The Federal Government has stated that it has uncovered about 476 online publication sites dedicated to daily churning out of fake news and pitching Nigerians against the government, saying the sites have been identified and placed on watchlist before final action would be taken by the government.
It added that the identified sites are in the business of fighting President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and that through fake and unverified publication, adding that the recent one was on the president’s mental health.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said that though the government was fighting frantically to tackle the menace, more sites were springing up daily to continue with the hatchet jobs of misinforming Nigerians.
Mohammed, who disclosed this on Monday in Abuja when he received officials of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations on a courtesy visit, said that fake news was taking a new dimension and threatening the existence of the country.
According to him, it will amaze you that recently we unveiled almost 476 online publication sites that are dedicated to daily engaging in churning out fake news to fight the government.
“The latest which I found ridiculous is the one that said days ago, that they had information that when Mr President was in the UK the last time, he was advised to step down because he could not even recognise members of his immediate family.
“I begin to wonder how they can go this far, simply because they know that people are gullible and they will make the fake news to go viral,’’ he said.
He said that the debilitating effects of the menace were not only on the government but on every Nigerian, adding that many marriages had been wrecked as a result of fake news, particularly through social media while people had lost their lives and many others committed suicide.
To buttress his position, the minister recalled a recent report where fake news almost led to the killing of 600 applicants by scammers.
“A young man sent out letters to 600 people to enlist into Nigerian Army and collected N10,000 from each of them. He asked them to report at the Okitipupa Army Barracks in Ondo state on a particular day to collect their letters of appointment. At the same time, he alerted the Commandant of the Barrack that Boko Haram insurgents were coming to invade the barrack on the same day,’’ he said.
Mohammed said that his ministry had spearheaded the campaign against fake news years back before the menace got so bad. He said that he NIPR had a critical role to play in ensuring the fight against fake news.
“This is where your body comes in because you have a powerful platform to ensure that the menace of fake news is confronted squarely. Regrettably, however, members of this institute have been found wanting, they have most times place pecuniary interest and motives above patriotism and nationalism
“You will recall the sad incidence of the P&ID saga. It was a member of this institute, a firm of PR consultants that were hired to give impression to the world that Nigeria entered into agreement with P&ID and renege and have to pay about nine billion dollars. It took the combined interventions of this ministry and the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation to go to the UK to change the narrative to prove that the purported contract was a huge scam,’’ he said.
The minister admonished members of the institute to place nationalism and patriotism over and above pecuniary gains in the discharge of their duties.
He also assured NIPR of the support of the ministry in its proposed plan to use its platform to engender stakeholders’ interaction and engagement on national security and cohesion.
Earlier, the National President and Chairman, Governing Council of NIPR, Mukhtar Sirajo, said that the body was willing to work with the Federal Government to engender peace and unity.