A lieutenant colonel of the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, S.O Bello, who led the team involved in the October 20 Lekki Shooting incident, has rejected witness summons issued to him by the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry.
Jonathan Ogunsanya, the counsel to the witness, said this on Saturday when the case involving the Nigerian Army was called for further hearing on their role at the Lekki Shooting.
Mr Ogunsanya said Mr Bello refused to accept the summons served to him, which was sent through a dispatcher.
Ibrahim Taiwo, the Commander, 81 Division and Head, Military Intelligence Brigade, earlier explained the role played by Mr Bello, a senior officer of the Nigerian Army in the Lekki Shooting incident.
The Commander, who appeared before the panel, twice, to testify on the incident, said Mr Bello, a lieutenant colonel, was the Commanding Officer of the 65 Battalion which was at the Lekki Tollgate on the evening of October 20.
He said Mr Bello was “the commander on ground” who gave the order for the soldiers to shoot in the air and was there to employ non-kinetic (non-violent) means thereafter.
Addressing the panel on Saturday, Mr Ogunsanya said a witness summons was also served to Godwin Umelo, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 81 Division, who accepted the summons. He was also absent at the Saturday’s proceedings.
“It was on the order of this honourable panel that (a) summon of the witness was issued and served to Major General Godwin Umelo for today’s proceedings and the same was received on the 30th of November 2020 precisely at 6:04pm,” Mr Ogunsanya said.
When Doris Okuwobi, the chair of the panel, asked for an update concerning Colonel Bello, Mr Ogunsanya said “the dispatch rider was also there, but they refused to accept service.”
“Prior to that, I sought the corporation of the legal counsel for the Army on record, who asked to be sent the summon personally.
“I most humbly wish to make an application that the learned soul, who is the counsel on record in this matter for the Nigerian Army, that his chambers be served with this witness summon subject to the overriding approval of the panel so as to enable us make progress in the matter, ” Mr Ogunsanya said.
Olukayode Enitan, a counsel holding brief for the Lagos state government, aligned himself with the submission made by Mr Ogunsanya and urged that the order be made to Akinlolu Kehinde, the counsel to the Army, who has the confidence in the Military command.
Commenting on the absence of Mr Umelo, the GOC of 81 Division, Mr Enitan said it might be due to the outbreak of coronavirus within the top military rank.
“His absence might not be unconnected to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the military high command which led to the death of one of the Generals in the past week, they should be given the grace to appear before the panel another time,” he said.
The counsel representing #EndSARS protesters at the panel, Adesina Ogunlana, also aligned himself to the position of Mr Ogunsanya.
He said 10 days ago, Mr Kehinde made a formal presentation or report to the Nigerian military, as though the matter had already been concluded.
“I think it is a bit of an affront that Summons coming from a panel like this will be refused. The panel should take a very serious view of this,” he said.
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He added the position of the military is subject to civil authority.
Giving her ruling on the matter, Mrs Okuwobi said the proceedings before this panel on Saturday has the investigation of the Lekki Shooting incident of October 20, on its cause list with major reference to the Nigerian Army.
Given the submissions of the counsels, the judge ruled that the matter be adjourned to January 8, 2021.
“Service for lieutenant colonel Bello will be effected through their counsel on record. A fresh summon shall be given major general Umelo., on or before the next adjourned date which is the 8th day of January 2021, when the matter will come up for further hearing,” she said.