The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has said insecurity in some parts of the country is being exacerbated by fake news and misinformation.
The Minister made the observation in Abuja on Monday when he represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the Citizens Summit for National Integration, Peace and Security, organized by the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR).
“This summit couldn’t have come at a better time, with the issues of peace, security and national unity on the front burner of our national discourse. 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,” he said.
While citing some examples to clearly illustrate how fake news is fueling apprehension and anxiety in the country, Alhaji Mohammed said on August 10th this year, the Kaduna State Government had to debunk an online report claiming that hundreds of bandits had laid a siege on the Kaduna-Zaria road.
He said the widely-circulated fake news even advised travellers not to enter or leave Zaria due to the presence of bandits at Dumbi and Jaji along the Zaria road, adding: “Imagine the apprehension and disruption of plans that this fake news could have caused. Imagine its impact on the security operatives who are doing everything, including paying the BBC ultimate price, to keep us safe?
“Also, in April 2022, a drone video showing a group of five men wearing red clothes and cooking inside an unknown forest went viral.
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,” the Minister said
He said he has not been spared by the purveyors of fake news and misinformation, as countless numbers of fake news have been attributed to him.
Alhaji Mohamed said his ministry is addressing the menace through the National Campaign Against Fake news and Misinformation, a nationwide advocacy campaign, in addition to working with the various social media platforms like Facebook and Google to curtail the spread of fake news and misinformation.
He expressed satisfaction that many CSOs have joined the campaign against fake news and misinformation, while some newspapers have set up fact-checking desks to debunk fake news and misinformation.
The Minister commended NIPR for hosting the summit in order to promote dialogue and national cohesion, especially in view of the myriad of challenges to unity, peace and security facing the country.