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FG dismisses claim of jihadists caliphate in Nigeria

By Idowu Abdullahi

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has faulted an article published in the recent edition of London-based magazine, The Economist, on Nigeria’s insecurity situation, saying claims that jihadists are carving out a caliphate in the North-East region of the country was false.

He said that the article titled, ‘Insurgency, Secessionism and Banditry Threaten Nigeria,’ was among the various stereotypical piece of magazine on Nigeria in its attempt to paint the country dark and misled the public, including the nation’s international partners.

According to him, the claim by the news magazine that jihadists are carving out a caliphate in the North-East is wrong especially at a time when terrorists are surrendering in droves as a result of pounding by the military.

Briefing journalists on Thursday in Abuja, the minister noted that the magazine owned by The Economic Group had been in business of publishing inaccurate commentary on Nigeria, including the recent piece where it accused the country’s military of selling weapons to insurgents terrorizing the country.

He added that shortly before the 2019 general elections, The Economist Intelligence Unit, also from the stable of The Economist Group, predicted that the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, will win the election, but the magazine was wrong with President Muhammadu Buhari winning re-election by over 3 million votes and that the results confirmed that the Economist and other arms of the group are not infallible.

Furthermore, Mohammed faulted the Nigerian Press for trumpeting the magazine’s report across the country, saying such development was aiding further spread of fake news and misinformation in Nigeria and that amplifying such report was inimical to aiding the disparage of the country local media houses.

“The Nigerian press is reputed to be one of the most vibrant in the world. This is not a fluke. The Nigerian press has indeed earned its epaulets, and its vibrancy has been honed by years of fearlessly taking on whoever crosses its path, whether they are colonialists or military rulers. It is therefore not a surprise that the media was assigned a role by the 1999 Constitution. Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution tasks the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media to, at all times, be free to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.

“The idea of the Nigerian media, especially the traditional media, regurgitating anything and everything published or reported by its foreign counterpart is totally antithetical to its reputation of independence and vibrancy. The Nigerian media does itself a great disservice by turning itself into an echo chamber of the foreign media.

“When The Economist reported its patently-wrong and badly-researched story, it was immediately amplified by the local media, without even interrogating its content? This is totally unconscionable! For example, The Economist reported that the Jihadist threat in the North-east has ‘metastasized’, and everyone knows that this is totally inaccurate. Prior to the time it was dislodged, which was before Dec. 2015 when I led a team of local and international journalists to Bama in Borno State, Boko Haram established the headquarters of its so-called Caliphate in that town (Bama), where it hoisted its flag, collected taxes as well as installed and removed Emirs at will. Today, Boko Haram has no Caliphate anywhere in Nigeria. Yet, the Nigerian press regurgitated that report by The Economist.

“Again, at a time that Boko Haram and ISWAP are taking on each other in a mutually-destructive lockstep, and at a time that the terrorists are surrendering in droves as a result of heavy pounding by the military, it is wrong to say that Jihadists are carving out a Caliphate in the North-East, as the Economist reported. In any case, why would the Nigerian media become an echo chamber for a foreign newspaper that denigrates the Nigerian military and makes light of the sacrifices of our valiant troops? Would the British or American press regurgitate a report in the Nigerian press denigrating their militaries?

“Gentlemen, I do not believe that the Nigerian media hates this country, neither will I agree that the media does not appreciate our military. But I appeal to you to stop endorsing the denigration of our country, our military, our institutions by some unscrupulous foreign media. By regurgitating their inaccurate stories about Nigeria, you are endorsing their stand. The Nigerian media was mandated to be a watchdog, not a lapdog.”

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