The Lagos State judicial panel on restitution for victims of SARS related abuses and other matters sitting in Lagos on Saturday adjourned indefinitely to allow for preparation and collation of report as the panel winds down it’s assignment in the next four weeks.
The panel chairman Justice Doris Okuwobi (Rtd.) announced at the panel sitting that it needed some time to be able to work on other aspects of it’s assignment and implored litigants and other stakeholders to bear with it and will be communicated with the resumption date.
Also Prof John Oladapo Obafunwa, a forensic pathologist with LASUTH and former Vice Chancellor of the Lagos State University (LASU) Ojo, concluded his testimony at the panel and was discharged from further appearance. Recall that Prof Obafunwa had earlier tendered autopsy reports on 99 corpses labelled EndSARS of which he stated that only three of the 99 corpses according to records were recovered from the Lekki area by emergency services agencies of the state between the 21st – 24th of October 2020.
Prof Obafunwa had told the panel in his earlier appearance in obeisance to the panel summons, that the autopsy examination carried out on the corpses by the chief medical examiner of Lagos was based on the directive of the chief coroner of Lagos State in line with statutory law of Lagos State.
The former Vice Chancellor of LASU stated that all the corpses had been embalmed before being brought to the department of pathology LASUTH from various mortuaries across the state for autopsy because they were retrieved in a decomposing state and had to be preserved.
Under cross examination by Amanda Asagba of the NBA, Prof Obafunwa said that normally when incident of death occurs in a location in circumstances that suggest the commission of a crime, such a scene are normally cordoned off before the evacuation of the corpse for forensic analysis by experts, but that in all the cases, it was not done.
On the procedure adopted, Prof Obafunwa said the blood samples of all the corpses were obtained and kept for families who have lost loved ones to come forward and do a DNA test, to see if it matches any of the corpses for claim. On how many families have come forward, Prof Obafunwa said about 15 families have come forward since 2020 till and samples taken from them, but no analysis done because of the huge cost of matching a DNA which is usually borne by the government.
Prof John Obafunwa then advised that the analysis needs to be done quickly so that those that match, will result in the release of the corpses to the family. Due to the fact that there was no other cross examination or re-examination, the forensic pathologist was thanked for honouring the panel invitation to shed expert opinion on issue and discharged from further appearance before the panel.
In another petition of the day, of Nicholas Okpe and others vs the Nigeria police force, one of the petitioners Nathaniel Solomon said he is a commercial motorcyclist residing in Lekki and that his junior brother Abuta Solomon a car wash attendant was killed at the Lekki tollgate plaza on the 20th October 2020 by military men. Led in evidence by his counsel Adeshina Ogunlana, the petitioner stated that during the EndSARS protest, he use to go to the protest ground with his junior brother on a daily basis, but on the 20th October 2020, he couldn’t go because he was feeling unwell and that his junior brother went with two other known persons to him to the Lekki tollgate protest ground.
Nathaniel Solomon said one of those who went to the protest ground with his brother, Sanni came and told him that his brother had been shot and killed at the Lekki tollgate. He then said he went to the tollgate, retrieved the corpse and took it to the mortuary at General hospital Lagos Island, but due to lack of space, he was directed to St Paul mortuary at Oyingbo and that when they got to Oyingbo, his elder sister told them to take the corpse home for burial which they did at about 4am of the 21st of October 2020. Nathaniel Solomon then tendered a flash drive of video which he claimed he uploaded from his phone and a picture of the deceased lying on the ground as taken by his senior sister.
Under cross examination by Mr Rotimi Seriki of LCC, Nathaniel Solomon was asked where he found the corpse of his brother, the witness responded that the corpse was found by the riverside at Orientals hotel Victoria Island. When he was again asked if he found the body by Orientals hotel Victoria Island or Lekki tollgate booth? He changed the story and said by the tollbooth at the Lekki tollgate. When asked when he got to the tollgate? Nathaniel said he got there at about 9pm of the 20th October 2020. The counsel then called for the picture of the deceased tendered by his senior brother and asked if the picture of the deceased was taken at the spot where he was found dead and he responded in the affirmative.
The witness was then asked how come the deceased is lying on the floor in grass and he stated to the witness that the Lekki tollgate booth floors are all concrete floors. Nathaniel Solomon then said that his brother’s corpse was found by the shanties after the wire fence that runs through to Orientals hotel Victoria Island from Lekki.
Under cross examination by Mr Olukayode Enitan (SAN), he told Nathaniel Solomon that he filed his petition in December 2020 not too long after the incident had happened which was still fresh in his memory and asked why there is no mention of the flash drive, picture and his sister in the document tendered and admitted as exhibit? But before he could respond, there was power outage and the panel rose to adjourn sitting indefinitely.