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Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture said during a news briefing on Thursday that the civil society and media organisation ignored the brutal killing and maiming of security agents during the crisis, as well as the orgy of violence that characterised the protest.
The minister said the nation’s security operatives deserve praises and disclosed that the government will no longer tolerate any harassment of its security men during protests.
“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,” he said.
He said the role played by rights activists and journalists were suspicious “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, and instead continued to dwell on the bodiless and bloodless ‘massacre’ at Lekki Toll Gate.”
He added that “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.”
Calling for the sanction of an American Cable News Network (CNN) for its recent investigation on Lekki shootings by operatives of the Nigerian army, Mohammed described the report as “blatantly irresponsible and a poor piece of journalistic work.”
“Like everyone else, I watched the CNN report. I must tell you that it reinforces the disinformation that is going around, and it is blatantly irresponsible and a poor piece of journalistic work by a reputable international news organization.
“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 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 organisation 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.
“The BBC even did a report on this, and we recommend that report to CNN. Talking about the BBC, a reporter with the BBC’s Pidgin Service, Damilola Banjo, was at Lekki Toll Gate protest ground that night. She was quoted as saying soldiers were indeed at the toll gate but they shot ‘sporadically into the air’ and not at the protesters. CNN that was not at the scene reported otherwise.
“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.”
He insisted that the military did not shoot at protesters at Lekki toll gate, but they fired blank ammunition in the air. He charged anyone who knows anyone who was killed at Lekki tollgate to head to the Judicial Panel with conclusive evidence.