BY GRACE ANYANWU, ABUJA – The Federal Government on Thursday responded to those asking President Muhammadu Buhari to resign, saying that the President will not in any way resign.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who stated the position of the Federal Government at a press conference in Abuja, said that President Buhari has the overwhelming mandate of Nigerians to preside over the affairs of the country till the expiration of his tenure in May 2023.
The Federal Government also said that while the country is facing security challenges and tackling them head on, the challenges are being aggravated by fake news and disinformation, in particular.
Mohammed specifically said that there has been a spike in the dissemination of fake news and the use of disinformation in recent times, saying that this is not accidental,
The Minister said that fake news, disinformation and hate speech have become the weapons of choice to create tension in the polity and destabilize the country, adding that those behind it, the naysayers, are not about to relent.
According to him; “For some people, the 2019 elections are not over. They are stuck in the pre-election mode. And they must continue to use these weapons to put Nigeria on edge.
“Those behind this campaign of fake news and disinformation have also deployed new tactics, top of which is the recycling of old news items and videos.
“A good example is the video of the over 400 young men suspected to be Boko Haram members who were intercepted in Abia state in 2014. About two weeks ago, the video came back into circulation, creating panic in the polity. Their intention is simple: to create tension and panic in the country.
“Other recent instances of fake news: – that President Muhammadu Buhari will be travelling to the UK for 20 days before proceeding to Saudi Arabia and Austria – that the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, was attacked at the Rigasa train station in Kaduna – that the Nigerian Air Force killed 250 Boko Haram insurgents. – that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy is planning to unveil some new ‘communication regulations’ aimed at recording all calls, monitoring Whatsapp, Twitter and Facebook, etc. Even private individuals have also been victims of this scourge
“We will continue to appeal to Nigerians to be circumspect in believing or circulating these fake news, as we did when we launched our national campaign against fake news in 2018. We are also pushing ahead with our plan to sanitize the social media, working with stakeholders.”
Mohammed said that by March 2, 2020, the government will inaugurate the stakeholders committee that will deliberate and recommend the way forward, adding that the government is also planning a major international conference that will bring together the tech companies, media practitioners, policy makers and others as part of efforts to tackle this growing canker-worm.
The Minister further said; “Last week, I met with representatives of Google and Facebook for the same purpose. The situation is dire, and no nation that values its peace, security and stability will allow an irresponsible use of the social media.”