The federal government has threatened to sanction international news outlet, CNN over its report on the Lekki shooting which occured last month.
Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Lai Mohammed, minister of information, described the alleged killing at the Lekki tollgate as ”massacre without bodies.” He claimed that CNN was irresponsible in its report.
“This should earn CNN a serious sanction for irresponsible reporting,” he said. On Wednesday, CNN released its investigation on the incident, alleging that soldiers used live bullets on #EndSARS protesters who had gathered at the Lekki tollgate on October 20.
The army insists that its men only fired blank bullets in the air to disperse the protesters.
Also Mr. Mohammed insisted that the military merely fired blanks into the air and not even at protesters at the tollgate to scare them away.
“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,” the minister said.
He challenged those making claims of massacre to “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,” he stressed.
Alhaji Mohammed regretted that #EndSARS promoters and human rights activists failed to show empathy for several security personnel 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.
“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.
“At this point, it is important to say that 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.
“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 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 socalled 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 organizations, 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, and instead continued to dwell on the bodiless and bloodless ‘massacre’ at Lekki Toll Gate.”
The minister also refuted claims by a female EndSARs campaigner, DJ Swift, that she was being wanted by the government and that her life was in danger as a result of the role she played during the protest, calling on her to stop churning out falsehood against Nigeria.
Mohammed said: “Still on the alleged Lekki Toll Gate massacre, one of the purveyors of fake news and disinformation during the EndSARS crisis was DJ Switch, real name Obianuju Catherine Udeh, who claimed to have authentic evidence of mass killings.
Surprisingly, instead of presenting whatever evidence she may have to the Judicial Panel, she chose to escape from the country under the pretext that her life was in danger. “I ask: in danger from whom?
The military has come out to say they never sought after her. To the best of our knowledge, the police never declared her wanted.
Her conduct thus becomes suspect. Who is she fronting for? What is her real motive? Who are her sponsors?
If she has any evidence of killings, why is she not presenting it to the Panel? “If she was so desperate for asylum in any country, does she have to resort to blatant falsehood to tarnish the image of the country just to achieve her aim?
In the fullness of time, this lady will be exposed for what she is, a fraud and a front for divisive and destructive forces.
At this juncture, we want to appeal to countries that have made hasty judgements on the basis of fake news and disinformation emanating from the EndSARS crisis to endeavour to seek and find the truth.”
Mohammed stated that the federal government still maintains its stance on regulating the social media space.
He said the spread of fake news through social media catalysed the outbreak of violence across the country.
Mohammed earlier warned that if left unregulated, social media would destroy the country.
Many Nigerians including civil society organizations have kicked against the planned regulation of social media.
A bill to effect the regulation has already scaled second reading at the senate. But Mohammed said the government will go ahead to regulate social media.
“Keen watchers of the developments cannot fail to notice the role played by the social media in the EndSARS protest.
As a veritable tool for mass mobilization, the organizers of the protest of course leveraged heavily on social media for that purpose.
“But on the other hand, the same social media was used to spread fake news and disinformation that catalyzed the violence that was witnessed across the country,” he said.
“This development has reinforced the campaign against fake news and disinformation, which we launched in 2018.
As a matter of fact, as far back as 2017, when we dedicated that year’s National Council on Information to the issue of fake news and disinformation, we had been expressing concerns on the dangers posed by irresponsible use of the new media platform.
The concerns culminated in the launch of the national campaign which I referred to earlier.
“The social media was used to guide arsonists and looters to certain properties, both public and private.
“As we have said many times, no responsible government will stand by and allow such abuse of social media to continue.
The fake news/disinformation purveyors have latched on to our concerns to allege that the Federal Government is planning to shut down social media.
No, we have no plans to shut down the social media. What we have always advocated, and what we will do, is to regulate the social media. Nigeria is not alone in this regard.
“The issue of social media regulation is an ongoing debate not just in Nigeria but around the world, including in the United States, which is the flag flyer of constitutional democracy.
Even the owners of the various social media platforms, including Facebook, are increasingly joining the call for content regulation.”