A panel of a Nigerian Supreme Court judges condemned Thursday the carnage unleashed by the army on a busload of judicial workers, describing the events of April 2016 as a “massacre.”
The comment by the three-judge panel was a rare public rebuke for a ruling party that has characterized reports of deaths on the site of an ongoing toll-gate project in Lagos state as balderdash. At least 30 people were killed in the attack, and many more were wounded.
Lagos lawyer Bamidele Aturu, who is part of a group of lawyers investigating the incident, took the judicial panel to task. “This is the first time any Nigerian judicial panel has publicly said this,” he said in a telephone interview. “So this is a substantial change in the tone of the local judiciary.”
Aturu said the three-judge panel had been studying transcripts of the deposition hearings of the perpetrators of the massacre. Aturu and the various witnesses will testify in person at the trial scheduled for March 10, he said. The trial began in April last year but was adjourned in September, and only then did the panel speak out.
This is the first time any Nigerian judicial panel has publicly said this. So this is a substantial change in the tone of the local judiciary. — Bamidele Aturu, a lawyer who is part of a group investigating the matter
The Lagos state-run electricity company, the Transmission Company of Nigeria, and the contractor building the Lagos toll gate, Deepwater Construction Limited, signed a 200 million naira ($571,000) compensation agreement with three engineering firms whose employees died in the carnage, but the families of the victims did not file a suit to recover any damages.
The June 2016 ambush and massacre occurred after some workers had been deported and the project was in the final stages of the planning phase. The armistice agreement called for the beneficiaries of the massacre to be paid 400,000 naira ($1,550) per person, but few took the offer. They are still waiting for the settlement, Aturu said.
The protesters had petitioned the government on behalf of more than 250 of the massacred victims. “They are just clamoring and demanding justice,” Aturu said. “They have taken a stand.”
The Supreme Court panel of Justices Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, Justice Isiaka Ademola Aikawa and Justice Ejembi Eko made their statement Thursday during an ongoing election petition in the state over lack of voting materials and other shortcomings.
The aggrieved party, the People’s Democratic Party, had filed a petition against the first two of the three candidates for governor, Akinwunmi Ambode and Rotimi Akeredolu, which claimed that their election was “rigged.”
The Supreme Court, which has set aside the judgments of Lagos state’s three lower courts, earlier this month reserved judgment on the petition that alleged the March 28 election was fixed to enable the incumbent, Ambode, win.