By Muhammad Umar Puma
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed yesterday said fake news and hate speech are threats to the forthcoming general elections in the country.
He said the Federal Government has spent N2.7trillion on infrastructure in the last three and a half years.
He also said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has dislodged Boko Haram insurgents who no longer have capacity to attack. He said before Buhari came on board, Boko Haram was controlling territories which were almost the size of Lebanon.
He also said the government places premium on Nigeria’s unity by spreading projects across the nation’s six geopolitical zones.
Mohammed, who made the submissions in a presentation at The Chatham House in London, said 2019 poll will indicate whether or Nigerians have learnt any lessons from the ethno-religious tension which characterized the last general elections.
He said: “As the 2019 general elections approach, Nigeria faces a new challenge, a threat not just to the country peace and security, but indeed its very existence. It is the dual challenge of fake news and hate speech.
“ Yes, the fake news problem is not unique to Nigeria, but it poses a more potent threat to the country because of its multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural status. It is also a clear and present danger to the nation’s unity. Naysayers have latched onto the fake news phenomenon to exploit the country’s fault lines and inflame passion.
“For example, the BBC recently did a report on how fake news is aggravating the persistent Farmers-Herders clashes. Pictures of gun-toting herdsmen from other lands are routinely used to depict the herdsmen in Nigeria. Age-long clashes between Farmers and Herders have suddenly been dressed in the garb of religion and ethnicity.
“ Ignored is the fact that the clashes have become more persistent because of a mixture of many factors, including population explosion, effects of climate change, keener contest for dwindling natural resources and sheer criminality. Religion and ethnicity are not the reasons for these clashes.”
The Minister said the Buhari administration remains committed to the nation’s unity.
He said 2019 poll will indicate whether or Nigerians have learnt any lessons from the ethno-religious tension which characterized the last general elections.