Updated: Dec 3, 2020
Tagged as the “The Lekki Toll Gate Massacre”, on the 20/10/20, it was alleged that the Nigerian Army opened fires on unarmed protesters leading to reports of multiple deaths.
On the 19/11/20, CNN, one of the world’s most reputable news network, published a report titled “They pointed their gun at us and started shooting”. The report contained a video outlining various evidence that drew out the conclusion that the Nigerian army did shoot unarmed protester. This evidence included various eye witness testimonies, geo tagged photos and various video footage.
On the same day Nigeria’s Minister for Information and Culture Lai Mohammed dismissed CNN’s investigation as "fake news" and "misinformation," and repeatedly denied that the military used live rounds against protesters. Lai Mohammed stated and I quote “Like everyone else, I watched the CNN report. I must tell you that it reinforces the disinformation that is going around, and it is blatantly irresponsible and a poor piece of journalistic work by a reputable international news organization,". The Minister also refuted claims that the military shot at unarmed protesters even though there seems to be videos circulating online that showed them open fire at unarmed protester.
Prior to CNN publishing their report, CNN claimed they tried multiple times to elicit comments from the Nigerian army and police. They also claim a Lagos State police spokesman declined to comment because of an ongoing investigation and the Lagos State government said that there would be no comments while a judicial tribunal was underway.
So what is the problem? The answer is simple, CNN's report would have had a stronger impact if they had waited for the judicial tribunal to conclude their investigation. If the evidence is has solid has CNN have claimed, which it seems to be, waiting for a month, two months or a year for the Nigerian government to conclude their internal investigation would have been in the best interest of everyone.
What CNN did can be considered disrespectful to Nigeria as a country. While their intentions are good, the fact that they were unwilling to wait for Nigeria to conclude its due process before responding to international media, shows how little they respect the country’s government.
Nigerian government are no saints but they represent the people of that country, good or bad, and should at least be given the benefit of a doubt by the international media. Similar instances seems to show a trend of how African countries are portrayed compared to their western counterparts when it comes to human rights and war crimes.
For example, On the 19/11/20 the Australian Defence Force announced that their investigation into war crimes committed by Austrialian solidiers in the Afghan war showed credible evidence that Australian elite soldiers unlawfully killed 39 people. These incidents occurred between 2009 and 2013, yet Australia only announced the findings of a investigation 7 years later. Why didn’t CNN investigate this incident and issue a similar report in 2013, 2015 or 2017? They waited till Australia concluded its investigation before reporting on it.
The trend doesn’t stop there. UK opened a similar inquiry into alleged unlawful killings by British troops in Afghanistan, in what was called Operation Northmoor. It was shut down in 2017 without any charges being brought against the soldiers involved.
Meanwhile, a 2016 report from the ICC said there was reasonable basis to believe that the US military had committed torture at secret detention sites operated by the CIA. In all these cases I don’t see the international media jumping the gun to declare what really happened before the country finishes its internal investigation.
CNN‘s report may be factual, in fact I am inclined to believe that some part of it is true, if not all. But in releasing their report and declaring that Nigerian soldiers did kill unarmed protesters before the Nigerian government completed their investigation, they made themselves judge and jury.
It is bad enough that the western media mostly portray Africa as a continent of poverty, violence, war and corruption. What I don’t understand is why the US, UK, Australia and other western countries aren’t portrayed as human rights violators and war criminals when they commit similar crimes. Instead the perpetrator is punished not the country, although both parties should be held to account. In Africa it is the reverse, western media portray the whole country as violent animals shooting unarmed protesters instead of targeting those accountable. The US, UK and Australia are not better than Nigeria and if the western media can afford to wait for these countries to investigate human rights violations then they should afford African countries such as Nigeria the same respect.