Lekki Shooting: Lawyers Disagree With Oath Of Secrecy Administered On Panel Members

A cross section of legal practitioners
Lekki Shooting: Lawyers Disagree With Oath Of Secrecy Administered On Panel Members - Vantage News Nigeria
A cross section of legal practitioners

Some legal practitioners have described as a betrayal of trust by the Lagos State Government the oath of Secrecy administered on members of the panel investigating the Lekki toll gate Massacre.

Reports alleged that members of the panel were compelled to sign an Oath of Secrecy form personally issued and signed by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

Lekki Shooting: Lawyers Disagree With Oath Of Secrecy Administered On Panel Members - Vantage News Nigeria
A copy of the oath

According to a Vanguard report, one member of the panel who did not want to be named refused to confirm the action of the governor but simply said “the issue has been resolved.”

Most legal practitioners interviewed were of the opinion that it is wrong for the panel members to be sworn to an Oath of Secrecy for an inquiry with huge public interest.

A former 2nd Vice-President of the Nigeria Bar Association, (NBA) Monday Ubani said, ‘If an oath of secrecy was administered on the panel members, I don’t think it is right considering the fact that the governor is an interested party.”

“The tribunal started with an open hearing so I wonder why this issue of secrecy should come in at this time. I don’t see why this should arise now. It is procedurally ineffective that a Governor who is an interested party would want to demand secrecy from the panel.”

On his part,  the National Welfare Secretary of the Nigeria Bar Association said, “‘The Lekki shooting incident and the lies and denials thereafter are in the public sphere. They are there for posterity. It is good that there is a Judicial Panel hearing complaint from members of the public.

“Nigerians want to follow the proceedings everyday. Infact, the proceedings of the Panel should be televised live for all Nigerians to see and hear about the rot in the system. It will be unpatriotic to the nation and a disservice to the memories of the victims of the shooting if the proceedings or any aspect of it is conducted in secrecy.

“Oath of Secrecy for what? That is a betrayal of trust in the government and the Panel. I hope it is not happening. For crying out loud it is a judicial panel where justice must be seen by all to have been manifestly done. The interest of justice and public good supersede any other official motive. The law does not support any secrecy considering the circumstances of the shooting and #EndSars protest.”

Also speaking on the issue, Former President, Centre for the Defence of Human Rights, CDHR, Malachy Ugwummadu said, “if the heads of the Ministries who are the respective Commissioners may be appointed by the Governors. Thus, from the standpoint of the law, the Oaths administered or sought to be administered by the Governor are illegal.

“Secondly, and without prejudice to the very essence and purpose of Oaths of Secrecy administered on persons which is to preserve classified information and materials in the management of the affairs of Government, any such oath to be sworn before the Governor and not the Attorney General of the State as the head of the relevant Ministry of Justice immediately communicates the posture and signal of loyalty to the Governor and Government of Lagos State. This is contrary to the conditions of independence, transparency, neutrality and impartiality demanded by the youths and promised in the interests of Justice and for this exercise.

“In any case, it is likely that, at some point and given the circumstances of this inquiry, Mr. Governor himself may be required to testify or give evidence (maybe by proxy in view of the immunity he enjoys under S. 308 of the 1999 Constitution) or even send memoranda or petition. At that point, where will the Independence and impartiality of the panel be when members of the panel have sworn all manners of Oaths including that of Secrecy to him?

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