Jonathan Ogunsanya, a lawyer, says the army refused to receive the summons for S.O. Bello, commanding officer of the 65 battalion, Bonny Camp, Victoria Island, inviting him to appear before the Lagos judicial panel of inquiry.
The panel, which is set up to probe police brutality and other related matters, had summoned Bello and Godwin Umelo, general officer commanding, 81 division, Victoria Island, Lagos, to explain their roles in the incident that took place at the Lekki tollgate area on October 20, 2020.
At the hearing on Saturday, the two army officers were absent, as their case was scheduled for hearing.
Explaining the outcome on the service of the summons, Ogunsanya said Umelo, who is a military general, was served and accepted the summons on November 30, 2020 around 6:04pm, but that of Bello could not be delivered as nobody agreed to receive it on his behalf.
Ogunsanya then suggested that the summons should be served through Akinolu Kehinde, senior advocate of Nigeria and counsel to the Nigerian army.
“For today’s proceedings, my lord, the appointment of service was served and same was received on 30th November, 2020 (referring to Major General Godwin Umelo), precisely 6:04pm. That is the only appointment of service before this honourable panel. On the service on Colonel Bello, we dispersed it, nobody agreed to accept the service,” Ogunsanya, the panel’s counsel said.
“Prior to that, I sought the cooperation of the learned silk for the Nigerian army, who directed us to serve him personally. I suggest that this honourable panel serve the learned silk, counsel to the Nigerian army, the summons, so as to enable us make progress in this case.”
Responding, Kayode Enitan, counsel to the Lagos state government, aligned with Ogunsanya that the army counsel be served on behalf of Bello and Umelo.
Enitan urged the panel to adjourn, noting that the army chiefs might have gone on self-isolation due to the recent death of a general who tested positive for COVID-19.
“I second the opinion of Mr Ogunsanya, that the legal counsel to the army be served. He obviously has the confidence of the army,” the counsel to the Lagos state government said.
“I think the absence might not be unconnected to the news that there is an outbreak of COVID-19 among the military generals, which led to the death of one of the generals. I think there is need to adjourn, so that those who have to go through the process of self-isolation can do so.”
On his part, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika (SAN), counsel representing #EndSARS protesters, aligned with the submission of the counsel for the Nigerian army’s lawyer to be served the summons.
The counsel representing #EndSARS protesters also faulted the lawyer of the Nigerian army for presenting a report about the case to the army authorities, when the panel had not concluded hearing.
Doris Okuwobi, chairperson of the panel, said Bello should be served the summons through the counsel to the Nigerian army.
Hearing on the matter was adjourned till January 8, 2021 to give the army chiefs enough time to appear before the panel.