EndSARS panel: Sanwo-Olu’s oath of secrecy illegal, lawyer says

The Lagos State Government instituted a judicial panel of inquiry to investigate the allegations of corruption and extra-judicial killing against the police.

The panel, which began sitting on Tuesday, will also look into the alleged fatal shooting of protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza on October 20.

But Governor Sanwo-Olu, who promised that the investigations would be transparent, was said to have tried to force the members of the panel into signing an oath of secrecy.

The panelists, two of whom represent the youth, were said to have turned down the governor.

Human rights lawyer Inibehe Effiong, who has invoked the Freedom of Information Act to demand security footage of the alleged shooting, said Sanwo-Olu’s oath of secrecy is unconstitutional.

Effiong said:

“Section 3 (1) and (2) of the Tribunals of Inquiry Law of Lagos State is clear on the contents of the Oath of Members

“It provides thus:

“3(1) Every member of a Tribunal appointed under this Law shall, before entering upon his duties, make, and subscribe to, an oath that he will faithfully, and impartially and to the best of his ability discharge the duties devolving upon him under the inquiry, and if the inquiry is not to be held in public, that he will not divulge the proceedings or the vote or opinion of the members or any matter relevant to the inquiry.

“3(2) Such oath may be taken under the Oaths Law. In this Law ‘oath’ includes affirmation and declaration.’

“From the foregoing provisions, the document purportedly containing an ‘Oath of Secrecy’ which was to be sworn by members of the Lagos State Panel of Inquiry into SARS Abuses and Lekki Toll Gate Incident (which has been reportedly discarded by the members of the panel), is tainted with illegality.

“First, oath of secrecy will only apply to Tribunals whose proceedings are to be held in secret.

“The Lagos State SARS/Lekki Toll Gate Panel is a PUBLIC tribunal. Oath of secrecy as stated under Section 3 of The Tribunals of Inquiry Law is only applicable to secret tribunals.

“Second, members of the panel are to take the oath before a Commissioner for Oath or a Notary Public.

“Those are the persons who are authorized by the Oaths Law of Lagos State to administer oath.

“Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is not a Commissioner for Oath. It is an aberration for the governor to attempt to subject members of the SARS Panel to a secret oath.

“Since the proceedings of the SARS panel is being held in public, the only lawful oath that the Law, as quoted above, requires tribunal members to subscribe to is an oath that they will discharge their duties ‘faithfully, and impartially’ to the best of their ability.

“I hope the governor will allow the panel to function in line with its Terms of Reference; without interference.

“This is one inquiry whose outcome the world is waiting to see. Many lives have been lost. Properties worth billions have been destroyed.

“The truth must prevail.”

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