The Federal Government has warned that fake news is a ready made tool to create tension and destabilize the country.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who dropped the hint also said
that fake news and disinformation constitutes a clear and
present danger to the 2023 election and if not checked, can also have a negative impact on our nation’s ongoing fight against terrorism.
Speaking at the 10th edition of PMB Scorecard series in Abuja on Monday, Mohammed recalled how an international news agency recently
reported that the Nigerian military, in their fight against Boko
Haram/ISWAP, has been running a secret, systematic and illegal
abortion programme in the Northeast.
He said the news agency supposedly believed that because ‘the children of
insurgents are predestined, by the blood in their veins, to one day
take up arms against the Nigerian government and society’.
The story also claimed that 10,000 such abortions have been carried out from
2013 to date on women and girls.
According to him, the news agency made this grave
allegation without a scintilla of evidence, citing only anonymous
sources and the reported review of phantom ‘documents’.
The agency claimed that its investigation was based on interviews with 33 women
and girls, but Mohammed wondered how an interview with 33 women and girls could possibly come to a bogus claim of 10,000 abortions, adding that “And in a further indication that the figure of abortions quoted was arbitrary or possibly conjured, the agency first put the figure at 12,000 before settling for 10,000.
He categorically denied the report saying there is no ‘secret, systematic and illegal abortion programme’ being run by our military in the Northeast or anywhere across the country.
“We also hereby reject the accusation of running an abortion programme levelled
at our military, We state categorically that this story is a scary
instance of fake news and disinformation combined. The writers deserve
an award in fiction writing.”
The Minister further questioned the motive of this news agency and the
usual suspects who have latched on to this story and why is this
so-called investigation coming at a time that our heroic men and women
in uniform have been recording successes after successes, decimating
the terrorists, rescuing abducted persons and receiving hundreds of
thousands of terrorists who have surrendered.
For the record, Mohammed said the Nigerian military has rescued 11 Chibok girls with all their children, 2,018 other persons (comprising 339 adult males, 660 adult females and 1019 children), while 82,645 persons, comprising 16,621 male fighters,
24,638 women and 41,386 children, have surrendered.
Furthermore, he said the military has also neutralized 494 terrorists (note that this does not include terrorists neutralized through airstrikes and terrorists’ infighting).
He asked, “Why is this news agency not playing up these positive news but instead
chose to give prominence to a phantom abortion story? Is this a ploy
to demoralize and distract our fighting forces? Is it a strategy to
set the world against Nigeria and cut off the support that is critical
to crushing terrorists? Only the news agency can answer these
questions. But we stand by our military, which has served
meritoriously at home, and at regional and global peacekeeping
operations from 1960 to date.
“We know that military operations in the Northeast are not arbitrary but based on the military’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and Rules of Engagement (ROE), among others.
“Where any proven infraction or criminal act has been committed by any
soldier, the law has always taken its course. But it is beyond the
pale and downright dangerous to accuse a nation’s military, without
any verifiable evidence, of massive illegal abortions and infacticide”