Our reporting was carefully and meticulously researched, and we stand by it-CNN
By Our Editor/Ajeck Mangut, Angela Dewan and Nada Bashir(CNN)
The Minister Of Information And Culture, Lai Mohammed, has described the CNN investigation aimed at shedding more light on the Lekki shootings that happened on October 20, as “a poor piece of journalistic work.”
EAGLE EYE WATCH reports that CNN had published its investigation on the matter on Wednesday, indicating that there were indeed casualties from the open fire.
But the minister, on Thursday, during a briefing on the aftermath of the protest, said the international news organisation engaged in incredible sensationalism and did a great disservice to itself and to journalism.
“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 organisation or any serious news organisation? If CNN had done its investigation properly, it would have known how fake news and disinformation were trending during the EndSARS crisis.
Minister for Information and Culture Lai Mohammed Thursday dismissed the CNN investigation as “fake news” and “misinformation,” 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,” he told reporters at a press conference in Abuja, in the most significant federal government response so far to the October 20 violence.
“This is very serious and CNN should be sanctioned for that,” he said.
CNN stands by its investigation, a company spokesperson said.
“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 photosand videoobtained 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.
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.
Addressing reporters, Mohammed insisted that “the military did not shoot at the protesters at the toll gate” but fired blank ammunitions into the air, blaming 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.
“CNN relied heavily on unreliable and possibly doctored videos as well as information sources from questionable sources to reach these conclusions,” he continued.
He did not provide any evidence the videos were doctored.
The CNN report included evidence that bullet casings from the scene matched those used by the Nigerian army when shooting live rounds, according to current and former Nigerian military officials.
Two ballistics experts also confirmed with CNN that the shape of the bullet casings indicate they used live rounds, which contradicts the army’s claim they fired blanks.
While the Minister for Information and Culture asserted that “not a single family” has reported the death of relatives during the protest on October 20, the Chief Coroner of Lagos State has since issued a public call for all those who have “lost loved ones between 19 — 27 October 2020” to come forward and provide evidence which could assist in the “identification exercise.”
During his press briefing on Thursday, the Minister denied reports of fatalities at the protest.
“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.
According to Mohammed, the National Economic Council (NEC) directed the “immediate establishment” of a state-based judicial panel of inquiry on October 15 — before the Lekki toll gate incident, but after protests against violence had begun — to investigate complaints of police brutality and extrajudicial killings.
Eyewitnesses have since told CNN that the government’s comments are “lies,” making them feel as though they had “hallucinated the whole event.”
“Haven’t they hurt us enough? I still close my eyes and see the blood and hear the screams,” another eyewitness said.
During the press conference, Mohammed said the federal government continues to be “very satisfied” with the role played by security agencies — especially the military and police — through the protests.