WHO IS AFRAID OF OGUN'S TRUTH COMMISSION?
The desire of Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State to right the wrongs, assuage the pains and redress human rights abuses inflicted on the good people of the state between January 2003 and May 29, 2011 necessitated the setting up of the five-man panel otherwise known as Ogun State Truth Commission.
The governor inaugurated the Hon. Justice Pius Aderemi-led Truth Commission on September 14, 2011 to inquire into the death, disappearance, assassination, kidnapping and physical torture of persons, and wanton destruction of properties suspected to be state-sponsored in Ogun State during the period under review and other sundry matters contained in the terms of reference. The commission, which also has as its members Hon. Justice Abdullahi Mustapha (rtd), Hon. Justice Dolapo Akinsanya (rtd), human rights activist, Barrister Bamidele Aturu, a nominee of Ogun State branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, Barrister Tunji Onabanwo and Mr. Lanre Suraj as Secretary, is expected to complete its assignment and submit its report on or before December 13, 2011.
The establishment of a truth (and reconciliation) commission is not a strange development the world over. The hope of redressing wrongs, or abuses, or conflicts which occurred in the past is the growing factor that usually leads to the setting up of a truth commission.
To Governor Amosun, the inauguration of the Aderemi-led Truth Commission was a symbolic demonstration of not just a desire to fulfil his campaign promises but also an acknowledgment of the wrongdoings and ensuring justice for those who lost their lives or suffered injuries during the period under review. The ultimate end is to avert a future re-occurrence of such ugly scenario(s).
The establishment of the commission was immediately applauded by very many people in the state. In fact, former governor of the state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel in a statement through his Media Assistant, Adegbenro Adebanjo “wholeheartedly” welcomed “the idea,” and said “from the initial composition, we notice that the commission is composed of men of proven integrity capable of ensuring justice in this sensitive assignment.”
The statement said: “Otunba Daniel wishes to confirm his full participation and his personal attendance at the hearing. We however believe that to do justice, he will require at least one week to give his testimony with opportunity for multimedia presentations, and live coverage of the proceedings by both the local TV stations and at least a national TV. It is also important that all of the proceedings and testimonies should be conducted openly, with all issues allowed for discussion.”
This represents a sense of comradeship and many people, just like Otunba Daniel said in his statement, had hoped that “the commission will afford the people of Ogun State and Nigerians in general the opportunity to know the truth against the falsehood and vile propaganda that have ruled the airwaves in the last few years.”
But the song soon changed. The former governor suddenly jettisoned his earlier position and took the commission to court through his counsel, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, seeking the leave of the court to declare illegal and unconstitutional the constitution of the commission. He prayed the court to prohibit and restrain members of the commission from proceeding and requested an order to restrain the members from further investigating, making findings, recommendations and or sanctions in respect of the activities of Daniel and his aides.
The former governor further justified his case in a statement by one of his lawyers, Yemi Oke, that “going through the Tribunals of Inquiries Law of Ogun State, the commission has no power to investigate crimes. Investigative powers have been given to the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).”
The totality of the unfolding drama between Ogun State government and Otunba Daniel will leave no one in doubt to raise the question: Who is afraid of Amosun’s Truth Commission?
It should be noted that the Commissions of Inquiry Law gives powers to a sitting governor to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate and inquire as such governor deems it fit. According to the Commissions of Inquiry Law’s Section 2 (1), “The Governor may, whenever he shall deem it desirable, issue a Commission appointing one or more Commissioners, and authorising such Commissioners, or any quorum of them therein mentioned, to hold a Commission of inquiry into the conduct of any officer in the public service of the State, or any chief, or the management of any department of the public service, or of any local institution, or into any matter in respect of which, in his opinion, an inquiry would be for the public welfare…”
It is indeed a statement of fact that Governor Amosun has only acted within the provisions of the law and he has not run foul of the laws of the land by setting up the Aderemi-led Truth Commission. The case of Kabirikim vs Emefo as decided by the Supreme Court also lent credence to this undisputed stance.
On the issue of whether Governor Amosun has powers to “investigate crimes,” the former governor and his team of lawyers would need to do a lot of legal work to convince both the court and the entire good people of Ogun State that the commission was actually set up to try Daniel and his aides. Otherwise, there was no basis for this legal firework which would only amount to a diversionary tendency.
Temitope Oluwole ([email protected]), wrote in from No. 2B Olusesi Osoba Way, Oke-Ilewo, Abeokuta, Ogun State.