On October 20, 2020, many #EndSARS protesters were stationed at the Lekki Toll Gate area of Lagos – a place the youths had agreed to use as the ‘protest ground’ – waving the Nigerian flag and reciting the national anthem and pledge when they met a terrible fate.
In what has now been confirmed by the Lagos #EndSARS Panel as a ‘massacre’, soldiers from the 81 Division Nigerian Army shot sporadically at the unarmed protesters, killing scores of them.
Days later, Nigeria was divided by the outcome of the event. For most people, DJ Switch’s Instagram live video was the very evidence they needed to confirm that indeed there was a massacre. However, many other people insisted there was no massacre. Among these people are prominent individuals who are yet to respond to the findings of the panel since the report was made public on Monday.
READ MORE: PORTRAITS OF BLOOD (1): Death Threats, ‘Murders’, Indiscriminate Arrests… The Post-Lekki-Massacre Cover-Up
The minister of information and culture refused to agree that there was a massacre and he has been vocal about it. Responding to a CNN investigation of the massacre in November 2020, Mohammed said there was no massacre, adding that the report was fake.
“Not a single body has been produced and not a single family or relative has come out to say their child or ward was killed at Lekki Tollgate,” he said.
On the first anniversary of the #EndSARS campaign, he reiterated that there was no massacre because no one died at the protest site.
“We insist that the military did not shoot at the protesters at the Lekki Tollgate. They fired blank ammunition into the air. Again, anyone who knows anyone who was killed at the Lekki Tollgate should head straight to the judicial panel with conclusive evidence of such,” he said.
READ MORE: PORTRAITS OF BLOOD (II): Names, Photos, Videos… How Lekki #EndSARS Protesters Were Massacred
Self-proclaimed investigative journalist, Kemi Olunloyo, did not immediately say there was no massacre until May of 2021. When she eventually did, she insinuated that people who think there was a massacre followed a rhetorical bandwagon.
In another tweet, Olunloyo reduced the severity of the massacre to a joke by saying it was an amusement park.
As custodians of history in a hurry and chroniclers of timely events, the media are supposed to give credible information based on pieces of evidence. And while FIJ and many news media admitted there was a massacre, Daily Trust, in the face of multiple evidence, denied a massacre ever happened.
On October 21, 2021, the Daily Trust denied the Lekki Massacre, stating there was no evidence to support the claims people died.
In a news report, the Daily Trust said, “One year after the #EndSARS protest during which some activists, media houses and international groups claimed that there was a massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, there is still no evidence of large scale killing at the scene to qualify the raid as a massacre.
“To date, the names of the people purportedly massacred at Lekki have not been released by those championing the #EndSARS course or families of the victims even as various hospitals in Lagos said they only treated injured people from Lekki and did not receive any dead body.”
On Twitter, the Daily Trust handle tweeted a cartoon by Mustapha Bulama that insinuated that there was no evidence to back the claims that Lekki massacre happened.
READ ALSO: PORTRAITS OF BLOOD (III): Survivors of Lekki Massacre Whose Lives Will Never Be The Same Again
The Army is still the biggest organisation to deny the massacre. The reason is not farfetched; their involvement in the massacre was never applauded by the public. And following the aftermath of the massacre, any information that would link the massacre to them was described as fake news.
On Twitter, some two to five days after the massacre, the official Twitter page of the Nigerian Army was filled with screenshots of news reports watermarked as ‘fake news’.
The army is yet to admit that it intentionally shot at protesters in order to kill them; instead, it has worked hard to rewrite the narrative by insisting that soldiers only shot at the air.
Iyabo Awokoya is a popular Twitter commenter and a ‘staunch defender of the Buhari government’. Dubbed as ‘Mama Poverty’ by many Twitter users, Awokoya denied the existence of the massacre. In July, she remarked that the Lekki massacre did not happen.
After the panel released their report on Monday, Awokoya tweeted for the first time in a while to reiterate her point – there was no massacre.
The famous Nigerian actress might have written her name in the public book of condemnation following a series of tweets where she insinuated there was no massacre.
After the Lekki massacre, Omotola urged Nigerians to stop being ‘sensational’ with the outcome of October 20, 2020, adding that “if there were no deaths then enough with the sensationalization” – a similar line people who publicly denied the massacre use.
Although she later deleted the tweet after Nigerian Twitter users pilloried her, On Monday when the Lagos #EndSARS Panel released their findings, she was ‘dragged’, as they say on Nigerian Twitter, alongside other people who denied the massacre.
The former Channels Television presenter may have had it worse if he was still in the media industry for sharing the opinion that there was no massacre. Just a day before the massacre, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) fined Channels TV and two other stations for using clips from the protest in their reports.
On October 22, 2020, Aledeh stated clearly that there was no massacre. He admitted there were shootings but people did not die.
NATIONAL BROADCASTING COMMISSION (NBC)
Before the protest, NBC had expressed a haughty disdain for the protest and whatever may come out of it.
A day before the bloody massacre at Lekki, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), under the leadership of Armstrong Adachaba, the NBC Acting Director-General at the time, imposed N3 million sanction each on AIT, Channels and Arise News television stations, for using clips of police brutality found on social media during the protest to support their reports.
According to Adachaba, the stations violated a broadcasting code in reporting the #EndSARS protests.
He said the commission was concerned about the professional misdemeanour of some broadcasting stations in the past couple of days.
“In line with the provision of section 5.6.9 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code which states that the broadcaster shall be held liable for any breach of the code emanation from the use of material from User Generated Sources, the commission, therefore, sanctioned Arise TV, Channels TV and AIT in line with the provision of the broadcasting code,” he said.
“Channels Television, Arise TV and AIT especially continued to transmit footages obtained from unverified and unauthenticated social media sources.”
“No doubt, these pictures stimulated anger and heightened the violence that was witnessed during the #EndSARS crisis.”
“If you escalate the violation that have emanated from the misuse of social media sources by broadcasting it will escalate the sanction.”
“According to the provision of the law, we can comfortably shut them down because what they are doing is capable of breakdown of law and order.”
Idachaba subsequently spoke at an online forum monitored by FIJ during which he insisted the word “massacre” did not represent what had happened on October 20, 2020. He also insisted that nobody died at the tollgate, as soldiers never shot live bullets at anyone.
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