The head of the forensics team engaged by the Lagos State government to conduct a crime scene investigation of the alleged shooting of protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza on October 20, 2020 on Saturday said the scene of the incident was already compromised by the time they carried out its examination.
The forensics expert, Joseph Funsho-Ako who stated this under cross-examination before the Lagos State Judicial Panel on Restitution for Victims of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Related Abuses and other matters, also revealed that they started work 87 days after the alleged shooting.
He stated that the team visited the lekki toll gate to carry out its work on January 13 and 15, 2021, which is 87 days after the Nigerian Army was accused of shooting some protesters at the Lekki toll gate.
According to the witness, items of physical evidence were removed and lost between the time-lapse upon the incident and the scene examination.
When the counsel for the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Bernard Onigah, asked Funsho-Ako about the, clean up carried out by the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) after the incident, the witness replied that his firm (Sentinel Forensics Limited) wrote to the agency requesting for information about that exercise, but it did not get any response.
He also told the panel, presided over by retired Justice Doris Okuwobi, that, although an examination of the bullet casings recovered by the panel and submitted by the Army are of the same calibre analysis will need to be done to determine whether those expended live ammunition casings were fired by the Army.
The witness, who is also the managing director of Sentinel Forensics Limited, denied reports suggesting that his team’s findings indict the Nigerian Army in the shooting of peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll gate.
Funsho-Ako said, “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.
“Concerning the ballistic evidence presented to the specialists for forensic examination by the Judicial 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 one unit of blank (unexpended/not fired) 7.62 x 51mm ammunition and one unit of blank (expended/fired round) 7.62 x 51mm ammunition,” he said.
The witness had told the panel on Friday, amongst 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 is 7.62 x 39mm.
While the blank ammunition tendered was of a different cartridge type 7.62mm x 51mm.
Also, the firm in a press statement issued on Saturday maintained that its job is 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, Justice Okuwobi urged the media to be professional in its reportage of the public hearing.