AS divergent views continue to trail the US Cable Network News, CNN, an investigative report claiming that soldiers fired live bullets at #EndSARS protesters at Lekki Toll gate, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, insists that evidence on ground indicate the contrary.
Hordes of human rights and pro-democracy activists are alleging the massacre of defenceless protesters.
The government had challenged the promoters of the #EndSARS campaign who accused soldiers of the mass killing of innocent, peaceful, and unarmed protesters at the tollgate to produce evidence of the mass murder or shut up.
Indeed, the CNN report, it has been argued is impeding the work of the various judicial panels, especially that of Lagos mandated to unravel what happened and make marching recommendations to address any injustice or injury done to anyone by the security agencies.
Some observers have expressed worry over the apparent ignoring of policemen and security agents killed during the protests as if they had no families, arguing that the lack of sympathy for the security agents is the reason a host of them have been traumatised and reluctant to return to their duty posts.
Though the CNN in a statement by its spokesperson said it stood by its story because “our reporting was carefully and meticulously researched,” while Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the report by CNN on the EndSARS protest was not factual and called on the media company to sanction the erring reporters on the matter.
His words:“CNN goofed in its preconceived stance that the soldiers who were deployed to Lekki Toll Gate, indeed, shot at protesters, killing some of them. CNN relied heavily on unverified and possibly-doctored videos, as well as information sourced from questionable sources, to reach its conclusion. This should earn CNN a serious sanction for irresponsible reporting.
“Like everyone else, I watched the CNN report. I must tell you that it reinforces the disinformation that is going round, and it is blatantly irresponsible and a poor piece of journalistic work by a reputable international news organisation.
“CNN engaged in incredible sensationalism and did a great disservice to itself and to journalism. In the first instance, CNN, which touted its report as an exclusive investigative report, sadly relied on the same videos that have been circulating on social media, without verification.
“This is very serious and CNN should be sanctioned for that. CNN merely said the videos were ‘’obtained by CNN,” without saying wherefrom and whether or not it authenticated them. Were CNN reporters and cameramen at the Lekki Toll Gate that evening? ‘’If the answer is no, on what basis were they reporting? Relying on second or third-hand information and presenting it as ‘CNN Investigation’?
“Why didn’t the CNN balance its story by showing the compelling testimony of Brig.-Gen. Taiwo before the Judicial Panel in Lagos? Is this one-sided reporting what is expected from an international media organization or any serious news organisation? If CNN had done its investigation properly, it would have known how fake news and disinformation were trending during the #EndSARS crisis.
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“In airing its so-called investigative report, CNN conveniently forgot that on October 23, 2020, it tweeted, from its verified Twitter handle that the military killed 38 people when it opened fire on peaceful protesters on Tuesday, October. 20, 2020.
“Less than a month later, the same CNN, in what it called an EXCLUSIVE report based on a rehash of old, unverified videos, was only able to confirm that one person died in the same incident.
“In its jaundiced reporting, CNN was blind to the fact that six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed in unprovoked attacks. Obviously, CNN did not consider the security agents human enough. CNN, in its ‘investigation,’ was blind to the wanton destruction of property in Lagos and across the country.
“Also, CNN was blind to the burning of police stations and vehicles all over the country. Instead, it went to town with unverified social media footage, in its desperation to prove that people were killed at the Lekki Toll Gate.
‘’This is irresponsible journalism for which CNN deserves to be sanctioned. We insist that the military did not shoot at protesters at Lekki Toll Gate. They fired blank ammunition in the air. Again, anyone who knows anyone who was killed at Lekki Toll Gate should head to the Judicial Panel with conclusive evidence of such.”
Alhaji Mohammed asked promoters of the #EndSARS campaign who accused soldiers of killing innocent, peaceful, and unarmed protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate to come up with the evidence of the mass murder or shut up.
He accused the promoters of using social media and fake news to cause mayhem in the country under the guise of peaceful protests.
He insisted that the claim of a massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate was false and that attempts by the protesters and some human rights groups to tarnish the image of the country using fake news and other disdainful tactics would not change the fact.
Insisting that the military merely fired blank ammunition into the air to scare the protesters, the Minister said: “While the Judicial Panel sitting in Lagos works to unravel what really transpired at the Lekki Toll Gate, available evidence so far points to the world’s first case of MASSACRE WITHOUT BLOOD OR BODIES. Those making the claims should show proof before the panel or shut up.
“The Federal Government is very satisfied with the role played by the security agencies, especially the military, and the police, all through the #EndSARS crisis. The security agents were professional and measured in their response. Even when their lives were at stake, they exercised uncommon restraint.”
Alhaji Mohammed regretted that #EndSARS promoters and human rights activists failed to show empathy for many security personnel that were killed and injured in the mayhem by hoodlums who hijacked the protests. He said: “Their professionalism and measured response saved many lives and properties. For example, despite arresting hordes of looters during the violence in Lagos, the army treated them humanely and even counseled them before handing them over to the police.
“The same cannot be said of those who unleashed mayhem on the security agents, killing and maiming them, sometimes in such a barbaric manner that is unprecedented in these parts.
‘’As I said earlier, six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed all over the country during the crisis. This is in addition to 196 policemen who were injured; 164 police vehicles that were destroyed and 134 police stations that were razed.
“Also, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Nigeria Customs Service, and Nigeria Immigration Service, all lost infrastructures, equipment and other valuables to attacks by hoodlums during the crisis. Eight medium-security custodial centres (prisons) in six states (Edo, Lagos, Abia, Delta, Ondo, and Ebonyi) were attacked, with 1,957 inmates set free and 31 staff injured.
“The Federal Government will, therefore, not accept a situation in which some so-called human rights bodies and jaundiced media organizations will continue to harass the security agencies over their roles during the crisis.
‘’Soldiers, policemen and other security agents deserve commendation, not condemnation, except, of course, their critics are saying they are not human beings and that their own rights do not matter. “It is depressing and demoralizing to continue to vilify men and women in uniform, who themselves were victims of senseless violence unleashed by hoodlums.
‘’The role of the human rights organisations, in particular, became suspect after they simply ignored the brutal killing and maiming of security agents during the crisis, as well as the orgy of violence that left 57 civilians dead, 269 private/corporate facilities burnt/looted/vandalized, 243 government facilities burnt/vandalized and 81 government warehouses looted.
‘’Instead, they continued to dwell on the bodiless and bloodless ‘massacre’ at Lekki Toll Gate. They did not see anything wrong in the public and private properties that were burnt or looted, neither did they see anything wrong in the fact that some of the businesses that were looted belonged to struggling young men and women. All they could see in their biased view of the whole situation was a hoax massacre.”
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