The Minister of Information and culture, Lai Muhammad, in a press conference, in Abuja today, gave the stance of the federal government on the recently released report of the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry.
This panel was set up to investigate the cases of police brutality, and the Lekki Toll Gate alleged shooting of October 20, 2020.
Here are major takeaways from the Minister’s speech:
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1. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DIDN’T IGNORE THE REPORT
The Minister stated that contrary to the widespread rumour that the federal government had refused to give credence to the report submitted about a week ago, it was thoroughly read. “Unlike many commentators and analysts, we took our time to read and digest the report, and we are now well placed to respond”, he said.
2. THE REPORT WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY EVIDENCE
Lai emphasized that the members of the panel didn’t do a thorough fact-check before the release of the report.
He 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”. In the minister’s view and apparently that of the Federal government the report is “a rehash of the unverified fake news that has been playing on social media since the incident of Oct.20th 2020”.
3. THE PANEL WASTED GOVERNMENT’S RESOURCES AND TIME
Lai Muhammed lamented that expenses incurred by the government in the course of setting up the panel and keeping it running for a year. In his words, “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”.
4. NO ACTION CAN BE TAKEN AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT
According to the Minister, until the white paper and Gazette on the report is released no actions can be taken against the government. He said “It is therefore too premature for any person or entity to seek to castigate the Federal Government and its agencies or officials based on such an unofficial and unvalidated report”.
5. LAI VS CNN
The Minister didn’t hesitate to throw some blow at Cable News Network, CNN. Lai Mohammed had earlier threatened to sanction the media outfit for reporting unverified social media stories and videos about the Oct. 20th 2020 incident at Lekki.
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The minister condemned CNN for showing support for the report. “The CNN has been celebrating the leaked report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry. In its rush to claim vindication, CNN apparently didn’t even read the report before rolling out the drums in celebration. By that action, CNN has celebrated prematurely and has now committed a double faux pas”, he said.:
6. THE REPORT WAS ERROR-LADEN
The Minister identified some ‘errors’ in the report submitted calling it “nothing but the triumph of fake news and the intimidation of a silent majority by a vociferous lynch mob”.
According to the Minister, “The report threw away the testimony of ballistic experts who testified before it”. He added that, the panel contradicted itself by stating that nine people died from injuries sustained through gunshots at the Lekki Toll gate, and that only three of the bodies on which post mortem were conducted were from Lekki at the same time.
Lai further said:
“The man whose evidence (that he counted 11 bodies in a military van where he was left for dead before he escaped) was found to be crucial by the panel never testified in person. Rather, the video of his ‘testimony’ was played by someone else. It did not occur to the panel to query the veracity of the testimony of a man who said he was shot and presumed dead but still had time to count dead bodies inside a supposedly dark van at night!
The panel said trucks with brushes underneath were brought to the Lekki Toll Gate in the morning of Oct. 21 2020 to clean up bloodstains and other evidence, but still found bullet casings at the same site when it visited on Oct. 30th 2020. It said soldiers picked up bullet casings from Lekki Toll Gate on the night of Oct. 20th 2020, yet claimed that policemen came to the same spot to pick the same bullet casings on Oct. 21st 2020!
The panel was silent on the family members of those reportedly killed, merely insinuating they were afraid to testify. Even goats have owners who will look for them if they do not return home, not to talk of human beings. Where are the family members of those who were reportedly killed at Lekki Toll Gate? If the panel is recommending compensation for the families, what are their identities and addresses? Who will receive the compensations when no family members have shown up to date?
How did a man who reported seeing the lifeless body of his brother himself ended up being on the list of the panel’s deceased persons?”
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7. A CALL TO ALLEGED VICTIMS’ FAMILY
“We also appeal to the families of those allegedly killed in Lekki to speak out. It’s untenable to say that some families did not come out because they are afraid. Any parent who is afraid to testify about the death of his or her child is not worth to be called a parent”, the Minister concluded.
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In all, the Federal Government insists there was no massacre. Muhammad said “nothing in the report that is circulating to make us change our stand that there was no massacre at Lekki on Oct. 20th 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”.