Nigerian Minister for Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, on Thursday, lashed out at the CNN, saying the network should be sanctioned over its investigation, which uncovered evidence that the Nigerian army and police opened fire on unarmed protestors on October 20.
CNN’s investigation focused on a demonstration against police brutality, led by the largely peaceful #EndSARS movement.
The Minister dismissed the CNN investigation as “fake news” and “misinformation,” repeatedly denying that the military used live rounds against protesters.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Abuja, in the most significant Federal Government response so far to the October 20 violence, Mohammed said:
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.
This is very serious and CNN should be sanctioned for that.
Meanwhile, a company spokesperson said for the CNN say that it stands by its investigation.
The spokesperson said via email:
Our reporting was carefully and meticulously researched, and we stand by it.
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.
Protesters, Victor Sunday Ibanga, left, and Wisdom Okon. Their families say they have not seen them since the protest on October 20.
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.
Prior to publishing the report, CNN tried multiple times to elicit comment from the Nigerian army and police. 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.
CNN also included comments from army representative Brigadier Ahmed Taiwo, testifying before the tribunal. He denied that soldiers would shoot at Nigerian citizens.
The 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.
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.
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 did not provide any evidence the videos were doctored.