By Samuel Omojoye
|Protesters gesture as they hold placards at a live concert at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, on October 15, 2020, during a demonstration to protest against police brutality and scrapping of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). (Photo by Pierre FAVENNEC / AFP)|
The morning after the night when protesters at Lekki toll gate were supposedly massacred by the Nigerian Army, the BBC News hour programme interviewed Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu around 6am on whether he invited the army and who gave orders that unarmed protesters be shot. The governor confirmed that he invited the army but that they were supposed to arrive later than the time they came. Did he order the shooting of protesters? “I am not the C-in-C,” he said, adding that the army does not take orders from him. He was then asked if he knew who the people that did the shooting were and he replied, “from the videos i’ve seen, it was the army”.
Later at a press briefing, the Governor announced that there were no fatalities. The army had already tweeted “fake news” earlier in the day when the social media was awash with videos of soldiers in an armoured tank, shooting sporadically in a direction and scores of videos of bodies with body parts littering the ground had been spread as victims of Lekki massacre.
A certain DJ Switch has released several videos, one LIVE, in which she claims that the military were killing protesters and that a lot of people had died and they were trying to remove a bullet from one person’s leg. She was relaying these events, but not showing footage of dead bodies, of soldiers shooting at people, of blood stain on the floor, of the process/procedure when the bullet was removed, of soldiers carrying the bodies, and when DJ Switch and her people were carrying bodies and dumping them in front of the soldiers (as she claimed).
Then her second video showed her talking to a friend, and she started running and asking people to bend down and hold their flags. DJ Switch gave an impression that the army or police were still shooting protesters at Lekki even in the morning. Then she did another video where she apologised for not being online for some time. She then reminisced about the fateful night and started to address the issue of numbers. Then the death toll of over 80 reduced to 12. She claimed that the DJ Switch account which posted over 80 deaths was a fake account and not hers. She narrated her ordeal and how the police fired teargas and described it like “Cotonou pepper”.
Now, the facts. Till today, there are no relatives who have come forward that their family members are missing. A woman in London claimed her son was killed at the Lekki Toll Plaza, but it turned out that he died in a motorcycle accident. Also pictures that were touted as victims of the Lekki massacre turned out to be pictures of people who had died in separate circumstances – one from a bike accident and the other a stab wound victim. Those found in the hospitals who got injured from Lekki were as a result of stampede, and the injuries ranged from broken bones, cuts, bruises and slash wounds. So far, no record of death as a result of gunshot wounds from the Army’s weapons, but the social media was awash with people in hospital, who claimed that they were shot by soldiers at the toll plaza.
In reality, there was chaos in nearby Ajah-Badore where gangs were fighting. Some policemen and many innocent citizens died. To make matters worse, a lot of angry protesters came out of their homes and in their bid to retaliate by killing police officers or burning police stations, many people got shot by policemen and a lot of lives were lost.
The media houses covered this story have a responsibility to show that they are worthy of their licences. Many of them showed social media footages as “live”, thereby misleading the audience. One newspaper wrote a piece titled “Sanwo-Olu finally admits inviting the military”. At no time did Governor Sanwo-Olu deny inviting the military. He said the military does not take orders from him. It was his interview with Becky Anderson on CNN (days after speaking with the BBC where he confirmed that he sought military help, following the anarchy that had seized many parts of the state) that people saw and decided the governor “finally admitted”. Is this the same report that the army read for them to have said they were not happy the Governor denied inviting them?
The CNN did a package in which it attached social media videos to what could have been an educational piece of journalism. A satellite image showed the army leaving their base in two pick-up vans. It showed them fire into the sky. There was an image of an old man in native attire covered in blood. That man must have a relative somewhere. Did the soldiers take his body away? If he is dead, who was he? He must have friends or family members.
One important question to ask is why the satellite image which showed the army drive to the toll gate didn’t show the army picking up bodies or dropping them somewhere. There should be an image showing people on the floor, dead as a result of a massacre.
Some observers have said that the Federal Government should not have confronted CNN. I disagree. What Nigeria has done through the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, is within its rights. CNN has a duty to investigate its reports thoroughly and present such reports with facts and figures. CNN should substantiate its claims.
Omojoye wrote from Palmgrove, Lagos.
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