•Denounce fine on ARISE NEWS Channel, AIT, Channels TV broadcast stations
•FG writes CNN, demands retraction of Lekki shooting broadcast
Chiemelie Ezeobi in Lagos, Adedayo Akinwale and Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The United Kingdom parliamentarians yesterday recommended sanctions against government officials and security agents who abused the rights of #EndSARS demonstrators last month.
The UK lawmakers, while considering a petition signed by 220, 000 signatories in the aftermath of the alleged shooting of protesters at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20, expressed lack of confidence in Nigeria’s handling of the incident and vowed to launch an independent investigation to unravel the circumstances of the alleged shooting.
The parliamentarians passed the resolutions the same day the federal government wrote to the United States-based global television station, Cable News Network (CNN), over last Wednesday’s airing of a report on the alleged shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20.
During its plenary yesterday, which THISDAY monitored via a live feed on the parliament live.tv, the parliamentarians condemned the alleged attack on unarmed persons at Lekki Tollgate by the Nigerian Army, pointing out that the proposed sanctions should not be mere rhetoric but must be carried out sooner than later.
The lawmakers said: “No action can replace the lives that have been lost, but that doesn’t mean we cannot take actions.
“We know that these individuals come here and use our banks, so we are in a unique position to do something.”
In the petition started by one Silas Ojo, a Nigerian, the petitioners charged the UK government to impose sanctions on individuals in the Nigerian government and police officers involved in human rights abuses.
The debate was opened by MP Theresa Villiers, a member of the Petitions Committee, opening the floor for other MPs from all parties to make their contributions.
The parliament did not just debate the #EndSARS protest and its violent aftermath; they also briefly touched on the Oyigbo killings in Rivers State and perceived persecution of Christians in Nigeria.
Expressing concern about what happened in Nigeria, the parliamentarians condemned the shooting of unarmed protesters, the subsequent crackdown on #EndSARS promoters and the sanction on three Nigerian television stations.
Demanding accountability for those responsible for such brutality and loss of lives during and after the protests, they called for independent investigations into the violations by Nigerian police, security and military forces.
They noted that it would have been better if they had confidence in the system of investigations in Nigeria, adding that with the ongoing failures of government in dealing with #EndSARS, many do not have faith in that process.
Setting a distinction between the looters and hoodlums from the actual peaceful protesters, they condemned the actions of the government that followed the protest, including the recent action by the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, who tagged the CNN investigation into the Lekki Tollgate shooting as fake.
On the now disbanded SARS, the parliamentarians said although the Nigerian government had claimed it ended SARS, corruption and brutality continued, adding that the UK government committed some money from the £10 million that went to Nigeria to training SARS, which still went ahead to become immoral.
They accused the Nigerian government of taking part in the attempted cover-up of the alleged Lekki Tollgate shooting and charged the government to stop freezing accounts of protesters.
Demanding that the government protects the right of Nigerians to protest, they also demanded accountability from the Nigerian government.
Intermittently referring to the shooting by the Nigerian Army at Lekki Tollgate as “massacre,” they insisted that the protesters were peaceful.
One of the MPs that stood out in his contribution was Coventry North West MP, Taiwo Owatemi, and a Nigerian, who queried if Nigeria was a dictatorship.
Backing the sanctions against individuals in government and justice for victims, he queried why “armed military officers discharged live ammunition at peaceful protesters, injuring and killing them. Who exactly ordered the military to shoot live ammunition in a civilian territory? Why were bank accounts of individuals who partook in the protest frozen?”
Also speaking, MP Teresa Pearce said: “I have been contacted by dozens of people who want to see action to ensure that human rights are upheld in Nigeria. It is not enough to just put out a statement of condemnation.”
MP Stephen Doughty, representing Cardiff South and Penarth, he repeatedly condemned the attack on unarmed protesters.
MP Kate Osamor representing Edmonton, another Nigerian, said the UK should not be a safe haven for government officials who deny their own citizens the same freedom they come to enjoy in the UK.
MP Lyn Brown stated: “My plea is that we stand with the young people of Nigeria who are demanding change far beyond the closure of SARS.”
FG Writes CNN, Demands Retraction of Lekki Shooting Broadcast
The federal government has written to the United States-based global television station, Cable News Network (CNN), over last Wednesday’s airing of a report on the alleged shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Tollgate on October 20.
The federal government, in a letter addressed to the CNN Vice President on Communications, Mr. Jonathan Hawkins, and signed by Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, faulted the report titled: ‘How a Bloody Night of Bullets Quashed a Young Protest Movement,’ and demanded a retraction.
The letter, dated November 23, 2020, described the report as blatantly irresponsible and a poor piece of journalistic work by a reputable international news organisation.
The letter was in furtherance of the government’s earlier excoriation of CNN for broadcasting the report, which prompted Mohammed at a news conference last Thursday in Abuja to call for sanctions against the CNN.
However, a few hours after Nigeria threatened sanction over the CNN report, the global television station defended the integrity of the report, saying it stands by the investigation.
In the letter, Mohammed noted that the airing of the protest was not the first time that CNN was carrying an inaccurate or hoax story about Nigeria.
He also protested that the report did not just fall short of journalistic standards, but reinforced the disinformation being peddled around on the issue.
He described as inexcusable and indefensible, CNN’s failure to live up to the principles of journalism on balance and fairness by rushing to air the story without presenting the government’s side.
The federal government also said it was a breach of journalistic standard for the global news network in its investigation to rely on unverified footage, sourced from the social media while it had no reporter on the ground at the Lekki Tollgate on the night of the incident.
It complained: “In airing its ‘investigative’ report, CNN conveniently forgot that on October 23, 2020, it emphatically tweeted, from its verified Twitter handle, that the military killed 38 people when it opened fire on peaceful protesters on Tuesday, October 20, 2020.
“Almost a month later, the same CNN – after a supposedly exhaustive investigation – is now reporting only one death from what the world was made to believe was a massacre. Is CNN not embarrassed by this sharp climb down? Has CNN owned up to this and apologised for its faux pas?
“It is also interesting that while CNN obtained footage showing when the vehicles carrying soldiers left their barracks and arrived at the Lekki Toll Gate, it could not obtain any footage showing the bodies of those supposedly killed in the ‘massacre.’
“After all, forensic ballistic experts will most likely testify that firing military-grade weapons into a crowd will not leave anyone needing a microscope to look for blood or bodies at the scene.”
The federal government demanded an immediate retraction from CNN, asking for an exhaustive investigation into its ‘investigative’ report on the Lekki Tollgate incident to determine, among others, its authenticity and if it met the basic standards of journalism in addition to the selective use of unverified social media videos to manipulate public opinion.
The federal government added that it was baffled by CNN’s insistence on the reliability of the sources of its story, describing it as a face-saving measure by a news network caught in the blinding glare of ‘fake news and disinformation’ headlamps.
It also punched a hole in the evidence of DJ Switch, one of the eyewitnesses that CNN relied on to develop its investigative reporting.
He said DJ Switch’s story on the Lekki shooting had changed several times.
According to FG’s letter: “From claiming she counted 78 bodies of protesters who were supposedly killed by soldiers on the night of the Lekki Toll Gate incident, she has twice, at least, changed the casualty figure from 78 to 15 and then to seven, without a shred of evidence. CNN cannot pretend not to know that for anyone to act as a witness, his or her credibility must be unimpeachable. DJ Switch’s credibility does not meet that threshold.
“In one of social media videos of DJ Switch that was used by CNN (see attached link 1), the lady (DJ Switch) claimed she and some unnamed persons carried dead bodies and dropped them at the feet of the soldiers. She also claimed she spoke to their commander before the soldiers threw the bodies into the vans. Curiously, for someone who was streaming live on Instagram during the Lekki Tollgate incident, there was not a single video or picture of the dead bodies. Not even Godson (Uyi), another CNN star witness whose video was also used by the network, or any of the hundreds of protesters, all armed with smartphones, at the scene recorded a video or shot a picture of dead bodies being carried away by soldiers.”
The federal government faulted CNN for failing to acknowledge that six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed during the #EndSARS crisis, which also left 196 policemen injured, and the monumental destruction of government and private property across the country, saying the network instead, was fixated on a massacre that never happened.
It threatened that while it is up to CNN to accede or not to its request for a retraction of the report, it reserves the right to take any action within its laws to prevent CNN from aggravating the #EndSARS crisis with “unprofessional, irresponsible, one-sided, inciting and sensational reporting that is capable of pitching Nigerians against themselves and setting the country on fire.”