'Fake news fuels crisis in Nigeria' - Lai Mohammed

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Saturday appealed to all Nigerians to join forces with government to combat the menace of fake news.

The minister made the appeal while speaking at the inaugural lecture of the Guild of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria (GPBN) in Lagos with the theme of the lecture was “Combating Fake News in the Cyberspace”.  

Mohammed said the collective efforts of all Nigerians were needed in view of the threats fake news posed to peace and unity of the country. He explained that most of the security issues confronting the country, such as herders/farmers were caused by the misrepresentation of facts in both the mainstream and social media.

“The media have a responsibility to verify the facts before they share, because once they share, it is always very difficult to retract. You see most of the issues we have about herders/farmers clashes, killings are being fuelled by fake news. Look at the farmers/herders’ clashes, the truth is that they are being caused largely by population explosion, climate change and pure criminality.
So, it has nothing to do with religion or ethnicity. Nigeria at Independence only had 45 million people  but today, we are 190 million people. You can imagine the same water, same air and same arable land available for 45 million people at Independence are now being shared by 190 million people.
It is like a room that can take 45 people, you now bring 190 people, you can imagine what will happen.  So, that is the honest truth about population explosion. Then, the other is climate change. We read about earthquakes and flooding in different parts of the world. These are manifestations of climate change. So, how does it affect Nigeria?  
The Lake Chad that used to cover a surface area of 25,000sq km and 35 million people from six nations, including Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad depend on the water for fishing, agriculture, irrigation and so on. The same water has shrunk to 2000 sq km. So, these 35 million people have to look for water elsewhere.
That is why we have all these clashes. Of course, I must state the issue of criminality too, but we must stop presenting the issues as if it is Muslims against Christians or Hausas against Ibos. That’s not true. So, we should stop this narrative of Christians/Muslims or North/South. We are dealing with pure criminality, population explosion and climate change and that is the way we should look at it.
If we continue to post fake news attributing different reasons to the real causes of these issues, a stage will come when Muslims will be suspicious of Christians, Christians become suspicious of Muslim for no reason. And that is not good for our unity,” he said.  

The minister said the government was partnering different media organisations to check the problem of fake news. He listed some of them as the News Agency of Nigeria, Nigeria Television Authority, Vanguard Newspapers and Television Continental (TVC)  Mohammed said the government was also collaborating with local and international social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp to tackle the problem of fake news.  

He described bloggers as critical stakeholders in the media industry in view of their number and capacity to influence others. While stating the readiness of government to collaborate with them on the threats of fake news, the minister urged them to uphold the ethics of the profession to ensure they disseminate only credible information.

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