Nigeria News
BRT vandalization: Tribunal pledges fairness

Lagos State Tribunal of Inquiry into the July 4 road traffic accident and subsequent arson, destruction of Bus Rapid Transit, BRT,  looting and rioting that occurred in Ikorodu Lagos, yesterday, at its inaugural sitting, warned that the era of impunity by unknown uniform men was gone in Lagos.

The warning was contained in the opening address by the tribunal chairman, Justice  Ebenezer Adebajo (rtd), who gave the assurance that there would be fair hearing to all those involved in the July 4, 2014 incident at Palm Grove, Lagos.
Adebajo said the government “put up the tribunal in ensuring that the era of Unknown Soldier, where they engage in barbaric act, is gone in Nigeria.”

Several buses belonging to the government were allegedly set ablaze by soldiers who were protesting the alleged killing of one of their colleagues by one of the BRT buses on Ikorodu Road.
Seeking for support from all those involved, Justice Adebajo urged members of the public who witnessed the incident to come before the tribunal with information on what they witnessed.

The chairman urged them not to entertain any fear, stressing that they would be well protected against any form of intimidation, while promising that the tribunal would ensure the protection and confidentiality of the witnesses where required.
He said the only way to prevent impunity and the repeat of the incident was for the tribunal to do a thorough job and make appropriate recommendation to that effect.

Although, the military was not represented at the inaugural sitting, however, Justice Adebajo said the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Kenneth Minimah and the Brigade Commander of the 9th Mechanised Division, Ikeja Cantonment, Brigadier General Lubo promised that the military would be represented before the tribunal.

The terms of reference for the tribunal include an inquiry into the road traffic accident involving a soldier]/motorcyclist and a Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, bus as well as the subsequent events at Maryland, Ikorodu road on Friday, July 4, 2014.

It is also requested to ascertain the cause and actual location of the accident, whether on or off the BRT lane and the type and condition of vehicles involved; while determining whether the late soldier or bus driver were in breach of the law.

The panel is to further determine the extent of vandalism, arson, looting and harassment of innocent citizens that followed and identify the persons responsible or involved; while making appropriate recommendations to prevent future occurrence of incidents of this nature.

Another member of the panel, Jude Igbanoi also said that the tribunal expanded its scope of activities as it was prepared to take memoranda from people who wanted to remain anonymous.

Igbanoi said, even during sitting, the tribunal would protect and take evidence from anybody who did not want to make public his identity.
In his comments before the tribunal, the Director, Centre for Free Speech, Richard Akinola who represented the civil society, recalled the burning of Kalakuta republic in 1977 by soldiers advised the tribunal against returning a verdict  of “unknown soldiers” in the matter.

“Because if at the end, the tribunal finds the driver of the BRT guilty of negligence, he would be charged accordingly and so, it  should be the case for soldiers found culpable”, he said.

The Managing Director of Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, LAMATA), Mr. Dayo Mobereola who recounted a television programme on investigation of plane crashes urged for a thorough investigation by the tribunal to ensure that such incident did not happen again.

The LAGBUS boss, Mr. Babatunde Disu who corroborated LAMATA’s position, also urged the public to assist the tribunal to enable it do a good job and make appropriate recommendation that would stop such impunity in future.

Chairman Ikorodu Branch, Dotun Adetunji who represented the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, urged the tribunal to do all within its power to encourage people to come to give evidence.

Adetunji said it was only when justice was done that people would have confidence in the system adding the decision of the tribunal to make recommendation to avoid a re-occurrence was a good step in the right direction.

Chairman, Lawyers in the Media, John Unachukwu ,counseled the tribunal to ensure that adequate security was provided the members of the public who may be vulnerable.
“All interest group must be protected in order to get to the root of the matter”, he said.

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