The Lagos State Government has raised objections to the hearing of the petition brought by the family of the late journalist, Pelumi Onifade before the Lagos judicial panel on restitution for victims of SARS abuses and other matters.
Twenty-year-old Pelumi was allegedly killed by police officers attached to the Lagos State Task Force on October 25, 2020 and his body dumped at the mortuary of the state’s general hospital, Ikorodu.
On November 6, 2020, his family had submitted a petition before the Lagos judicial panel with the hope of getting justice.
But when the panel moved to hear the petition, the lead counsel to the Lagos State Government, Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN) told members that there was a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the panel to hear it.
“We have personal and specific instruction as regards this matter,” Owonikoko said.
In a five-page preliminary objection dated the 10th of April, the state government listed three grounds of objection namely;
(a) That the subject matter of the petition as presently constituted does not fall within the terms of reference upon which the panel was constituted and as such the panel lacked the justification to entertain the petition
(b) That it is ultra vires the jurisdiction of the panel to entertain the person as the unfortunate events recounted therein were not alleged to be perpetrated by the disbanded SARS.
(c) That the unfortunate incident in the petition allegedly occurred on the 25th day of Oct 2020 long after the SARS had been disbanded and the amended instrument establishing the panel of inquiry was promulgated.
In a written address in support, the government stated that the petition suffered from double disqualification in line with the terms of reference of the panel, as the alleged incident was not perpetrated by SARS and it also occurred outside the time frame within which SARS was active.
Owonikoko said: “It is crystal clear that the totality of the petitioner’s petition before this honourable panel bears out irrefutable and without any equivocation that the petition is against the men of the Nigeria Police Force attached to the Lagos State Environmental Task Force and not against the activities of the men of the disbanded SARS.”
The government, therefore, urged the panel to dismiss the petition, refer the petitioner to the regular court and to hold among other things that the panel is not instituted to hear all matters relating to the police but specifically to the activities of men of the disbanded SARS.