The Federal Government, on Tuesday, snubbed the call by the United States and the United Nations for the implementation of the leaked report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses, rubbishing the report in its entirety.
The panel had stated in its report that at least nine persons were killed on the night soldiers and policemen stormed the tollgate to disperse #EndSARS protesters, describing the incident as a “massacre in context.”
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had told the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, last week that the Federal Government would not comment on the matter until a White Paper had been issued on the report.
Blinken had responded by saying that the US was waiting to see how the federal and state governments would respond. He followed up later by threatening that Nigeria could be hit by an arms embargo if it was established that human rights abuses were being perpetrated with impunity against Nigerian citizens by government agents.
However, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, at a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, described the leaked report as one laced with discrepancies and inconsistencies, and was unverified fake news.
Mohammed, who insisted that nobody was killed at the Lekki toll plaza on October 20, 2020, said the panel only wasted taxpayers’ money by coming up with such a nonsensical report, which he likened to ‘Tales by moonlight’, a 1990s television programme where fictitious stories and tales were told to children
The minister said, “Without mincing words, let me say that never in the history of any judicial panel in this country has its report been riddled with so many errors, inconsistencies, discrepancies, speculations, innuendoes, omissions and conclusions that are not supported by evidence. What is circulating in public space is simply a rehash of the unverified fake news that has been playing on social media since the incident of October 20, 2020.
“It is simply incredible that a judicial panel set up to investigate an incident has submitted a report laden with allegations, the same allegations it was set up to investigate in the first instance. Instead of sitting for all of one year, the panel could have just compiled social media tales by the moonlight on the incident and submitted, saving taxpayers’ funds and everyone’s time. That report is nothing but the triumph of fake news and the intimidation of a silent majority by a vociferous lynch mob.”
Mohammed maintained that no one was killed at the Lekki tollgate, adding that the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigerian Army were not involved in any massacre.
The minister said the 37 policemen and six soldiers, who died across the country during the #EndSARS protests, were also Nigerians and should not be forgotten.
He added, “There is absolutely nothing in the report that is circulating to make us change our stand that there was no massacre at Lekki on October 20, 2020. For us to change our stand, a well-investigated report of the incident that meets all required standards and will withstand every scrutiny must be produced and presented to the public.
“We reject the notion that our soldiers and policemen massacred innocent Nigerians at Lekki on October 20, 2020. That conclusion is not supported by the weight of available evidence. Indictment for murder is a very serious issue that cannot be done on the basis of allegations and corroborations.”
He called on the families of those who were said to have been killed to come forward.
According to Mohammed, the report threw away the testimony of ballistic experts, who testified before the panel.