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Alakio Killings: Probe Panel Bars Press From Coverage
Contrary to the assurance given by the Nasarawa State government that the on-going Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the killings of security operatives in Alakio will be open and fair, the Justice Fola Gbadeyan-led commission has barred the Press from further coverage of it’s sittings.
As the committee commenced treating security memoranda submitted to it on Monday, accredited members of the press covering the proceedings were asked to leave and stop live broadcast.
This happened specifically as members of the committee were about to start examining memorandum submitted by the police.
The commission said the Press would also not be allowed to cover the hearing of the memoranda by the state government and State Security Service, SSS.
By it’s action the commission of enquiry contravened Chapter 2, subsection 2.2 of its own rules that qualified and duly accredited journalists would be allowed to cover proceedings of the panel.
The subsection states that “all interested members of the press desirous of covering the proceedings of the commission must be duly qualified and duly accredited by the secretary to the commission”.
The commission of enquiry suffered a major setback a about two weeks ago when the Eggonpeople withdrawn their participation from proceedings for what they termed lack of fair hearing.
The withdrawal notice was served to the commission on July 31 by counsels to the Eggons who alleged that “the Eggon counsel representing interested parties at the commission have been whimsically refused the right of cross-examination of presenters of memoranda despite the provisions contained in chapters 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3 of the rules of procedure which the commission itself made to guide the conduct of proceedings”.
Addressing journalist in Lafia at a press briefing, the counsel representing Bassa Zarangi district,Aliyu Anze, in company of other legal practitioners representing the various Eggon communities at the commission, expressed their dissatisfaction over alleged biased attitude of the panel.
The lawyers accused the chairman of the panel of restricting only Eggon counsels from cross-examining presenters of memoranda which adversely affect the interest of their clients.
Anze said “to worsen the breach of the fundamental principles of fair hearing, the commission’s chairman ordered all counsel to file their respective memorandum of appearance to enable counsel to access memoranda filed by other presenters in order to avoid giving out memoranda to persons that are not known to the commission.
This was complied with immediately, followed by applications for the memoranda to enable counsel access, study and evaluate, for cross-examination as required in any legal proceedings of this nature.
Unfortunately, Anze observed, counsels representing Eggon interests were not given some of the memoranda, including the one submitted by the police, Nasarawa State government and the SSS.
He added that “these three memoranda are at the heart of this commission of inquiry having regard to the terms of reference of the judicial commission”.
Another lawyer representing Eggon interests, Zamani Zakari Alumaga said he knew that “we are not likely to get justice from this commission from the beginning”.
“As at that time we did not even know that the commission will take this position of a bubble trap as to properly bring to fruition our allayed fear.
“We thought the government instituted a commission that will be open so that we can clearly state our case, but now it is clear that the commission has been hired to indict some people. we are not bothered whatever the outcome of this commission may be,” he lamented.