One year after the killing of protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State by security operatives, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has maintained his stand that the said killing was a “phantom massacre”.
Mohammed, who spoke at a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday, noted that despite ample opportunities for the families of those allegedly killed and those alleging a massacre to present evidence, no bodies, families, or convincing evidence has been shown.
Although different media reports and other rights groups like the Amnesty International had put out evidence to support the claim of a massacre, the minister stated that the families of those reportedly killed at the toll gate did not show up at the Judicial Panel of Inquiry, set up to investigate the incident.
It would be recalled that different reports had it that the Nigerian Army, and later operatives of the Nigerian Police Force at different times on October 20, 2020, shot at innocent protesters, killing many, and taking their corpses away, which the Army and the police vehemently denied.
Although the Nigerian government had threatened actions against media houses and individuals who have continued to insist that there was a massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20 last year, nothing concrete has been done.
Speaking on the one year memorial of the event, Mohammed said, “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 a massacre at the toll gate. 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 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 the minister, the ballistic experts, in their testimony, said: ”The Team finds that from the medical data examined, including the timeline of arrival at a 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, 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 not the case.”
Furthermore, Mohammed maintained that there was no killing at the Lekki Toll Gate saying, “The military did not shoot at protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on Oct. 20th 2020, and there was no massacre at the toll gate. The only ‘massacre’ recorded was on social media, hence there were neither bodies nor blood.
“Amnesty International, CNN, a runaway DJ and others like them should apologize for misleading the world that there was a massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate and for portraying the Nigerian military, police and other security agencies in a 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.”