The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, on Wednesday hailed the police and the Nigerian Army for the role they played in the #EndSARS protests last year, even as he maintained that the incident at the Lekki toll plaza last year was a “phantom massacre with no bodies”.

Mohammed said this during a press conference in Abuja while protesters gathered at several major cities in the country to demonstrate in commemoration of the #EndSARS protests.

The minister also lambasted CNN, DJ Switch and global rights group, Amnesty International, for insisting that persons were killed at the tollgate.

He said, “The Federal Government remains proud of the security agencies for acting professionally and showing utmost restraint all through the #EndSARS protest and the ensuing violence, an action that saved lives and properties.

“The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the human rights organisations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre.”

Mohammed noted that the National Economic Council which comprises all governors and representatives of the Federal Government, and chaired by the Vice President, has already addressed other issues relating to the #EndSARS protest.

He explained that NEC had revealed that 28 states and the Federal Capital Territory- under the auspices of the National Human Rights Commission – had set up judicial panels and commissions of Inquiry to investigate allegations of violations of human rights levied against members of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies, especially members of the disbanded SARS.

“Out of the 28 states, 11 states (Abia, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Kwara, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Plateau, and Rivers) have submitted their final reports to council,” the minister stated.

Each state, in collaboration with the Federal Government, shall establish modalities for the settlement of all monetary compensations awarded by the panels. Already, as resolved by NEC, a number of states have set up Victims Compensation Funds, from which several victims have already received payments of sums awarded to them by the panels.

While fielding questions from journalists, Mohammed argued that police reforms would be gradual and could not be achieved overnight.

He also said the police do a lot of good in society which is hardly reported by the media.