Adetutu Folasade-Koyi, Abuja
Against the backdrop of calls for President Muhammadu Buhari’s resignation over the spate of killings, kidnappings and insecurity in the country, the Federal Government replied critics yesterday that he would not resign.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, dismissed calls for the President’s resignation and insisted that Buhari had the mandate of Nigerians to rule till May 2023.
Mohammed, at a press briefing in Abuja, warned critics of government, especially religious leaders, to stop incendiary and reckless comments on the country’s security challenges.
“The country is facing security challenges, and the challenges are being tackled headlong. However, there have been some red herrings in recent times, including those calling for the resignation of Mr. President or the sack of security chiefs. I just want to say that the government, which has provided and continues to provide the military and security agencies with the wherewithal, believes in their ability to tackle insecurity.
“These challenges will be successfully tackled. I will, however, advise all commentators, especially political and religious leaders, to be very careful at this time not to aggravate the situation with incendiary comments, comments that cash in on our religious, ethnic and political fault lines, to further divide us.
“The kind of comments that have been attributed to some leaders, especially religious leaders, are incendiary and reckless. Leaders should be part of solutions to problems, rather than aggravating the situation. To those asking Mr. President to resign, I wish to say this: Mr. President will not resign. He has the overwhelming mandate of Nigerians to preside over the affairs of the country till the expiration of his tenure in May 2023.”
The minister also disclosed that government was pressing ahead with the sanitation of social media and had met with Facebook and Google on the matter.
To this end, a meeting has been scheduled for March 2.
“There has been a spike in the dissemination of fake news and the use of disinformation in recent times. This is not accidental: fake news, disinformation and hate speech have become the weapons of choice to create tension in the polity and destabilise the country. And those behind it, the naysayers, are not about to relent. 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. We have security challenges and we are tackling them head-on. There is no question about that, but the challenges are being aggravated by fake news and disinformation, in particular. 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. 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 sanitise the social media, working with stakeholders. By March 2, 2020, we will inaugurate the stakeholders’ committee that will deliberate and recommend the way forward. We are also planning a major international conference that will bring together the tech companies, media practitioners, policymakers and others, as part of efforts to tackle this growing cankerworm. 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.”
The minister equally dismissed reports that the proposed $500 million loan from China was meant to upgrade only the National Television Authority (NTA).
“In an era of social media, the real news is usually sacrificed on the altar of sensationalism and disinformation. That’s how I will describe the hysteria, in a section of the media, over the reportage of the $500 million loan being sought from China. It is wrong to report that the loan is being sought for the NTA alone,” the minister said.