Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed has said that insecurity in some parts of the country is exacerbated by fake news and misinformation.
A statement released Tuesday by his special assistant media, Segun Adeyemi, said the minister raised the alarm in Abuja on Monday when he represented the president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Retd.), at the Citizens Summit for National Integration, Peace. and Security, hosted by the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations.
“This summit could not have come at a better time, with the issues of peace, security and national unity at the forefront of our national discourse. Especially lately, issues of peace and security have been on the lips of many Nigerians against the backdrop of rampaging terrorists, bandits and kidnappers. Unfortunately, this insecurity crisis has been exacerbated by the twin evils of fake news and misinformation,” he said.
Citing some examples to clearly illustrate how fake news is fueling fear and anxiety in the country, Mohammed said on Aug. 10 this year, the Kaduna government had to debunk an online report that claimed hundreds of bandits had besieged the Kaduna. Zaria road.
He said the widespread fake news even advised travelers not to enter or exit Zaria due to the presence of bandits in Dumbi and Jaji along Zaria road.
Mohammed said: “Imagine the fear and disruption of plans that this fake news could have caused. Imagine the impact on the security guards who will do anything, 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 in an unknown forest. Those circulating the video claimed it was somewhere in Nigeria. But when the BBC checked the drone video, it found it was not in Nigeria. The video was distributed to spread panic among citizens and to put 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 helicopter was actually an Air Force helicopter sent out to repel an attack in the area. Again, imagine the panic that would have been caused by this fake news.”
He said he was not spared by the spreaders of fake news and misinformation as countless numbers of fake news have been attributed to him.
According to him, the FMIC is addressing the threat through the National Campaign Against Fake News and Disinformation, a nationwide advocacy campaign, in addition to partnering with various social media platforms such as Facebook and Google to curb the spread of fake news and misinformation.
He expressed satisfaction that many civil society organizations have joined the campaign against fake news and disinformation, while some newspapers have set up fact-checking counters to expose fake news and misinformation.
The minister praised NIPR for hosting the summit to promote dialogue and national cohesion, especially in view of the myriad challenges to unity, peace and security facing the country.