The Nigerian Government on Thursday maintained that no #EndSARS protester was killed at Lekki tollgate on October 20.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who spoke on the protest during a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, November 19, referred to the shooting incident at the tollgate as a ”massacre without bodies”.
Mohammed spoke in response to the CNNinvestigative report on Wednesday, November 18, which claimed that Nigerian soldiers shot and killed unarmed protesters at Lekki tollgate.
The Nigerian Army has made conflicting statements regarding the incident. First it denied deploying soldiers there.
Later it accepted deploying soldiers to the tollgate at the invitation of Lagos State government but said they soldiers not shoot the protesters.
Recently, while testifying before a judicial panel in Lagos probing the incident, Brig.-Gen, Ahmed Ibrahim Taiwo of the Nigerian Army, claimed that the protesters were shot but not with live bullets.
At the Thursday conference, Mohammed 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! Some have tagged it ‘social media massacre’.”
He added that the testimony by Taiwo before the panel was compelling and “I am sure many of you have listened to or watched it.”
After highlighting details of Taiwo’s testimony including that soldiers at the Lekki tollgate only fired blank ammunitions into the air, the minister said:
“It is surprising that till date, family members of those who have been claimed to have been killed at the tollgate haven’t come forward to speak.
“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.”
He went further to say, “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. 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.”