The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has said the federal government will not tolerate “reckless use: of social media to stir up a crisis in Nigeria.
He made the statement at a meeting with editors of newspapers on Friday, in Lagos. The minister decried the role fake news played during the #EndSARS protests. He said the government is determined to ensure that such platforms are used responsibly, and stated that there was no plan by the government to issue an outright ban.
There were cases of attacks on police stations in different parts of the country after soldiers opened fire oagainst unarmed #EndSARS protesters in Lagos on October 20, 2020.
Violence broke out the day after, which led to deaths as well as looting of businesses by hoodlums across the country.
“Our fears about the abuse of social media, and specifically the dangers posed by fake news and disinformation, have come to pass. During the protest and the subsequent violence, fake news and disinformation were the order of the day,” he said.
“Social media was used for mobilisation, and it was also used to guide arsonists and looters to properties, both public and private, which were targeted for attack.
“Celebrities who were listed as killed at Lekki quickly dispelled the report of their deaths. Discerning Nigerians exposed the fact that pictures of some non-Nigerians were used to justify the hoax massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate.
“This development has strengthened our resolve to work with stakeholders to stop the abuse of social media. It has also rekindled the debate on the need to regulate social media content, a debate that is not limited to Nigeria.
“On our part, we will not sit down and allow a reckless use of social media to aggravate our fault lines and throw the country into turmoil. But in curbing the excesses of social media, rest assured, gentlemen, that we will neither shut down the internet nor stifle press freedom or free speech, as some have insinuated. We also acknowledge that social media is here to stay.”
Lai Mohammed also claimed that there was more attention was been given to what he described as the “fake massacre” at Lekki tollgate, while attacks on security personnel were ignored.
“Still on the coverage, gentlemen, less attention was paid to the barbaric and gruesome murder of security agents by hoodlums during the crisis. While everyone was fixated on the fake massacre at Lekki Toll Gate, few paid attention to the way and manner policemen and soldiers were killed,” Mohammed said.
“Also, 196 policemen were injured; 164 police vehicles were destroyed and 134 police stations burnt down. In addition, the violence left 57 civilians dead, 269 private/corporate facilities burnt/looted/vandalised, 243 government facilities burnt/vandalised and 81 government warehouses looted.”
Mohammed, however, added that the federal government has already begun a review of the “#EndSARS crisis”.