The Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, SAN has been described as ignorant over his assertion that all the #EndSARS panels setup in Nigeria are illegal.
Reacting, a member of the Lagos #EndSARS panel, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, and a former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Vice President, Monday Ubani opposed Keyamo's stance.
The panels were setup to probe police brutality in the States and Lekki Tollgate shootings in Lagos.
Keyamo, speaking on a Channels TV programme Sunday Politics, questioned the legality of the panels, adding that he spoke as a lawyer and not a Minister.
“All the Panels of Inquiry set up by the various States of the federation following the crisis that arose as the result of #EndSars protest all over the country are illegal,” he said.
But Adegboruwa, who among other panel members has been in the spotlight following a controversial leaked report of the Lagos panel, berated the Minister’s view, saying it was formed because the outcome of the Lagos panel did not favour the Federal Government.
The human rights activist reacted to Keyamo’s assertion in a statement on Monday, titled: “The legality of #EndSARS panels.
Adegboruwa said: “The Federal Government has recently muted the idea that all the Judicial Panels of Inquiry set up by the various States across the Federation, especially that of Lagos State, are illegal.
“It has never been part of our legal system in Nigeria, for a plaintiff who approached the court in the first instance, to turn around to challenge the legality or jurisdiction of the court.
“The #EndSARS Panels were set up at the behest of the Federal Government, through the National Economic Council. In the case of the Lagos Panel, the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Army, voluntarily submitted itself to the jurisdiction of the Panel, the Federal Government called witnesses, it tendered documents and it made very lengthy presentations.
“A party cannot approbate and reprobate at the same time. Thus, a party who initiated a process and willingly and actively participated in that process, cannot turn around, after judgment, to plead illegality or absence of jurisdiction, simply because the outcome is unfavourable. We must strengthen our institutions to make them work.
“While we all await the White Paper from the Lagos State Government, it is important for the government to build trust in the people in all its dealings and utterances.”
Ubani’s stated his opposition in an article titled “Legal competence of panels of inquiry on police.”
Ubani said: “I disagree vehemently with him (Keyamo) and let him know that he erred gravely in law and logic in his posturing tonight on Channels TV.
Ubani, Chairman of the NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), noted that the National Economic Council on October 15 2020, presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo SAN, “resolved to institute Judicial Commissions of Inquiry to deliver justice for all victims of the dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other Police units.”
He noted, among others, that Governors set up the Judicial Panels under their Tribunal of Inquiry Laws, thus, acted lawfully.
Ubani added: “The panels set up by the various states in the federation are constitutional, legitimate and are empowered to inquire into the various allegations of human rights violations committed by the personnel of the Nigerian Police Force as nothing in the Constitution of Nigeria precludes them from doing so with the plethora of cases and samples already cited above.
“Presently no judicial decision so far has pronounced the panels as unconstitutional despite the grumblings here and there. The feeble attempt by the Chief Legal Officer of the Nigerian Police Force to institute a suit challenging the legality of the Panels was met with a severe reprimand from the top hierarchy of the Force and the said suit was quickly withdrawn from the Court.
“We do not know of any other pending suit challenging the legality of the panels presently in any of the Nigerian courts.”
He advised the government to “go the whole hog” in implementing the panels’ recommendations.