A week after men of the Nigerian Army were said to have shot at ENDSARS protesters, who had laid siege on the Lekki Toll Gate in the nation’s commercial capital, Lagos State, demanding an end to police brutality, no family, relative or friend has approach the state Judicial Panel investigating the incident to make claim that they have lost their loved ones.
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had on October 19, inaugurated an 8-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry and Restitution to investigate cases of police brutality in the state following the continuous ENDSARS protest in many parts of the state.
Investigations carried out by this reporter revealed that while the panel has been investigating the Lekki Toll Gate incident to unravel if protesters were truly killed by soldiers deployed to restore order, no family has yet approached the panel to make claims that they lost loved ones at the Lekki Toll Gate, a month after the Army dispersed protesters at Lekki Toll Gate.
A news report by Cable News Network (CNN) had alleged that the Nigerian army used live bullets on protesters which led to the death of one Victor Sunday Ibanga; the American news-based television channel had on October 23rd tweeted that the soldiers killed 38 protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate, a report which has now been found to be untrue and contradicting their most recent report.
Our investigation has also shown that the CNN report was not able to prove that the late Victor Ibanga was killed by Army when they shot, as their reports claim that he had been killed at about 1am, of which the Army left the Toll Gate at about 8pm – that is 6 hours after.
Names and pictures of those who were reported dead on social media platforms were subsequently denied by their families and friends while some turned out to be victims of road accidents and shootings elsewhere and not at the Lekki Toll Gate.
With many laying claims to counting dead bodies in a live Instagram video by Obianuju Udeh, aka DJ Switch, who is also yet to approach the panel to put forward evidences in her possession, a protester who testified before the judicial panel discredited these claims by saying he only saw one dead body at the scene of the incident. This corroborates the report of Damilola Banjo, a reporter with the British Broadcasting Service (BBC), who said no protester was shot.
Damilola, who had appeared in an interview with the BBC studio in United Kingdom, revealed that soldiers were seen at the Lekki Toll Gate but shot “sporadically into the air.”
Her words: “I had my editor with me at the protest ground and we saw the army open fire, of course not on the protesters. They were shooting into the air. And while we were trying to find a safe cover, I saw a young man who seems to be struggling for breath, he was sleeping out of consciousness, he was just lying on the floor.
“I think what must have caused the situation at the time must have been the sudden shock of the sporadic shooting from the military and because the environment was tensed, that must have been the cause of his predicament at that point. But that was the casualty I saw at the time – a young man lying on the floor and sleeping out of consciousness.”
In an interview with a lawyer, who wishes not to be named, that is attending the proceeding of the judicial panel of enquiry, he stated that if there were really any deaths, the families or their loved ones would react. “Death is an event too serious for a family too keep shut about. You don’t lose loved ones and move on like nothing happened. There has to be closure. Why are the so-called families who lost loved ones not coming forward?” He said.
The CNN report which has been widely described as a plot to destabilize the country and set the nation at war provokes questions of fairness, balance and professionalism.
Sulaiman Aledeh, publisher of aledeh.com who dissected the CNN report posited that that CNN did not provide any new information but used existing videos and images that have been seen more than 3 weeks ago. The medium’s analysis of the CNN report established that there was no death connected to the shooting.
“The claim that over 70 people were killed by soldiers is FALSE,” it said.
“While Nigerians still await the true events at Lekki Tollgate, caution and professionalism must be applied in the reportage and acceptance of investigations,” the analysis added.
Also, in a swift reaction to the CNN report, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at a press conference in Abuja, said that the international news organisation goofed in the said report.
The Minister who described the event of October 20, 2020 as a “massacre without bodies”, insisted that, contrary to DJ Switch’s claims, not a single body has been produced or a single family has come out to claim their family member was killed at the Lekki tollgate.
He said, “One of the purveyors of fake news was one DJ Switch which real name is Obianuju Catherine Udeh, even though she claimed authentic evidence of mass killings. Surprisingly, instead of presenting whatever evidence she may have, she chose to escape from the country on the claim that her life was in danger. In danger for who?
“The military has come out to say we never sought after her and to the best of my knowledge, the police never declared her wanted.
“Her conduct thus becomes suspect. Who is she fronting for? What is her real motive? Who are her sponsors? If she has any evidence, why is she not presenting such evidence to the panel? Since she was very desperate for asylum in any country, did she have to resort to blatant falsehood to tarnish the image of the country?
“In the fullness of time, this lady will be exposed for who she is, a fraud, a front for divisive and destructive forces.
“At this juncture, we want to appeal to countries that have made faulty judgements on the basis of fake news and disinformation emanating from #EndSARS crisis to endeavour to seek and find the truth.” Alhaji Lai Mohammed said.
Reporting by Daniel Adebayo