The forensic team that presented its report to the Lagos State Judicial Panel on Friday said the integrity of the scene of the Lekki Toll Gate shooting had been compromised long before forensic investigations.
Managing Director of Sentinel Forensics Limited, Mr Joseph Funsho-Ako, explained that the compromise was because the team visited the toll gate, 87 days after the October 20, 2020 incident.
He added that the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) had even carried out a clean-up of the area before the visit by the forensic team.
Funsho-Ako spoke about the incident in a testimony when he appeared on Saturday before the Lagos Judicial Panel on restitution for victims of SARS-related abuses and other matters.
He later answered questions under cross-examination from the counsel to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Bernard Onigah.
In the process, he explained that based on the information that the area had been cleaned up earlier, his firm called LAWMA, requesting information that could help with its forensic investigations, but they did not get any response.
On the ballistic evidence, he affirmed that the live ammunition presented by the Nigerian Army was of the same calibre as the cartridge casing submitted by the panel.
But the witness stressed the need for further analysis, to determine whether the expended live ammunition casings were fired by the army.
As at the time of this report, the forensic expert was being cross-examined by different lawyers at the panel.
Saturday’s session is the 123rd sitting of the panel following the hearing of the petitions of various victims of police abuse, during which some were awarded varying sums as compensation.
The focus at the latest proceeding was the long-awaited forensic report for the Lekki Tollgate Shooting which sparked widespread condemnation within and outside the country.
Sentinel Forensics Limited was engaged by the Lagos State government on December 29, 2020, to conduct a forensic review of the unfortunate incident that occurred about two months earlier.
The firm’s mandate required it to conduct a crime scene investigation at the toll plaza, submit a detailed report on the investigation, and examine the CCTV footage of the Lekki Concession Company (LCC), among other things.
It was also asked to give a digital forensic expert opinion on the recording of incidents on the day of the shooting, provide an expert opinion on any evidence recovered during the scene visit by panel members, as well as submit a detailed comprehensive forensic report on the subject.
Meanwhile, Funsho-Ako has refuted what he described as “false publications” on the testimony his firm gave before the panel on Friday.
He faulted the reports suggesting that his team’s findings indicted the Nigerian Army in the shooting of peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll plaza in October 2020.
“This biased and unbalanced reporting is false and fake news,” said the witness. “Our forensic specialist commented on record that following an extensive scene investigation at the Lekki Toll Plaza (TP1) by our team of specialists, about 87 days after the incident, there was an absence of any physical evidence supporting the allegations of discharge of live ammunition by Nigerian Army personnel.
“This scene investigation was conducted days after Sentinel Forensics Limited was engaged by the judicial panel of inquiry.”
With respect to the ballistic evidence presented to the specialists for forensic examination by the panel, they found that two cartridge casings (expended/fired) of 7.62 x 39mm ammunition was tendered by the judicial panel as evidence recovered at the scene, while one unit of live (unexpended/not fired) ammunition and one unit of cartridge case (expended/fired round) 7.62 x 39mm ammunition was tendered by the Nigerian Army.
The Nigerian Army was also said to have tendered a unit of blank (unexpended/not fired) 7.62 x 51mm ammunition and a unit of blank (expended/fired round) 7.62 x 51mm ammunition.
The witness had told the panel on Friday, among other things, that the live ammunition tendered as exhibit by the Nigerian Army was of the same type of cartridge and calibre as the ammunition casings tendered by the judicial panel which was 7.62 x 39mm.
He added that the blank ammunition tendered was of a different cartridge type 7.62mm x 51mm.
The firm had also released a statement and its representative stressed this position on Saturday, at the resumed hearing, saying their job was not to ascribe guilt or innocence on anyone, but only to provide clarification to help the panel reach its decision on the matter.
In her reaction, the chairperson of the judicial panel, Justice Doris Okuwobi, asked the media to be professional and responsible in its reportage of the public hearing.