Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, has said that fake news and misinformation are fuelling insecurity in the country.
Mohammed said this during his speech at a summit organized by the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) titled “Summit for National Integration, Peace and Security” on Tuesday, August 23.
According to the Minister, fake news and misinformation endanger the peace, security and development of any nation.
“In recent times, in particular, the issues of peace and security have been on the lips of many Nigerians, against the backdrop of rampaging terrorists, bandits and kidnappers.
This crisis of insecurity has, unfortunately, been exacerbated by the twin evil of fake news and misinformation.
I want to use this important platform to commend our gallant men and women in uniform, and to appeal to all our compatriots to continue to support them in their onerous task of keeping our country safe.
We must also realize that security is the business of everyone, hence the tagline “if you see something, say something.” Terrorists or bandits are not spirits. They are human beings and they reside in our communities. They must all be exposed and crushed for peace to reign.
Let me cite some recent instances of fake news and misinformation in this regard. On August 10, the Kaduna State Government had to debunk an online report claiming that hundreds of bandits had laid a siege on the Kaduna-Zaria road.
The widely circulated message even advised travellers not to enter or leave Zaria due to the presence of bandits at Dumbi and Jaji along the Zaria road.
Imagine the apprehension and disruption of plans that this fake news could have caused. Imagine its impact on the security agencies who are doing everything, including paying the ultimate price, to keep us safe.
Also, in April 2022, a drone video went viral showing a group of five men wearing red clothes and cooking inside an unknown forest. Those circulating the video claimed that it was somewhere in Nigeria.
But when BBC did a fact-check on the drone video, it discovered that it was not in Nigeria. The video was circulated just to create panic among the citizens and put the society on edge.
In June 2022, there were reports of bandits using a helicopter to attack residents in four communities in Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna. The Kaduna state government had to debunk the story by clarifying that the chopper was actually an Air Force helicopter dispatched to repel an attack in the area. Again, imagine the panic that would have been triggered by this fake news.
Finally, I cannot count the number of fake news that has been attributed to Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the favourite ‘whipping boy’ of the relentless authors of fake news and misinformation.
After the Kuje attack, one of such fake news quoted me as saying: “The bandits never told us they were coming to Kuje. It was a big surprise.
As silly as this sounds, you will be shocked that some people still believed and shared it on social media.” he said