The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has cautioned Nigerians, especially the media against the spread of fake news, saying this could led to civil war.
He spoke on Tuesday in Abuja at a two-day international conference themed “Democracy and Disinformation: How Fake News Threatens our Freedom and Democracy in Nigeria: organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and MacArthur Foundation.
According to him, fake news is the greatest threat to democracy and security in Nigeria as it played a role in the civil war in the country and that Nigeria could not afford to fall victim to the same circumstances that led to the war.
“The government has been doing its best in educating the public on the dangers of fake news through various avenues. The ongoing infrastructure projects across the country like the agriculture empowerment programs are part of government deliberate effort to stimulate economic growth and create job opportunities. Every one of us must verify information sent to them for authenticity before circulation,” Mohammed said.
Also, the Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mallam Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, said that the regulation of media stations by the commission was to protect lives and property.
Kawu, who was represented by the Director of Policy and Research in the commission, Mr Mujtaba Sada, said that the regulation was necessary in order to protect citizens from the menace of fake news circulation.
On his part, a Senior Fellow at CDD, Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, said the conference was meant to strategize on how to protect the future of Nigeria.
He said the conference was also to protect the nation’s democracy against the threat of fake news, as fake news was like a machinery aimed at distorting Nigeria’s election management and the electoral integrity.
He cited many examples of fake news from the social media including the monkey pox scare in 2017, when the army was alleged to be injecting school children with the deadly disease in the South-eastern part of the country.
On her part, the Director of the CDD, Idayat Hassan, said the conference was the culmination of months of research, planning and the realisation that with the upcoming elections, Nigerians must come together, at all levels to deal with the menace of fake news, misinformation and disinformation.
“The experience in the country in the last few weeks is noteworthy. Following the killings of innocent Nigerians in several communities in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State in June this year, the media went agog quoting Mr Danladi Ciroma, a leader of Miyetti Allah in the North-Central, as saying the killings were a retaliation of previous acts of deadly aggression against Fulani residents and pastralists in the state.
“It was later revealed that the statement credited to him was untrue as there was no evidence to back up the claim. Had Mr Ciroma not cleared the air on this matter promptly, we may not have imagined how it will further damage already battered relationships,” Hassan said.