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The grim reality of the looting spree and massive destruction that followed last month’s #EndSARS protests came to the fore on Thursday.
No fewer than 100 people – including six soldiers and 37 policemen – were killed in the orgy of violence.
Destroyed, vandalised or looted were 269 private and companies’ assets.
Not less than 243 government facilities were burnt or vandalized and 81 government warehouses looted.
1,957 inmates were set free from eight Medium Security Custodial Centres in six states and 31 employees of the Prisons Service were injured. The states are: Edo, Lagos, Abia, Delta, Ondo and Ebonyi.
There were about 196 injured policemen, 164 police vehicles destroyed and 134 police stations burnt.
Minister of Information Lai Mohammed gave the statistics in Abuja at a news conference.
The figures are an update on what Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu released on October 30. Adamu put the nationwide death toll as 73.
But the figure of 205 destroyed police stations he gave is higher than the figure given yesterday by the minister.
The government insisted that there was no massacre of demonstrators during the #EndSARS protest in Lekki, Lagos.
Mohammed said what is being portrayed as “social media massacre” or a “hoax massacre,” a case of massacre without bodies.
The government condemned Wednesday’s CNN report on #EndSARS protest in Lekki as “irresponsible journalism.”
It said the CNN should face sanctions for relying on unverified and doctored videos.
Worried by the carnage, the government said there is no going back on its plan to regulate the social media.
It said social media was used to guide arsonists and looters to certain properties.
Mohammed asked the international community not to be misled by posts on social media seeking imposition of sanctions on Nigeria.
He said: “The role of the human rights organizations, in particular, became suspect after they simply ignored the brutal killing and maiming of security agents during the crisis and instead continued to dwell on the bodiless and bloodless ‘massacre’ at Lekki Toll Gate.
“They did not see anything wrong in the public and private properties that were burnt or looted, neither did they see anything wrong in the fact that some of the businesses that were looted belonged to struggling young men and women. All they could see in their biased view of the whole situation was a hoax massacre.”
He said the Army, the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Nigeria Customs Service and Nigeria Immigration Service were attacked by hoodlum during the #EndSARS crisis.
He said: “The Federal Government will therefore not accept a situation in which some so-called human rights bodies and jaundiced media organisations will continue to harass the security agencies over their roles during the crisis.
“Soldiers, policemen and other security agents deserve commendation, not condemnation, except, of course, their critics are saying they are not human beings and that their own rights do not matter.
“It is depressing and demoralizing to continue to vilify men and women in uniform, who themselves were victims of senseless violence unleashed by hoodlums.”
He said the government was satisfied with the roles of the military and the police during the crisis.
He added: “At this point, it is important to say that the Federal Government is very satisfied with the role played by the security agencies, especially the military and the police, all through the EndSARS crisis. The security agents were professional and measured in their response.
“Even when their lives were at stake, they exercised uncommon restraint. Their professionalism and measured response saved many lives and properties. For example, despite arresting hordes of looters during the violence in Lagos, the army treated them humanely and even counseled them before handing them over to the police.
“The same cannot be said of those who unleashed mayhem on the security agents, killing and maiming them, sometimes in such a barbaric manner that is unprecedented in these parts.”
The Minister asked countries that had made hasty judgment on #EndSARS protest to seek the truth.
He said it was regretful that some people and the international community have been calling for sanctions against Nigeria
Mohammed said:” Sadly, the purveyors of fake news and disinformation succeeded in deceiving the world that indeed there was mass killing in Lekki, even when, till 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.
“More surprising and irresponsible is the fact that some people have been calling for sanctions against Nigeria or against Nigerian government officials on the basis of a hoax. This is one of the dangers of fake news and disinformation.
“Once fake news is out, many run with it, without looking back, even when the truth is eventually revealed. We therefore want to use this opportunity to ask those who have alleged massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate to go to the Judicial Panel to present their evidence(s) to the world or simply admit that they have goofed.
“While we await the Judicial Panel in Lagos to unravel what transpired at the Lekki Toll Gate, what we can say, based on testimonies available in the public space, is that the world may have just witnessed, for the very first time ever, a MASSACRE WITHOUT BODIES! Some have tagged it ‘social media massacre’.
“The testimony of Brig.-Gen, Ahmed Ibrahim Taiwo of the Nigerian Army before the Panel was compelling, and I am sure many of you have listened to or watched it.
“The highlights, for those who may not have watched the testimony, are:
Soldiers were deployed all over Lagos, including Lekki Toll Gate, after the other security agencies were overwhelmed on Oct. 20th 2020, upon the request of the state government.
Before deployment, the soldiers were briefed on the Rules of Engagement, which they adhered to all through
Soldiers at Lekki Toll Gate fired blank ammunitions into the air
Blank ammunition cannot do any damage to the flesh, not to talk of killing anyone
Firing live ammunition into the crowd, as some have alleged, would have led to mass killing, which never happened..