The Federal Government has said the reported killings of protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate during the #EndSARS protest on October 20, 2020, is a “phantom massacre”.
Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, stated the government’s position at a press conference in Abuja on the first anniversary of EndSARS on Wednesday.
In October 2020, Nigeria had witnessed nationwide protests led by Nigerian youths across the country, demonstrating against police brutality committed by the now-disbanded special anti-robbery squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigeria Police Force.
It, however, came to an agonising end on October 20, 2020, after some soldiers of the Nigerian Army shot at a crowd of protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate Plaza in Lagos State.
But according to the minister, relatives of supposed victims who claimed to lose loved ones are yet to show up and give evidence a year after such allegations.
He said: “Today marks the first anniversary of the phantom massacre at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, which was the culmination of an otherwise peaceful protest that was later hijacked by hoodlums.
“One year later, and despite ample opportunities for the families of those allegedly killed and those alleging a massacre to present evidence, there has been none: No bodies, no families, no convincing evidence, nothing. Where are the families of those who were reportedly killed at the toll gate? Did they show up at the Judicial Panel of Inquiry? If not, why?
“Recall, gentlemen, that after bandying different figures, Amnesty International finally settled at about 12 people killed. On its part, CNN went from 38 people killed to two to just one, after a supposed global exclusive even when the network had no reporter on ground at the Lekki Toll Gate on Oct. 20th 2020.”
The minister also insisted that soldiers did not shoot at protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate.
He said: “On Oct. 20th (2020), members of the security forces enforced curfew by FIRING SHOTS INTO THE AIR (emphasis mine) to disperse protesters, who had gathered at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos to protest abusive practices by the Nigeria Police Force Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)
“Accurate information on fatalities resulting from the shooting was not available at year’s end. Amnesty International reported 10 persons died during the event, but the government disputed Amnesty’s Report, and NO OTHER ORGANIZATION WAS ABLE TO VERIFY THE CLAIM (emphasis mine).”
“With the preponderance of evidence against any massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20th 2020, we are once again reiterating what we said one year ago, that:
“The military did not shoot at protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20th 2020, and there was no massacre at the toll gate. The only ‘massacre’ recorded was in the social media, hence there were neither bodies nor blood.”