The Nigerian government has asked the management of the US-based Cable News Network (CNN) for the station’s investigation report on the Lekki shooting.
The government said in a letter to Jonathan Hawkins, Vice President of Communications at CNN’s Atlanta, Georgia centre, that “CNN has violated the most fundamental of all basic principles of journalism: Balance and fairness.
He called for “an immediate and thorough investigation by CNN of the ‘investigative’ CNN report on the Lekki tollgate incident to determine, among other things, its authenticity.
The letter of 23 November 2020 entitled “Re: How a Bloody Night of Bullets Nullified a Young Protest Movement” was provided by Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture.
The letter says: “Our attention was drawn to a CNN ‘investigation’ entitled ‘How a Bloody Night of Bullets Nullified a Young Protest Movement’, which aired on 18 November 2020, in which the international news organisation said it had “discovered that Nigerian security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters during the #EndSARS protest at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos, Nigeria.
“We are writing to state on record that not only does the report fall short of journalistic standards, but that it reinforces the misinformation circulating on this issue, is blatantly irresponsible and represents poor journalistic work by a respected international news organisation.
“First of all, the report did not comply with the basic principles of journalism: balance and justice. According to the website www.ethics.journalists.org, “Balance and fairness are classic buzzwords of journalistic ethics: in objective journalism, stories must be balanced in the sense of attempting to present all aspects of a story. Fairness means that the journalist should strive for accuracy and truth when reporting, and not bias a story so that the reader draws the conclusion the reporter wants.
Meanwhile, Focuspoint had reported how a CNN investigation published last week revealed that the Nigerian military had indeed used live bullets on the #EndSARS demonstrators at the Lekki tollgate on 20 October 2020.
Although the army has repeatedly denied the claim and said its agents only fired blanks into the air, not at the demonstrators, CNN said the evidence proved otherwise.
The results of the CNN investigation have also completely discredited the claims of Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Nigerian military that no one was killed at the scene.
The investigation revealed images of a dead man, identified as Victor Sunday Ibanga, who was allegedly hit by a bullet in the head and died at the scene.
This is in direct contradiction to the Governor’s assertions that no one died at the tollbooth.
The report also showed that some of the cartridge cases recovered by the demonstrators at the scene were in fact live ammunition from firearms purchased by the Nigerian government from Serbia between 2005 and 2016 and used by the army.
The CNN investigation, which has made the media nervous since its release on Wednesday morning, used forensic and geodata techniques to provide a clearer explanation for the shooting, which has been controversial for weeks.
While some of the conclusions of the report, which included graphic representations of the wounded and dead, confirmed earlier stories published by The Nation, others opened up new perspectives on the victims, who told how the soldiers pointed their guns at them and started shooting.
CNN explained that it concealed the full names of some interviewees and identified others for their safety, and said that the army’s shooting lasted from 6:43 pm to 8:24 pm, adding that the videos analysed about the incident told a story of terror and chaos, and showed graphics of wounds and bleeding people on the ground.
CNN said: “Sometime after midnight on 21 October, Elisha Sunday Ibanga responded to a call from her older brother’s number.
“The person on the other end of the line – an unknown person – reported that Ibanga’s brother Victor was shot dead at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos, Nigeria, where he had been peacefully protesting against police brutality that same night.
“The person told me that the police took his body away,” Ibanga, 24, told CNN.
“An eyewitness to the death of Victor Sunday Ibanga told CNN that the 27-year-old businessman was shot in the head during the protest.
“CNN procured and geolocated a photograph of Victor’s body lying in a pool of blood, wrapped in the green and white of the Nigerian standard – one of the same flags that the demonstrators seized in the early evening while singing the country’s national anthem. Ibanga confirmed that the photo was taken by his brother.
“The body of Victor Sunday Ibanga is shown in a pool of blood.
“The Ibangas are one of several families who have not yet found the bodies of their missing relatives – demonstrators at the tollgate – dozens of whom eyewitnesses say were shot, first by members of the army and then by police hours later. Eyewitnesses told CNN that they saw the army removing several bodies from the scene.
“What happened on 20 October and into the early hours of 21 October at the eight-lane tollgate in Lekki – an important part of the Lagos road network – left the country stunned.
“The demonstrators present told CNN that it was a ‘massacre’ with several dead and dozens injured. But the local authorities played down the importance of this story.
“Governor Sanwo-Olu admitted to CNN that the footage showed uniformed soldiers shooting peaceful protesters, but claimed that only two demonstrators were killed.
“He said there was ‘not a single scratch of blood’ on the tollbooth when he visited it.
“The governor said that no family had contacted the authorities to say that they had missing relatives.
“Immediately after the shooting, the army denied any involvement and called reports of the incident ‘false reports’ before turning back and saying that soldiers were present but were firing their rifles in the air and using blanks, not real bullets.
“CNN calls to the Nigerian military have not been answered. But on 14 November, during a judicial enquiry into the shooting, the army representative Brigadier General Ahmed Taiwo said: “There is no way for officers and men to kill their brothers and sisters. I repeat: there is no possibility. We have those who are constantly trying to drive a wedge between us and the citizens of Nigeria…”.
Furthermore, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) refused to comment on the CNN report on the shooting of #EndSARS demonstrators at the Lekki tollbooth in Lagos State.
Efforts to get military spokesmen to respond to the report were unsuccessful last night.
But The Nation reports that a senior military officer who spoke in confidence said the military could not have two opinions on a single issue.
“There is a panel in Lagos State Meeting on this issue, and the military is represented.