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#EndSARS: Nigerian government calls Lekki killings, ‘phantom massacre’

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie (Abuja Bureau Chief)
20 October 2021   |   2:42 pm
*Demands apology from AI, CNN for "misinforming public One year after the alleged massacre of Nigerian youths at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos State, the Nigeria Government said it was nothing but a "Phantom Massacre." Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who spoke on the first anniversary of #EndSARS protests that almost shut…

Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed. (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

*Demands apology from AI, CNN for “misinforming public

One year after the alleged massacre of Nigerian youths at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos State, the Nigeria Government said it was nothing but a “Phantom Massacre.”

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who spoke on the first anniversary of #EndSARS protests that almost shut down the country last October, described it as the first massacre in the world without blood or bodies.

He expressed concern that despite ample opportunities for the families of those allegedly killed and those alleging a massacre to present evidence, there has been none.

“No bodies, no families, no convincing evidence, nothing. Where are the families of those who were reportedly killed at the toll gate? Did they show up at the Judicial Panel of Inquiry? If not, why?

“Sadly, the champions of a massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate, including Amnesty International and CNN, have continued to shamelessly hold on to their unproven stand”, the Minister said.

He also flayed the Amnesty International (AI) and CNN for what he called the unprofessional manner they handled the issue.

The Minister noted that with the preponderance of evidence against any massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, it is consequently insisting that the military did not shoot at protesters and that there was no massacre at the toll gate.

“The only massacre recorded was in the social media, hence there were neither bodies nor blood”, the Minister stated.

The Federal Government has also demanded an apology particularly from Amnesty International and CNN for allegedly “misleading the world on the alleged massacre and portraying Nigerian military, police and other security agencies in bad light.

“Recall that after bandying different figures, Amnesty International finally settled at about 12 people killed. On its part, CNN went from 38 people killed to two to just one, after a supposed global exclusive even when the network had no reporter on ground at the Lekki Toll Gate on Oct. 20th 2020.

“During the sitting, CNN was summoned but it never showed up, thus missing a great opportunity to prove its allegation of 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.”

The Minister added that 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 however said it remained 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.

As Nigerians observed the first anniversary yesterday, the federal government noted that while appreciating the role of lawful peaceful protests in the advancement of public discourse under democratic governance, it however strongly advised those planning public protests across the country to mark the EndSARS’ anniversary to consider other lawful alternative means of engagement for fear of such protests being hijacked by armed hoodlums and other opportunistic criminals to cause mayhem.

For victims of the protests, the Minister informed that each State, in collaboration with the Federal Government, shall establish modalities for the settlement of all monetary compensations awarded by the panels.

Meanwhile, the Minister informed that the National Executive Council had directed state governors to immediately forward copies of final reports of the panels to their Attorneys-General for prompt arraignment and prosecution of all indicted persons.

According to the minister, actions already taken by governments to address the grievances that led to the 2020 protests include the disbandment of SARS; broad police reforms as well as the establishment of judicial panels of inquiries to investigate allegations of human rights violations by members of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies.