The Federal Government on Thursday insisted that there was no massacre when soldiers dispersed #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate, Lagos, on October 20, 2020.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said this at a press conference in Abuja.
Mohammed attributed the reports of massacre to those he described as purveyors of fake news.
The minister said, “While we await the judicial panel in Lagos to unravel what transpired at the Lekki Tollgate, what we can say, based on testimonies available in the public space, is that the world may have just witnessed, for the very first time ever, a massacre without bodies!
“Some have tagged it ‘social media massacre.’ The testimony of Brig.-Gen, Ahmed Ibrahim Taiwo of the Nigerian Army before the panel was compelling, and I am sure many of you have listened to or watched it.”
Mohammed insisted soldiers at the tollgate fired blank ammunition into the air which could not have done any damage.
The minister said, “Sadly, the purveyors of fake news and disinformation succeeded in deceiving the world that indeed there was mass killing in Lekki, even when, till date, not a single body has been produced and not a single family or relative has come out to say their child or ward was killed at Lekki.
“More surprising and irresponsible is the fact that some people have been calling for sanctions against Nigeria or against Nigerian government officials on the basis of a hoax.
“We want to use this opportunity to ask those who have alleged massacre at the Lekki Tollgate to go to the judicial panel to present their evidence(s) to the world or simply admit that they have goofed.”
FG faults CNN report, calls for sanction
The minister also faulted the report by the Cable News Network on the incident, describing it as “blatantly irresponsible.”
While claiming that CNN did a disservice to itself and journalism, Mohammed called for sanction for the broadcast organisation.
When however asked the kind of sanction he is recommending for a foreign organisation, the minister simply said “CNN has internal mechanism but we will do the needful on our part.”
He regretted that CNN, which he said touted its report as an exclusive investigative report, relied on the same videos that have been circulating on social media, without verification, adding that “this is very serious and CNN should be sanctioned for that.”
He added, “In its jaundiced reporting, CNN was blind to the fact that six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed in unprovoked attacks. Obviously, CNN did not consider the security agents human enough.
“CNN, in its ‘investigation,’ was blind to the wanton destruction of property in Lagos and across the country. Also, CNN was blind to the burning of police stations and vehicles all over the country. Instead, it went to town with unverified social media footages, in its desperation to prove that people were killed at the Lekki Tollgate.
“Again, this is irresponsible journalism for which CNN deserves to be sanctioned.”
‘DJ Switch, a front for divisive forces’
The minister also descended on popular disc jockey, Obianuju Udeh, aka DJ Switch, who he accused of being in the forefront of spreading fake news about the incident.
He said instead of her to present the authentic evidence she had about the alleged massacre to the judicial panel, she sought to escape from the country under the pretext that her life was in danger.
“In the fullness of time, this lady will be exposed for what she is, a fraud and a front for divisive and destructive forces,” Mohammed added.
The minister also justified the sanctions imposed on three media organisations by the National Broadcasting Commission for allegedly using unverified and dangerous information from social media.
“The position of the Federal Government is that not only were the fines justified, the NBC was indeed lenient. It is sad to see the traditional media jettisoning the age-long gate-keeping process and instead rushing to rely on the free-wheeling social media – devoid of any gate keeping – for news,” he said.
We will regulate social media
The minister noted that the social media played prominent negative role in the violence that occurred in the wake of the protests.
That, he said, reinforced the government’s campaign against fake news and disinformation, which was launched in 2018.
He said, “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.