He revealed this recently in Lagos at a meeting with editors, and Nigerians have been reacting.
According to him, it was sad to see how the mainstream media abandoned reportage of the protests to the social media, which in their sensationalism rigged the reports and led to the recent avoidable trouble in the nation.
He added that the country’s fears about the abuse of social media, and specifically the dangers posed by fake news and disinformation, keep coming to pass.
His words, “Now, this is hunting all of us. Wittingly or unwittingly, we have succeeded in scaring policemen off their beats. Today, many of them are even afraid to wear their uniform. And the result has not been pleasant, in terms of security of life and property.”
“The issue of how fake news and disinformation aggravated the EndSARS crisis has dominated our previous meetings with various stakeholders. We have no doubt that fake news and disinformation fuelled the crisis. But we are also not surprised. This is because since 2017, we have been raising the alarm about the dangers of social media abuse. In 2017, we dedicated that year’s National Council on Information to the issue of fake news, hate speech and disinformation. The following year, in 2018, we launched the national campaign against fake news and disinformation, partnering with a number of print and electronic media organizations.”
“Now, 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. Social media was used for mobilization, 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. Former US President Barack Obama.”
“There is another issue that I will like to discuss with you today. It concerns how your newspapers reported the last EndSARS crisis, especially the attack on security agents. In the first instance, it seems you unfortunately fell for the hoax that there was a massacre at Lekki Toll Gate.”
“Almost all papers ran screaming headlines of massacre or killings at the toll gate the day after the October 20th incident there, when soldiers fired blank ammunition into the air to disperse protesters. Did you also fall for social media manipulation of the events that transpired that evening? No group was better placed than you to lead the narrative of what happened that night, but it seems you ceded that authority to social media, which has no time for the rigours of gate-keeping or fact checking. I hope in reviewing your coverage of the whole crisis, you will rectify that anomaly.”
“Still on the coverage, 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. In particular, policemen were hacked down in the most gruesome manner that calls into question the sanity of their killers.
“Yet, these security agents were treated as sub-humans. Human rights organizations all but ignored the fact that six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed, some of them dismembered and cannibalized. The media report of the killings was perfunctory, at best.
In addition to the killing of security agents, eight medium security custodial centres in six states (Edo, Lagos, Abia, Delta, Ondo and Ebonyi) were attacked, with 1,957 inmates, most of them dangerous criminals, set free. Add that to the fact that over 100 AK-47 rifles were stolen by hoodlums as they burnt police station after police station, and you will understand the gravity of the situation. The spectre of hoodlums, armed with AK-47, roaming the streets and our roads, will send jitters down the spine.
“Now, this is hunting all of us. Wittingly or unwittingly, we have succeeded in scaring policemen off their beats. Today, many of them are even afraid to wear their uniform. And the result has not been pleasant, in terms of security of life and property. We all owe it a duty to empathize with and appreciate our security agents, and should resist the temptation to tar all of them with the same brush.
“No life is more important than the other, and respect for human rights should not be selective. I want to commend the state governments that have taken bold steps to shore up the morale of the police. While at it, I want to remind all of us of the saying that a society that makes war against its police had better learnt to make friends with its criminals.”
“For the record, six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed all over the country during the crisis. Also, 196 policemen were injured; 164 police vehicles were destroyed and 134 police stations burnt down.”
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