Nigeria Government Threatens To Sanctions CNN For Their Reports On Lekki Toll Gate Killings

Few days ago CNN investigation sheds new light on anti-brutality protest in Nigeria and reveal evidence that Nigerian army actually shoot directly at #EndSars protester at Lekki Tollgate in Lagos on 20th October 2020. Nigerian Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed lashed out against CNN on Thursday, saying the network should be sanctioned over its investigation, which uncovered evidence that the Nigerian army and police opened fire on unarmed protestors on 20th October 2020.

CNN investigation focused on a demonstration against police brutality, led by the largely peaceful “#EndSARS” movement. Minister for Information and Culture Lai Mohammed on Thursday dismissed the CNN investigation as “fake news” and “misinformation” repeatedly denying that the military did not shoot on the protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos.

According to his words;

“Like everyone else, I watched the CNN report. I must tell you that it reinforces the disinformation that is going around, and it is a very irresponsible and a very poor piece of journalistic work by a reputable international news organization” he told reporters at a press conference in Abuja.” Lai Mohammed continued. “This is very serious and CNN should be sanctioned for that,” he said.

However, CNN still stands by its investigation saying that they went through a thorough investigation before arriving at their report.

According to CNN spokesperson;

“Our reporting was carefully and meticulously researched, and we stand by it” the spokesperson said via email.

The report was based on testimony from dozens of witnesses, accompanied with photos and videos obtained and geolocated by CNN. It painted a picture of how members of the Nigerian army and the police shot at the crowd, killing at least one person and injuring dozens more.

CNN verified photos and videos acquired from multiple eyewitnesses and protesters using timestamps and other data from the video files. Video footage shows soldiers who appear to be shooting in the direction of protesters. And accounts from eyewitnesses established that after the army withdrew, a second round of shooting happened later in the evening.

Prior to publishing the report, CNN tried multiple times to elicit comment from the Nigerian army and police. A Lagos State police spokesman declined to comment because of an ongoing investigation. While a statement from the Lagos State government said that there would be no comment while a judicial tribunal was underway.

CNN also included comments from army representative Brigadier Ahmed Taiwo, testifying before the tribunal. He denied that soldiers would shoot at Nigerian citizens. The investigation was broadcast and published on Wednesday and cast doubt on Nigerian authorities shifting and changing statements over what happened at the protest at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos.

Addressing the reporters, Nigerian Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed insisted that the military did not shoot at the protesters at the toll gate, but fired blank ammunitions into the air, blaming looters for the violence which broke out on the night of October 20, 2020.

“Six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed all over the country during the crisis” Lai Mohammed said.

“CNN relied heavily on unreliable and possibly doctored videos as well as information sources from questionable sources to reach these conclusions,” he continued.

However, Lai Mohammed did not provide any evidence that the videos were actually doctored as he claimed.

The CNN report included evidence that bullet casings from the scene matched those used by the Nigerian army when shooting live rounds, according to current and former Nigerian military officials. Two ballistics experts also confirmed with CNN that the shape of the bullet casings indicate they used live rounds, which contradicts the army’s claim they fired blanks.

While the Minister for Information and Culture asserted that “not a single family” has reported the death of relatives during the protest on 2oth October 2020, the Chief Coroner of Lagos State has since issued a public call for all those who have lost loved ones between 19 – 27 October 2020 to come forward and provide evidence which could assist in the identification exercise.

During his press briefing on Thursday, the Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed denied reports of fatalities at the protest.

“As I said earlier, what started as a peaceful protest against police brutality quickly degenerated into incredible violence despite an immediate response to the demands by the government,” he said.

“While we await the Judicial Panel in Lagos to unravel what transpired at the Lekki toll gate, what we can say, based on testimonies available in the public space is that the world may have just witnessed, for the very first time ever, a massacre without bodies” he added.

According to Lai Mohammed, the National Economic Council directed the immediate establishment of a state-based judicial panel of inquiry on 15th October 2020 to investigate complaints of police brutality and extrajudicial killings. Eyewitnesses have since told CNN that the government’s comments are lies, making them feel as though they had hallucinated the whole event.

“Haven’t they hurt us enough? I still close my eyes and see the blood and hear the screams,” another eyewitness said.

During the press conference, Lai Mohammed said the federal government continues to be very satisfied with the role played by security agencies especially the military and police throughout the protests.

Austine Ikeru
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