19 in the military high command which reportedly caused the death of a General.Their invitation followed the testimony of the Commander of 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier-General Ibrahim Taiwo, denying claims that soldiers shot #EndSARS protesters with live bullets during the operation.Bello was the Commanding Officer of the 65 Batallion, which was at the toll gate on the evening of October 20.Petitioners at the tribunal have alleged that soldiers fired live bullets at peaceful protesters, killing and injuring several, contrary to the army and the Federal Governments claim that only blanks were fired, in the air to disperse stone throwers.Justice Okuwobi renewed the summons and directed that it be served on Mr Kehinde SAN, following which proceedings were adjourned.But at the resumption of the panels proceedings yesterday, neither Umelo nor Bello was available. The militarys counsel was also absent.Justice Okuwobi ordered fresh summons to be issued to the concerned officers.She said: Service shall also be made to the Office of the Chief of Army Staff and learned Counsel Mr. Kehinde.I remember learned counsel at the close of the army witness number 1, clearly indicated that he had a brief to take on just that witness.He is a senior officer of the court and I am certain he will have no difficulty assisting the panel to reach some military personnel who he settled their briefs, as shown in the affidavit evidence of the officers mentioned.She adjourned further proceedings in the petition till January 23, 2021.
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