Following threats by the Federal Government to sanction the United States-based Cable News Network (CNN) over its report aired, Wednesday, which indicted both Nigerian Army authorities and Lagos State Governor over their roles played in the Lekki shooting incident, last October 20, the media group has insisted it stands on its story.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had during a press conference, in Abuja, Thursday, threatened to sanction the CNN, even as he maintains that government stands on its earlier position that no lives were lost in the shooting incident at the Lekki Toll Gate when soldiers confronted peaceful protesters who were demanding an end to the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria police.
However, a CNN report detailed evidence pointing to the contrary which showed victims recounting their experiences on the evening of Tuesday, October 20, 2020, in addition to showing pictures of dead protesters killed by live ammunition fired by the soldiers.
At the press briefing, Thursday, Mohammed dismissed the CNN investigation as ‘fake news and misinformation,’ as he repeatedly denying the military used live rounds against protesters.
“Like everyone else, I watched the CNN report. I must tell you that it reinforces the disinformation that is going around, and it is blatantly irresponsible and a poor piece of journalistic work by a reputable international news organization,” Mohammed said.
Continuing the minister added: “This is very serious and CNN should be sanctioned for that. The military did not shoot at the protesters at the toll gate but fired blank ammunitions into the air,’ Mohammed insisted, as be blamed looters for the violence which broke out on the night of October 20.
“Six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed all over the country during the crisis,” Mohammed said.
“As I said earlier, what started as a peaceful protest against police brutality quickly degenerated into incredible violence despite an immediate response to the demands by the government,” he said.
“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,” he added.
However, responding to the minister’s claims, Thursday, CNN said it stands by its investigation.
“Our reporting was carefully and meticulously researched, and we stand by it,” the spokesperson said via email.
“The report was based on testimony from dozens of witnesses, and photos and video obtained and geolocated by CNN. It painted a picture of how members of the Nigerian army and the police shot at the crowd, killing at least one person and wounding dozens more,” a company spokesperson said.
“CNN verified photos and videos acquired from multiple eyewitnesses and protesters using timestamps and other data from the video files. Video footage shows soldiers who appear to be shooting in the direction of protesters. And accounts from eyewitnesses established that after the army withdrew, a second round of shooting happened later in the evening.
“Prior to publishing the report, CNN tried multiple times to elicit comment from the Nigerian army and police. A Lagos State police spokesman declined to comment because of an ongoing investigation. While a statement from the Lagos State government said that there would be no comment while a judicial tribunal was underway.
“CNN also included comments from army representative Brigadier Ahmed Taiwo, testifying before the tribunal. He denied that soldiers would shoot at Nigerian citizens.
“The investigation was broadcast and published on Wednesday and cast doubt on Nigerian authorities’ shifting and changing statements over what happened at the protest at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos.
“Nigerian authorities claimed that CNN relied heavily on unreliable and possibly doctored videos as well as information sources from questionable sources to reach these conclusions. He did not provide any evidence the videos were doctored,” the statement by the media group said.