#EndSARS: Lai, Keyamo two of a kind- Femi Adeoti Column

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FEMI ADEOTI COLUMN

He is struggling intensely with himself. He strives hard to please

himself all alone. He is at the greatest risk to trust himself.

The more he tries, the more he goes down low, down the drain and

frustrated. To satisfy himself has become a huge cross. The harder he

shouts hoax, the better for us.

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Without mincing words, Alhaji Lai Mohammed perfectly fits this

mysterious bill. And this is not palatable at all. He holds sway as

Minister, Information and Culture.

But each time he appears anywhere. Anytime he chooses to talk to us,

we easily pick the ruse in him. We can close our eyes and fault him

effortlessly. Even without stress or strain. We don’t think twice to

do this wonderfully. And we are always better for it.

He labours all the time and at all times. He toils day and night to

curry our favour all to no avail. He needs it so badly. But we won’t

oblige him.

He burns both ends of the candles. These come in different ugly

shapes, moulds, types and forms. But we refuse to give him a second

chance. That could be eternally disastrous.

For the first weeks, he lost his bearings totally. The so-called

leaked report of Lekki Toll Gate (LTG) massacre jolted him. It threw

him off balance.

The report ran riot to his eerie position on Lekki shootings from “top

to bottom.” He didn’t like it a hoot. So, he went into reclusion. He

withdrew to his shell unannounced.

But The Punch editorial of that Monday, November 29, 2021, threw him

out. The paper had run a brilliant comment on the report. That forced

Lai out of his self-imposed seclusion on Tuesday.

In his usual uncanny character, he drew his awful conclusion: “That

report is nothing but the triumph of fake news, tales by the

moonlight. What is circulating in public space is simply a rehash of

the unverified fake news that has been playing on social media since

the incident of October 20, 2020.”

And for The Punch: “How can any news organization worth its salt write

an editorial validating this kind of report? In a shocking twist, a

Nigerian newspaper chose to hail what it calls ‘detailed investigative

report.’”

Festus Keyamo followed closely on the heels of Lai. He is a junior

minister in the Ministry of Labour and Employment. He is anxiously

taking after Lai.

Trust him, he is learning the robe very fast. He goes at the

incredibly alarming speed. All are worried. Help, Keyamo needs urgent

intervention to halt the drift.

He came out ferociously as a back-up for Lai. In the process, he made

the matter messier for his principal. He literally walked the law on

its head. And he wanted us to clap for him.

Keyamo, just listen to yourself: “For me, that panel was an illegal

panel. It is totally illegal. All lawyers who are listening to me

should go back and read the Tribunal of Inquiry Act of Lagos State.

“It says that the governor will have power to inquire into the conduct

of any person and chieftaincy matters and any matter that would

promote the good of the public.

“However, any person there was defined in section 21 to mean public

officers of the state. It is defined to mean somebody within the

public service of the Lagos State or the local government as the case

may be.

“However, if you look at section 21 again of the tribunal of inquiry

law, it says that it has to be within the legislative competence of

Lagos State.

“In other words, it is only a person over which whom the Lagos state

has control that they can inquire into their conduct. If you don’t

have control over me, you can’t inquire into my conduct.

“The policemen, the armed forces, the military are not officers of

Lagos state. They are officers of the federal government.

“By virtue of the constitution, it is only the federal government that

can control the conduct of policemen and the military. Lagos state

cannot be in control, cannot legislate too regarding police matters

and military matters.

“To inquire into the conduct of policemen and military, no state

government can’t do that.”

Keyamo would not go unchallenged. He had a match in his namesake,

Festus Ogun. I found Ogun’s response an apt response to Keyamo’s

outburst. He practically took Keyamo to the cleaners:

“On Sunday, Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Labour and

Employment, said the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution

for Victim of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters was ‘illegal and a

waste of time’ on the ground that the Lagos State Government lacks the

power to probe the conduct of police and military officers.

“With due respect, the position of the learned Senior Advocate of

Nigeria (SAN) is grossly misconceived, suspiciously misleading and

does not reflect the true position of the law. The Lagos EndSARS panel

was constituted within the ambits of law and its investigative powers

are neither overreaching nor beyond the scope of the 1999

Constitution.

“First, Section 1 of the Tribunal of Inquiry Law, Cap T7, Laws of

Lagos State, 2015, confers power on the Governor of Lagos State to

constitute the judicial panel to investigate ‘any matter in respect of

which in the opinion an inquiry would be for the public welfare.’

Instructively, it is settled law that the Federal Government lacks the

power and authority to constitute judicial panels or any tribunal

whatsoever for state governments.

“With a clear understanding that the Federal Government lacks the

constitutional vires to constitute tribunal for states, the National

Economic Council (NEC), last year directed the immediate establishment

of state-based judicial panels of inquiry to investigate complaints of

police brutality or related extrajudicial killings with a view to

delivering justice for all victims of the dissolved Special

Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) and other police units.

“In the popular case of Fawehinmi v. Babangida (2003) 3 NWLR (Pt.808)

604, the Supreme Court succinctly held that: ‘The National Assembly

cannot enact a general law for the establishment of tribunals of

inquiry for and applicable in the Federation of Nigeria. The power to

enact such a law has become a residual matter for the states in

respect of which the houses of assembly can legislate for their

respective states by virtue of Section 4(7)(a) of the 1999

Constitution. Although the Tribunals of Inquiry Act is an ‘existing

law,’ its application is limited and has no general application.’

“Flowing from the decision of Supreme Court, it is clear like crystal

that the Federal Government of Nigeria can only set up tribunal for

the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and not for states of the

federation.

“It is not in doubt that matters relating to the police and other

security agencies established by law are on the exclusive legislative

list. It is equally not a subject of controversy that Section 21 of

the Tribunal of Inquiry Law of Lagos State empowers the governor to

exercise his powers under the law in respect of matters within the

legislative competence of the state.

“My only question is whether issues of human rights are within the

legislative competence of state governments and whether the panels so

constituted can look into the atrocities and human rights violations

committed by the police and other security agencies?

“In AG Abia State v. AG Federation (2006) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1005) 265, the

Supreme Court clarified that matters not included in the exclusive and

concurrent lists are residual and are meant for the state, not the

federal, to legislate upon. Human rights related matters are neither

on the exclusive nor concurrent lists, therefore, they are within the

legislative competence of Lagos State. Thus, the Lagos State

Government can validly make laws in respect of human rights and

constitute panels to investigate cases of human rights violations

recorded within the state.

“While the Lagos State Government cannot make laws to control,

discipline or regulate security officers of the Federal Government, it

has the constitutional powers to set up panels to investigate human

rights abuses and in any case where the conducts of federal officers

like the police and army come under checks or scrutiny, the panels so

constituted have the powers in law and equity to investigate them and

make valid recommendations.

“There is a fundamental difference between the Lagos State government

legislating over matters on officers of the Federal Government and a

case where officers of the Federal Government who committed heinous

crimes against humanity in Lagos State become subjects of a panel of

inquiry set up by the Lagos State Government. Those that perpetrated

the massacre cannot use the law as a shield from being answerable for

their crimes.

“Meanwhile, it is a rude shock that the learned silk just discovered

his alleged ‘illegality’ of the panel over a year since it was

constituted up till the point that it submitted its reports. This

sudden attack on the legal validity of the panel is strange and quite

suspicious. One wonders if the minister would have maintained the same

position if the panel reports and recommendations absolved the Federal

Government of any wrongdoing.

“I daresay that the opinion of the minister is calculated to discredit

the valid reports of the panel. Too late! The truth is in the open and

no attempt to thwart the genuine efforts of the EndSARS panel will

succeed.

“I find it self-immolating that the same Federal Government that

directed that the panel be set up and submitted itself to its

jurisdiction is coming forward to challenge the constitutionality of

the panel. It shows a great level of dissimulation and

double-standard.

“Why is the Federal Government blowing hot and cold? Why is the

Federal Government approbating and reprobating? It is illegal and

immoral for the Federal Government to submit to the jurisdiction of

the panel and later retract when the verdict is ‘unfavourable.’

“In the light of the foregoing, I call on well-meaning Nigerians to

disregard the views of Mr Keyamo as it is grossly misleading, made in

bad faith and calculated to distract the incontrovertible fact that

Nigeria is currently ruled by merchants of death.”

Ogun really nailed it hard on point.

Lai and Keyamo are boastful and arrogant. Their pronouncements have

great negative implications. They rubbished their principal and the

regime they serve.

Days before they talked down on us something happened. President

Muhammadu Buhari said he was waiting for Lagos and others with similar

panel. He encouraged them to turn in their findings as fast as

possible.

He swore before the whole world that his regime would look diligently

into their reports. He made the vow in the presence of the United

States Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken. It was in the open. No

hiding place.

But Lai thought differently. He came out boldly to defy Buhari. With

all the strength in him, he swept Buhari’s statement under his dirty

carpet. And he thought we would keep quite.

That insult was enormous. He simply took Buhari to the cleaners. He

was sure nothing would happen. Truth to his belief, nothing has

happened so far. And nothing may actually happen.

As if that was not enough. A junior minister was emboldened to go even

extra miles. He added salt to the wounds already inflicted by Lai.

Keyamo pointedly told us the Lagos #EndSARS panel was illegal.

Yet, the Lagos State Government came out in wholesome condemnation of

the report. It feigned complete ignorance of the issues raised. It

wanted the report buried. That it never existed.

That action is widening gap by the day. Government and the people are

fast going their separate ways. Things are rapidly falling apart

between the leaders and the led. They no longer see eye-to-eye.

The little trust the followers thought they could hold on to

disappeared that Tuesday night. The leaders abandoned them as usual.

We are more than confident we cannot believe our government again.

That white paper confirmed all that. Its description of the report was

damning. It captured government thinking even before the panel was

consummated. The reason it christened it in a three-letter word:

“Assumptions and speculations.”

Help, our government has completely gone haywire, ravaging all the

way. They are having a field day unhindered at our expense. They can

only have a sarcastic laugh. But they won’t have the last laugh.

They would only secure a bitter laugh if at all any. They have

murdered sleep. It’s now nightmares galore for them. Since October 20,

2020, they have being doing everything in bitterness.

The report of their panel was a bitter pill for them. They couldn’t

stand it. They could not swallow it. So? They leaked it with

bitterness. They then sponsored make-believe critics to condemn the

report with bitterness.

They were overwhelmed with bitterness. The reason they could nail it

in bitterness.

Exactly what they did on Tuesday, under the cover of night. What a

tribute to the night of October 20, 2020; the night of Lekki Toll Gate

massacre.

“A massacre without bodies.” Courtesy: Lai.

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