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Lekki Shootings: We stand by our report, CNN replies Nigerian government

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THE American Cable News Network (CNN) says its report on the shootings of unarmed #ENDSARS protesters by operatives of the Nigerian army was meticulously researched, and that it stands by it.

“Our reporting was carefully and meticulously researched, and we stand by it,” CNN said.

CNN was reacting to a statement by  Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed who condemned the entirety of the report on Thursday.

Mohammed, who described the report as “blatantly irresponsible and a poor piece of journalistic work,” called for the American media to be sanctioned.

“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,” he said.

“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?

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“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 ENDEARS crisis.”

He added that “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.

CNN investigation

The Nigerian Army which had earlier denied its involvement in the shooting and later claimed that its men only went to Lekki to enforce a curfew imposed by the Lagos state government have continued to maintain that no casualty was recorded by the soldiers during the protest.

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Ahmed Taiwo, Commander of the 81 Military Intelligence Brigade, told the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Saturday that troops deployed to the scene only fired blank bullets into the air to disperse the protesters.

He added that such blank bullets cannot cause any serious damage to life, citing that a live bullet had the power to kill three people with one shot.

However, a forensic investigation carried out by CNN investigation has revealed that operatives of the Nigerian Army shot #ENDSARS protesters at Lekki tollgate with live ammunition.

In the investigation published on Wednesday, CNN said it examined bullet casings found at the scene and confirmed with current and former Nigerian military sources that the bullet casings match those used by the army. Two ballistics experts have 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.

Also, working with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, CNN established that several of the bullets from the Lekki tollgate originated from Serbia. Export documents CNN has seen show that Nigeria purchased weaponry from Serbia almost every year between 2005 and 2016.

The investigation revealed that soldiers who carried out the operation were from Bonny Camp barracks, Victoria Island.

CNN, with the help of videos uploaded on social media also traced families of some deceased who said they are still searching for the whereabouts of their loved ones.

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