Nigerian Authorities Threaten to Sanction CNN Over Lekki Investigation

Nigerian authorities have threatened to sanction broadcaster CNN for an investigative report that showed Nigerian soldiers shooting protesters last month at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos.The six-minute-long report on the shooting, aired Wednesday by CNN, strongly contradicts the position of Nigerian authorities on the issue. Nigerian authorities have long maintained that soldiers who confronted protesters on October 20 fired blank rounds into the air.  But the CNN analysis showed the military shooting in the direction of protesters, confirming the accounts of many witnesses.  FILE – Young people protest at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, Nigeria, Oct. 21, 2020.On Thursday, Nigerian authorities responded, saying the CNN report lacked substantial proof, and threatened sanctions. “Firing live ammunition into the crowd as some have alleged that have led to the mass killing, which never happened,” said Lai Mohammed, the country’s information minister. “Sadly, the conveyors of fake news and misinformation succeeded in deceiving the entire world that indeed there was mass killing in Lekki. Even up [to] date, not a single body has been produced and not a single family or relative has come out to say their child or ward was killed at Lekki toll gate.” In its report, CNN analyzed accounts from about 100 protesters, including families of victims. Rights group Amnesty International says 12 people were killed in the shooting. Authorities in Lagos say the sole fatality was from head trauma.  It’s not clear how authorities might proceed with sanctions against the broadcaster, but CNN says it is standing by its findings released in the report.  It also says the Nigerian military declined to answer questions before the report was released. But the government’s denial of the Lekki shooting worries protesters like Idunnu Williams — one of the leaders during last month’s demonstrations against the now-dissolved police unit SARS, which was known for brutality.  “They think they can gag everybody in this country and you really think you can beat, gag, kill, molest, harass, injure? It’s not going to work,” Williams said. Rights groups and activists say Nigerians must not give in to pressures from authorities. FILE – A middle-class shopping area was looted Oct. 22, 2020, after the army repressed protesters gathered at the Lekki toll gate despite curfew.”What the government is doing to gag the CNN report and every other report on the Lekki toll gate shooting and other killings that have taken place during the end SARS protests, is just to avert the day of reckoning,” said Ariyo Aroye, a Nigerian activist and co-founder of the Center for Liberty Nigeria.”They know that the international community is already on top of this matter, the UK [British] Parliament is debating on it, the ICC is looking into the matter. And what they’re trying to do is to tell the international community that nothing actually happened,” he added. Nigerian authorities continue to describe allegations of the Lekki shooting as fake news, and recently threatened to resume calls for a bill to regulate social media. Now, Nigerians await the findings of a judicial panel of inquiry set up to investigate the shooting. 
 

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