By Ibrahim Adeleke
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, on Tuesday, maintained that the reported killings at Lekki Tollgate was a phantom massacre.
This was as the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government spokesman faulted the report of the panel commissioned by the Lagos State government to probe the #EndSARS protests and consequent events that followed at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, 2020.
At a media briefing in Lagos, Mohammed highlighted portions of the Lagos panel report, which he claimed were inconsistent and folly on the part of the panel.
He also issued a detailed rejoinder to the #EndSARS report published by the Lagos State judicial panel, saying the report “cannot be relied on in court and will be thrown out due to these discrepancies.”
The Lagos EndSARS panel had in its 309-page leaked report, indicted the Nigerian Army and police in the shooting and killing of the protesters.
The panel called for the sack of soldiers found to be complicit in the murder of innocent protesters as it “recommends disciplinary actions to the following officers (Lt. Col S.O. Bello and Major General Godwin Umelo), who refused to honor the summons of the panel in order to frustrate the investigation.”
However, at the event in Lagos, Mohammed maintained his position that people were not killed at Lekki Tollgate.
The minister said, “There is nothing in the report to make us change our stance that there was no massacre at Lekki on Oct 20.
“For us to change our stance, it means all investigations must be presented to the court and must stand to scrutiny.”
Mohammed went further to mock parents and families of victims who refused to testify due to witch-hunt and victimisation.
He said, “We urge all victims to speak out and it is untenable to say families are scared; will the same families want to collect compensation when they refuse to testify?
“Any parent who refuses to testify the death of their kids is not worth being called a parent.”
Mohammed concluded that the Lagos panel report was meant to embarrass the Federal Government regardless of the stance of Buhari’s administration against the abuse of citizens as evidenced by the disbandment of the infamous SARS division of the Nigerian Police Force.
He said, “We reject the notion that the Nigerian Army massacred innocent protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate.
“The report was circulated to embarrass the FG; the FG will never condone an abuse on the rights of Nigerians. This is why the FG disbanded SARS and called for investigations across all the states.”
Further highlighting some discrepancies contained in the report, the minister said, “The report said the military fired at protesters which was clearly not the case.
“The panel said only one of the post-mortem had gunshot wounds only to contradict itself that nine persons died with gunshot injuries.
“One of the persons who allegedly was shot did not testify at the panel.
“Where are the family members of those who are reportedly killed? If the panel is recommending compensation; who are the families?
“How can a judicial panel convince anyone that the casualties listed are not fictitious names? No surnames, yet confirmed dead.
“Why is the panel fixated on this phantom massacre?
“The panel never mentioned the policemen murdered? Does this mean the panel does not consider them as humans?
“The panel did not make any recommendations on innocent businesses destroyed but it was too busy looking for evidence to support its claim of the massacre.
“Therefore, this panel report cannot be relied on in court and will be thrown out due to these discrepancies.
“It is too premature for anyone to castigate the FG based on this unofficial report.”
He equally blasted CNN for celebrating the publication of the report prematurely while decrying the lowering in journalistic standards.
“The CNN has celebrated this report when it needs to read and analyse this report. They have celebrated prematurely. This is a double faux pas since they are willing to compromise on journalistic standards.
“Unfortunately, sections of the Nigerian media have joined in this calumny against the FG,” he said.