..Indicts Social Media for Spreading Fake News, Pooh-Poohs CNN Report …Shooting Was Done With Blank Bullets, Cannot Harm the Flesh …NBC Sanction on Three TV Stations Okay …Security Officials Were Very Professional The Federal Government says the recent shooting of EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos by soldiers, did not result into
..Indicts Social Media for Spreading Fake News, Pooh-Poohs CNN Report
…Shooting Was Done With Blank Bullets, Cannot Harm the Flesh
…NBC Sanction on Three TV Stations Okay
…Security Officials Were Very Professional
The Federal Government says the recent shooting of EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos by soldiers, did not result into any “massacre” of the activists as claimed by the social media, dismissing any such reports as “fake news” or “social media massacre”..
Also disputing claims by global rights group, Amnesty International that 15 protesters were killed in the aftermath of the shooting, the government explains that, “Since the shooting was done with blank bullets, which could not do damage to the flesh, it was fairy tale for this to have killed anyone, talk less of leading to a “massacre”,
While calling for sanction on Cable News Network (CNN) over its recent report which says some protesters were killed by soldiers at the Lekki Toll Gate, describing it as “irresponsible journalism,” the government appealed 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.”
Social Media Massacre
Addressing a press conference in Abuja, Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, says, “While we await the Judicial Panel in Lagos to unravel what transpired at the Lekki Toll Gate, 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’.”
Arguing that “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,” he listed the highlights, for those who may not have watched the testimony, including::
– Soldiers were deployed all over Lagos, including Lekki Toll Gate, after the other security agencies were overwhelmed on Oct. 20th 2020, upon the request of the state government.
– Before deployment, the soldiers were briefed on the Rules of Engagement, which they adhered to all through
– Soldiers at Lekki Toll Gate fired blank ammunitions into the air
– Blank ammunition cannot do any damage to the flesh, not to talk of killing anyone
– Firing live ammunition into the crowd, as some have alleged, would have led to mass killing, which never happened.
“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. This is one of the dangers of fake news and disinformation.
“Once fake news is out, many run with it, without looking back, even when the truth is eventually revealed. We therefore want to use this opportunity to ask those who have alleged massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate to go to the Judicial Panel to present their evidence(s) to the world or simply admit that they have goofed,” the Minister maintained..
Lamenting what he perceives as the dangers of the social media, Mohammed says, “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.”
“The social media was used to guide arsonists and looters to certain properties, both public and private. Pictures of persons, including some celebrities, who were supposedly killed at the Lekki Toll Gate by soldiers, were circulated widely, only for those persons to refute such claims or for the discerning to disprove such posts. 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.
“Some respected opinion leaders have been playing to the gallery on the issue of social media regulation by making inciting and incendiary statements, while some other individuals and groups have been threatening fire and brimstone over the issue of social media regulation. What they have failed to understand is that the only reason we are even able to have this debate is because we have a country.
“If we allow the abuse of social media to precipitate uncontrolled internecine violence, the kind of which was narrowly averted during the EndSARS crisis, no one will remember or be able to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, for whatever purpose. It is incumbent upon us all, therefore, to strike a balance between free speech which this Administration is committed to upholding – and fake news/disinformation, which it is determined to fight,” the Minister contends.
Lekki Toll Gate
Frowning at the recent CNN‘ Report on the Lekki toll gate shooting titled, “How a bloody night of bullets quashed a young protest movement,” Mohammed quips, “Like everyone else, I watched the CNN report. I must tell you that it reinforces the disinformation that is going round, and it is blatantly irresponsible and a poor piece of journalistic work by a reputable international news organization. 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? 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 the 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 organization or any serious news organization? If CNN had done its investigation properly, it would have known how fake news and disinformation were trending during the EndSARS crisis. The BBC even did a report on this, and we recommend that report to CNN,” he queries.
“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 Oct. 23rd 2020, it tweeted, from its verified twitter handle, that the military killed 38 people when it opened fire on peaceful protesters on Tuesday, Oct. 20th 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,” Mohammed says, deriding the report. .
“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 Toll Gate. Again,
“This is irresponsible journalism for which CNN deserves to be sanctioned. We insist that the military did not shoot at protesters at Lekki Toll Gate. They fired blank ammunition in the air. Again, anyone who knows anyone who was killed at Lekki Toll Gate should head to the Judicial Panel with conclusive evidence of such,” he says..
Affirming the position of government on the sanction of three TV stations by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the Minister says, they were fined for “using unverified and dangerous information from social media.”
“Commentators, many of whom didn’t even know why the NBC imposed the fine, rushed to allege an attempt to stifle free speech. Unknown to them, the stations themselves know that they breached the Broadcasting Code. Two of them have paid their fines in full, while the third has paid a part of the fine, with an appeal for time to pay the balance,” he reveals.
“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. Sadly, there is an emerging trend in which even the traditional media is freely using materials from social media without taking the pains to verify their authenticity. This is a dangerous trend that must be curbed, in the interest of the media practitioners themselves, the profession and indeed the country.
“Had the NBC wielded the big stick, some broadcast media organizations would have faced more severe sanctions than mere fines. Recall that an otherwise reputable broadcast media organization had carried a fake report that the Ecumenical Centre in Abuja was on fire during the violence that followed the protest. Though the organization in question later retracted the story, the kind of reprisal attack this could have sparked is better imagined. Also, another reputable broadcast media organization featured a report that identified a maintenance worker atop a bank building overlooking the Lekki Toll
“Gate as a sniper, leading to attacks that destroyed many of the bank’s branches. The organizations have not even been sanctioned for this terrible disinformation, yet rabble rousers have latched on to the fines to make all sorts of baseless allegations,” he observes..
The Minister restated that the government was responsible enough by not only accepting the demands of the EndSARS protesters but also began implementing them including the disbandment of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS)
Govt Was Responsible
Outlining the different steps taken is addressing these demands, he says, that “the Federal Government was not only responsive but was also very responsible in its handling of the demands of the EndSARS protesters. The five demands were met (some with an immediate pronouncement and others by kickstarting the process of meeting them). Despite this, the protest continued and the demands kept expanding, until the protest was hijacked, leading to unprecedented violence characterized by killings, maiming, arson, looting etc.!”
Also defending the role of the security forces which he praised as professional, he says, “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. The security agents were professional and measured in their response. Even when their lives were at stake, they exercised uncommon restraint. Their professionalism and measured response saved many lives and properties.
The CNN Report
The CNN report began thus, “Sometime after midnight on October 21, Elisha Sunday Ibanga answered a phone call from his older brother’s number.
The person on the other end of the line — a stranger — broke the news that Ibanga’s brother, Victor, had been shot dead at the Lekki toll gate, in Lagos, Nigeria, where he had been peacefully protesting against police brutality earlier that night.
“The person told me that the police took his body away,” Ibanga, 24, told CNN.
An eyewitness to Victor Sunday Ibanga’s death told CNN the 27-year-old entrepreneur was shot in the head during the protest.
CNN has obtained and geolocated a photograph of Victor’s body lying in a pool of blood and wrapped in the white and green of the Nigerian standard — one of the same flags gripped by fellow protesters earlier in the evening as they sang the country’s national anthem. Ibanga confirmed the photograph is of his brother.
The Ibangas are one of several families yet to locate the bodies of their missing loved ones — protestors at the toll gate — who dozens of eyewitnesses say were shot at, first by members of the Nigerian army and then hours later by police. Eyewitnesses told CNN they saw the army remove a number of bodies from the scene.
What happened on October 20, and into the early hours of October 21, at the eight-lane Lekki toll gate — a key piece of Lagos’ road network — has stunned the country.
The protesters who were present have told CNN it was a “massacre” with multiple people killed and dozens wounded. But local authorities have downplayed that account.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, admitted to CNN that footage showed uniformed soldiers firing on peaceful protesters but claimed only two demonstrators were killed. But, he then said there was “not a scratch of blood” at the toll gate when he visited. The governor said no families had approached authorities saying they were missing relatives.
Lagos Govt, Army Deny Involvement
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the army denied any involvement, describing reports of the incident as “fake news,” before backtracking and saying that soldiers were present but fired their weapons in the air and used blanks, not live rounds.
CNN’s calls to the Nigerian army have not been returned. But on November 14, during a judicial inquiry into the shooting, army representative Brigadier Ahmed Taiwo said, “There’s no way officers and men will kill their brothers and sisters. I repeat no way. We have those who constantly seek to drive a wedge between us and between the citizens of Nigeria…”
The army also said at the hearing that it was the governor who called soldiers to the scene because the police were overrun. The governor has denied this, saying he does not have the authority to call in the army. The army has continued to restate that they did not fire live rounds.
But an investigation by CNN into the disputed events has cast doubt on authorities’ shifting and changing statements.
Evidence of bullet casings from the scene match those used by the Nigerian army when shooting live rounds, according to current and former Nigerian military officials. Verified video footage — using timestamps and data from the video files — shows soldiers who appear to be shooting in the direction of protesters. And accounts from eyewitnesses establish that after the army withdrew, a second round of shooting happened later in the evening.