by Opatola Victor, Esq.
Recently, there has been a major uproar on the decision of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution and Compensation of the Victim of SARS Related Abuses and other Related Matters to allow and order the re-opening of the toll gate for business to continue. While there has been the emotional argument of the fairness or not of that decision, there is the burning issue of the legal validity of the order made by the panel to re-open the consessionary business.
Does the Panel have such powers to order the Toll-Gate to commence business?
Is it within the confines and scope of the powers granted to it by the Lagos State Judicial panel of inquiry law, the instrument setting up the panel and the Lagos State judicial Panel of inquiry on restitution and compensation of the victim of SARS related abuses and other related matter proceedings rules?
In order to answer the above questions, a quick incursion will be made into the relevant laws and rules guiding the scope and duty of the panel.
The Tribunals of Inquiry Laws of Lagos state empowers the Governor of the State to constitute a panel of inquiry to “inquire into the conduct of any officer in the public service of the state or any officer in the local authority of the state… Or anyatter in respect of which in the opinion of an inquiry will be for the public welfare”
The delcision on the Re-Opening of the toll gate does not constitute an inquiry into the conduct of an officer of the State, or an officer in the public service of the state or an officer in the local of the state neither is it a department of public service.
Even if the above is to the negative, looking at section 15 of the Tribunals of Inquiry Laws of Lagos State, it shows that the duty of the tribunal is to make report and findings, inquiry and recommendation to the Governor. Section 15(2) now goes ahead to empower the Governor to, if necessary, make any such order on the recommendation of the panel, and such order once made will have effect as if it’s the judgement of an High Court and maybe enforced accordingly.
Furthermore, the Rules of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of enquiry on Restitution and Compensation of the Victims of SARS Related Abuses and other Related matter, nothing empowers the panel to decide on anything other than SARS related abuses and any other Matters so related. Section 20 provides that the Governor can restrict the powers of the panel, this shows that it cannot widen the scope scope beyond the Tribunal law.
The above goes to show that the panel cannot make such ruling or order it made in regards to the repetitive application to re-open the Lekki Toll Gate. It is beyond it’s scope of powers. It is ultra-vires it’s establishing law.
The shutting down of Lekki Toll gate was a government decision, the company ought to approach the court and not the panel for an order re-opening the toll gate.
In conclusion, the decision of the panel to grant the re-opening of the toll gate is a decision reached out of an over-reaching act.
Opatola Victor Esq.