The 81 Division of the Nigeria Army has again failed to honour a summon to appear before the Lagos State Judicial Panel probing the Lekki Toll Gate incident.
The counsel of the Army, Akinlolu Kehinde, SAN, was also absent at Friday’s sitting where they were expected to appear after failing to do so on December 12.
At the last adjournment of the proceedings on December 12, hearing in the case involving the Army’s alleged role in the Lekki shootings of October 20 was stalled following the absence of two key military officers.
The panel was told that the Army rejected the summons requiring the appearance of a lieutenant colonel attached to the 81 Division, S.O Bello, who led the battalion involved in the Lekki shooting.
It was also told that another witness summons served on Godwin Umelo, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 81 Division, was accepted, but he was also absent at the day’s proceedings.
The panel was further told that their absence might be because of the outbreak of COVID-19 in the military high command which reportedly caused the death of a General.
The officers were invited following the testimony of a Commander in the 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier-General Ibrahim Taiwo, who denied claims that soldiers shot #EndSARS protesters with live bullets during the operation.
Petitioners at the tribunal had alleged that soldiers fired live bullets at peaceful protesters, killing and injuring several. Though the Army and the Federal Government denied this, claiming that only blanks were fired in the air to disperse stone throwers.
Justice Okuwobi renewed the summons on December 12, directing that it be served on Mr Kehinde SAN, following which proceedings were adjourned
However, at the resumption of the panel’s proceedings on Friday, neither Umelo nor Bello was available. The military’s counsel was also absent.
Justice Okuwobi ordered fresh summons to be issued to the concerned officers.
She said: “Service shall also be made to the Office of the Chief of Army Staff and learned Counsel Mr. Kehinde.
“I remember learned counsel at the close of the army witness number 1, clearly indicated that he had a brief to take on just that witness.
“He is a senior officer of the court and I am certain he will have no difficulty assisting the panel to reach some military personnel who he settled their briefs, as shown in the affidavit evidence of the officers mentioned.”
She adjourned further proceedings in the petition till January 23, 2021.