#ENDSARS: governor press sec admits spreading fake news
This is our regular update on national protests against police brutality, a global touchpoint, in Nigeria.
On the first Monday, 12 October, of the #ENDSARS protests in Lagos, Nigerians saw familiar scenes of violence break out in Surulere, one of the city’s most densely populated districts. The police attacked protesters, outnumbering them among groups that had broken off from the larger demonstrations.
Is This not wickedness and Hate combine…that’s @oxladeofficial’s Road Manager on a peaceful protest today and he’s been treated like a criminal by the @PoliceNG Area C ….Free the man @bizzleosikoya #FreeOjahBee #EndPoliceBrutality #EndSARS pic.twitter.com/Zm7OT1OZHp
— PATORANKING (@patorankingfire) October 12, 2020
Lagos CP Hakeem Odumosu has arrested and commenced orderly room trial of the policemen who harassed this lady in Surulere yesterday. We dont condone unethical and inhuman actions pic.twitter.com/CGTACdwjyH
— Adejobi Olumuyiwa (@Prince_Muyen) October 14, 2020
In one video, captured by an onlooker, six or seven policemen set on two women with wooden clubs. They also fired live rounds of ammunition, setting off a stampede. When the smoke cleared, one policeman was dead. A bystander, Ikechukwu Ilohamauzo, 55, had also been hit and died at the scene.
And then the reconstruction of events ensued.
Despite video evidence to the contrary, Muyiwa Adejobi, the spokesman of the Lagos police command, claimed he had no knowledge of protesters that had been hit. He claimed instead that it was protesters who attacked the police. He shared this version of events to journalists who ran the story without corroboration. Gboyega Akosile, the spokesperson for the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, also recounted this narrative.
Earlier that day, the governor had been trying to pacify protesters at another location, Lekki, assuring them that he was on their side. His press secretary’s actions suggested otherwise.
That evening at 8:09pm, a few hours after the violence had ensued, Akosile then shared a now partly deleted thread of tweets accusing protesters of killing Ikechukwu Ilohamauzo. He even went on to state the kind of bullets Ilohamauzo was shot with, all the while saying the autopsy had not yet been conducted.
Akosile’s actions are an example of misinformation from the highest levels of the Nigerian government. It highlights the tensions between traditional media and social media as well as distrust of the government. In the past, people would tend to believe government spokespeople and their traditional media mouthpieces. Not anymore. Many people were sceptical of Akosile’s version of events, though it still may have remained the authoritative one were it not for social media and video evidence from eyewitnesses on the ground.
This forced Akosile to make an about-turn this morning, Thursday 15 October. In a tweet, he claimed that his previous tweet was not his words but a statement from the Lagos state police.
Hopefully it's a good time for some clarifications on this subject. First let me start by saying that the statement in question is not from me. It's from the State police command and signed by its PRO. I posted the press release as sent to me. I was later embarrassed pic.twitter.com/KEzRbsMiQu
— Gboyega Akosile (@gboyegaakosile) October 15, 2020
It was a roundabout way to admit spreading fake news. Akosile has yet to directly accept responsibility for the tweets and appears to only be responding because #ENDSARS protesters have been reiterating that he had essentially tried to frame innocent protesters for murder. This time, there was limited damage. The protesters arrested and almost charged for the murder have been freed.
Protesters remain vigilant, recording everything that happens at protests, in photos and videos and documenting in real-time. Today, hundreds more continue to gather in over 25 of Nigeria’s 36 states to advocate against police brutality.