CNN has reacted to the comment by Lai Mohammed in his press briefing today in Abuja on the reporting of the popular international media powerhouse, revealing the startling evidence that the Nigerian army and police opened fire on unarmed protestors at Lekki toll gate in the largely peaceful “#EndSARS” protest on October 20.
“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.
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.
“This is very serious and CNN should be sanctioned for that,” he said.
It would be recalled that the said 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.
CNN has responded through email saying “Our reporting was carefully and meticulously researched, and we stand by it.”
They explained that the report was based on testimony from dozens of witnesses, and photos and video obtained 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.
They said prior to publishing the report, CNN tried multiple times to get comments from the Nigerian army and police but no response. 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.
According to the report, CNN also included comments from army representative Brigadier Ahmed Taiwo who testifyed before the tribunal. He had denied that soldiers shoot at Nigerian citizens.
The CNN report included as well 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.
“Six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed all over the country during the crisis, CNN relied heavily on unreliable and possibly doctored videos as well as information sources from questionable sources to reach these conclusions,” he said but did not provide any evidence that the videos were doctored.
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 Lagos State governor, Sanwo-Olu 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.”