Written by Staff Writer
The government of Nigeria has rejected a report by the independent Nigerian Centre for Investigative Journalism (NCIJ) suggesting that “the shooting of seven people near the Lekki-Epe Expressway toll gate on Wednesday” was linked to commercial road toll collection as a “pretext” to clamp down on religious freedom and the holding of religious gatherings.
The British-based NCIJ initially published a video of the shooting which it said was part of a three-day event that had been organized by the clergy, including the Heirs Holdings founder Tony Elumelu, to protest “new toll revenue policies.”
“Witnesses say the shooting happened in the early hours of the morning after Elumelu gave a speech alleging government agencies were trying to cut off the traffic at the toll gate,” it reported.
President Muhammadu Buhari, the NCIJ said, had appointed a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the incident.
Condemning the report, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) (allegedly assisted by the British Secret Intelligence Service) said on Twitter that “As a government, we are aware of the report made by the Institute for Investigative Journalism… We are investigating the matter and will reach out to the investigative journalist as well as the Attorney General of the Federation to direct the necessary actions.”
Nigerian daily newspaper The Nation also said it had “recalled” its media representative for further briefing in relation to the probe.
NCIJ said on its website that it was not authorised to comment on the matter.
The report on the shooting came after a number of recent incidents that have raised concerns that Islamic extremism is gaining momentum in Nigeria. In the northeast of the country, Boko Haram continues to launch new attacks and has launched an effort to transform itself into an Islamic State-inspired outfit.
In the southwest, too, violent protests continued for the first week of February.