#Endsarsmemorial: FG Slams CNN, Amnesty On Lekki Tollgate Stance

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The Federal Government has slammed CNN and global human rights group, Amnesty International, saying they “have continued to shamelessly hold on to their unproven stand” concerning the incident that happened at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos on October 20, 2020.

The tollgate was the epicentre of the #EndSARS protests of last year.

Youths who had gathered at the location in protest against police brutality and bad governance were dispersed by gun-wielding soldiers on October 20, 2020.

The action by the soldiers is believed by some quarters to have led to the death of protesters who had gathered day and night at the tollgate.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who spoke today at a conference in Abuja, held on the anniversary of the incident, reiterated his stance that what happened on the night was a “phantom massacre.”

This is as he lamented that those championing the narrative of a massacre have continued to do so even without evidence that lives were lost on the night.

Mohammed said, “Today marks the first anniversary of the phantom massacre at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, which was the culmination of an otherwise peaceful protest that was later hijacked by hoodlums. At earlier press conferences, I had called the reported massacre at the toll gate the first massacre in the world without blood or bodies. One year later, and despite ample opportunities for the families of those allegedly killed and those alleging a massacre to present evidence, there has been none: No bodies, no families, no convincing evidence, nothing. Where are the families of those who were reportedly killed at the toll gate? Did they show up at the Judicial Panel of Inquiry? If not, why?

“Sadly, the champions of a massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate, including Amnesty International and CNN, have continued to shamelessly hold on to their unproven stand. Recall, gentlemen, that after bandying different figures, Amnesty International finally settled at about 12 people killed. On its part, CNN went from 38 people killed to two to just one, after a supposed global exclusive even when the network had no reporter on ground at the Lekki tollgate on Oct. 20th 2020.

“On Monday, the Judicial Panel of Inquiry that was set up by the Lagos State Government after the EndSARS protest wrapped up its sitting. During the sitting, CNN was summoned but it never showed up, thus missing a great opportunity to prove its allegation of massacre at the tollgate. Also, Amnesty International had a golden opportunity to convince the world, but it rather opted for issuing meaningless press releases.

“In its latest attempt to grasp at straws and redeem whatever is left of its battered credibility on this issue, CNN has continued with its baseless report that soldiers shot at protesters. In a report currently running on the network, CNN brazenly and unashamedly held on to its flawed narrative, relying on an unidentified mother whose son was reportedly shot dead at Lekki, but without convincing evidence of who shot him dead. The same CNN that tweeted on Oct. 23rd 2020 that 38 people were shot dead at Lekki is now struggling to convince the world that one boy was killed at Lekki. What a shame!”

The Minister said the testimony of ballistic experts before the Judicial Panel of Inquiry in Lagos “contradicts the tales by the moonlight by Amnesty International, CNN, a runaway DJ and their ilk.”

According to him, the experts, in their testimony, said inter alia: ”The Team finds that from the medical data examined, including the timeline of arrival at medical facility and the nature of the injuries sustained by the victims, who were taken to the 5 medical facilities, that no military grade live ammunition (high-velocity) was fired at the protesters (emphasis mine) at Lekki Tollgate on 20th October 2020, within the timeframe of reference (18.30-20.34hrs). That the GSW (Gun Shot Wounds) injuries (4 in number between 19:05 and 19:45 hrs), which were examined by the Team, can be safely identified as being discharged by either low-velocity calibre and/or artisanal/12-gauge firearms (artisanal firearms are locally-fabricated weapons). What is, however, certain is that had the military personnel deliberately fired military-grade live ammunition directly at the protesters; there would have been significantly more fatalities and catastrophic injuries recorded. This was clearly not the case. (emphasis mine).”

The Minister continued, saying the ballistic experts were not alone in reaching that conclusion.

He said the US State Department, in its 2020 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, wrote:

“On Oct. 20th (2020), members of the security forces enforced curfew by FIRING SHOTS INTO THE AIR (emphasis mine) to disperse protesters, who had gathered at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos to protest abusive practices by the Nigeria Police Force Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)

“Accurate information on fatalities resulting from the shooting was not available at year’s end. Amnesty International reported 10 persons died during the event, but the government disputed Amnesty’s Report, and NO OTHER ORGANISATION WAS ABLE TO VERIFY THE CLAIM (emphasis mine).”

The Minister then reiterated what the Federal Government said a year ago.

According to him, “The military did not shoot at protesters at the Lekki Tollgate on Oct. 20th 2020, and there was no massacre at the toll gate. The only ‘massacre’ recorded was in the social media, hence there were neither bodies nor blood.

“Amnesty International, CNN, a runaway DJ and others like them should apologise for misleading the world that there was a massacre at the Lekki Tollgate and for portraying the Nigerian military, police and other security agencies in bad light.

“CNN acted unprofessionally by relying on unverified, and possibly-doctored social media videos, as well as other open-source information, to conclude that a massacre took place at the toll gate.

“The Federal Government remains proud of the security agencies for acting professionally and showing utmost restraint all through the EndSARS protest and the ensuing violence, an action that saved lives and properties.

“The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the Human Rights Organisations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre.”

Credit: The Punch.

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