The Federal Government of Nigeria has warned that the country is sitting on a keg of gunpowder if the issue of fake news is not addressed with urgency, insisting on the need to regulate social media.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed made the statement while defending his ministry’s 2021 budget to the House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values on Tuesday, October 27.
Mohammed, while responding to questions from members of the committee, noted that the next war to be fought in the country and across the world might be fought on social media, making reference to the ongoing #EndSARS protests.
He added that the government was however, not seeking to shut down or muscle social media in the country. But he further stressed the need to have a policy that regulates social media and check fake news and misinformation.
The minister said, “The biggest challenge facing Nigeria today is fake news and misinformation. Based on that, we dedicated an entire National Council on Information’s meeting to that issue, after which we launched a national campaign against fake news in July 2018.
“We said, then, that the next war will be fought without a shot being fired, but with the use of fake news. We didn’t stop there. We went on a tour of all media houses to solicit their support in the fight against fake news. We launched the campaign to regulate social media, which was bitterly contested by the stakeholders. We kept saying that if we don’t regulate social media, it will destroy us. Social media and fake news will not destroy Nigeria.
“The recent #EndSARS war was fought on social media. They mobilised using the social media. The war today revolves around two things. Smartphone and data and these young men don’t even watch television or listen to radio or read newspapers. You will be shocked that when you start arguing with your children, they will be quoting the social media. So, we need a social media policy in Nigeria and we need to empower the various agencies and we need technology to be able to regulate the social media.”
Members of the House of Representatives committee however, warned against clamping down on free speech and press freedom.
Hon. Emmanuel Oghene, warned against any attempt to shut down the social media in the country, saying the action will be counter-productive and would make the youths to believe that there is an attempt to truncate democracy in the country.