#EndSARS: One year after alleged massacre, families of victims nowhere to be found ― Lai Mohammed

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Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, Wednesday insisted that what happened at the Lekki Toll Plaza on October 20, 2020, was a phantom massacre, as he said that one year after the incident, no families of alleged victims have surfaced to make their cases.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja to mark the first-year anniversary of the #EndSARS protests in which several persons were alleged to have been shot dead by the military, the minister maintained that the massacre took place only in the realm of the social media.

According to him, no body had been recovered, no convincing evidence provided, and no families showed up at the judicial panels of inquiry set up to investigate the claims.

The minister blasted CNN and Amnesty International for continuing to insist that unarmed protesters were killed by the military who used live ammunitions at the plaza.

Reading from a prepared text, Mohammed said: “Today marks the first anniversary of the phantom massacre at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, which was the culmination of an otherwise peaceful protest that was later hijacked by hoodlums. At earlier press conferences, I had called the reported massacre at the toll gate the first massacre in the world without blood or bodies.

“One year later, and 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. Recall, gentlemen, 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.

“On Monday, the Judicial Panel of Inquiry that was set up by the Lagos State Government after the EndSARS protest wrapped up its sitting. 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.

“In its latest attempt to grasp at straws and redeem whatever is left of its battered credibility on this issue, CNN has continued with its baseless report that soldiers shot at protesters. In a report currently running on the network, CNN brazenly and unashamedly held on to its flawed narrative, relying on an unidentified mother whose son was reportedly shot dead at Lekki, but without convincing evidence of who shot him dead. The same CNN that tweeted on Oct. 23rd 2020 that 38 people were shot dead at Lekki is now struggling to convince the world that one boy was killed at Lekki. What a shame!”

According to the minister, the testimony of ballistic experts before the Judicial Panel of Inquiry in Lagos contradicted what he called “the tales by the moonlight by Amnesty International, CNN, a runaway DJ and their ilk.”

Relying on the testimony and the 2020 Country Report on Human Rights Practices of the U.S. State Department, Mohammed affirmed that there was a preponderance of evidence against any massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate on Oct. 20th, 2020.

He, therefore, restated: “The military did not shoot at protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on Oct. 20th 2020, and there was no massacre at the toll gate. The only ‘massacre’ recorded was in social media, hence there were neither bodies nor blood.

“Amnesty International, CNN, a runaway DJ and others like them should apologize for misleading the world that there was a massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate and for portraying the Nigerian military, police and other security agencies in a bad light.

“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 remains 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.

“The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the#EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the Human Rights Organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre.”

The minister also highlighted the measures taken by the National Economic Council (NEC) to address the issues relating to the #EndSARS agitation including payment of compensation, prosecution of indicted persons (security personnel and civilians), and improved efficiency of Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies’’ architecture.

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