Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information, has discredited the report submitted by the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry that investigated the Lekki Toll Gate shooting, saying the report is littered with errors.
The Justice Doris Okuwobi-led panel had in its report submitted on 15 November to the Lagos State government stated that at least nine persons were killed by the Nigerian Army and Nigeria Police Force at the toll gate on October 20, 2020, adding that the action of the security forces can be equated to a massacre.
But reacting at a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, Mohammed insisted that the panel reached its conclusion by relying on “fake news” from anecdotal sources, stating that the pieces of evidence presented were not factual.
He also castigated the panel for describing the incident as a massacre, reiterating his long-held view that the supposed killings at the toll gate on October 2020 was a “phantom massacre”.
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.
“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 was a phantom massacre. The report in circulation cannot be relied upon. The leakage of an unsigned report to the public is not enough.
“There is absolutely nothing in the report, circulating, to change our mind that there was a massacre at the Lekki tollgate.”
Mohammed also faulted the leaked release of the unsigned report before the publication of the White Paper by the Lagos State government, saying it is a deliberate act to malign the Federal Government and its agencies- the police and army.
“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.
“The report in circulation is calculated to embarrass the Federal Government and its agencies without foolproof evidence,” he said.
He also lambasted the Cable News Network (CNN) for “celebrating prematurely”, claiming that the US-based global broadcaster was jubilating over a report “riddled with discrepancies” and, therefore, committed a double faux pas.
He said: “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: First, by relying on unverified social media stories and videos to carry out an investigation of the Oct. 20th 2020 incident at Lekki, where it did not have a correspondent on ground.
“CNN goofed in its report on the findings of the panel, which fell below the main standards of journalism. Secondly, CNN rushed to the air to celebrate an unsigned and unverified report that is riddled with inconsistencies, errors, discrepancies, innuendoes. That’s double faux pas by a news organization that is eager and willing to compromise standards just to claim vindication.
“Sadly, a section of the Nigerian media has also joined the lynch mob. Honestly, in an attempt to vilify government at all costs, they have done themselves a great disservice.
“How can any news organization worth its salt write an Editorial validating this kind of report? Are they not seeing what others, including journalists and lawyers, are seeing? In a shocking twist, a Nigerian newspaper chose to hail what it calls ‘detailed investigative report’’ by CNN, even when the news channel did not even cover the incident of Oct. 20th 2020! It’s a classic case of cutting your nose to spite your face.”
Asked whether he would resign following the release of the report which negated his long-held view that no killing happened at the toll gate, the minister shrugged off the question, noting that he has been asked to leave the job since he assumed office in 2015 and that the demand would not be acquiesced to.