“Leaders should be part of solutions to problems, rather than aggravating situations. To those asking Mr. President to resign, I wish to say this: Mr President will not resign. He has the overwhelming mandate of Nigerians to preside over the affairs of the country till the expiration of his tenure in May 2023,” the federal government has said.
Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed made the government’s position known Thursday at a media parley in Abuja.
He spoke against the backdrop of calls from some Nigerians for the president’s resignation amidst rising security challenges.
One of such calls came from Senate Minority Leader Eyinnaya Abaribe at a plenary in the National Assembly.
“There have been some red herrings in recent times, including those calling for the resignation of Mr President or the sack of the security chiefs.
“I just want to say that the government, which has provided and continues to provide the military and the security agencies with the wherewithal, believes in their ability to tackle insecurity.
“These challenges will be successfully tackled. I will however advise all commentators, especially political and religious leaders, to be very careful at this time not to aggravate the situation with incendiary comments.
“These are comments that cash in on our religious, ethnic and political fault lines to further divide us,” the minister further said.
Mohammed also said: “The kind of comments that have been attributed to some leaders, especially religious leaders, are incendiary and reckless. Leaders should be part of solutions to problems, rather than aggravating situations.”
He acknowledged that government was aware of security challenges it “and we are tackling them head on. There is no question about that. But the challenges are being aggravated by fake news and disinformation, in particular. Those behind this
campaign of fake news and disinformation have also deployed new tactics, top of which is the recycling of old news items and videos.
“A good example is the video of the over 400 young men suspected to be
Boko Haram members who were intercepted in Abia state in 2014. About two weeks ago, the video came back into circulation, creating panic in the polity. Their intention
is simple: to create tension and panic in the country.
“Other recent instances of fake news: that President Muhammadu Buhari will be travelling to the UK for 20 days before proceeding to Saudi Arabia and Austria; that the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, was attacked at the Rigasa train station in Kaduna; that the Nigerian Air Force killed 250 Boko Haram insurgents; that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy is planning to unveil some new ‘communication regulations’ aimed at recording all calls, monitoring Whatsapp, Twitter and Facebook, etc. Even private individuals have also been victims of this scourge.
“We will continue to appeal to Nigerians to be circumspect in believing or circulating these fake news, as we did when we launched our national campaign against fake news in 2018. We are also pushing ahead with our plan to sanitise the social media, working with stakeholders.
“By March 2nd 2020, we will inaugurate the stakeholders committee that will deliberate and recommend the way forward. We are also planning a major international conference that will bring together the tech companies, media practitioners, policy makes and others as part of efforts to tackle this growing cankerworm.”
On the activities of Amnesty International in the country, the federal government cautioned the international body against giving support to Boko Haram insurgents via their statements.
The AI was reported to have said the military burnt some villages and forcefully displaced the residents.
Reacting to the claim, Mohammed said: “I am aware that the Defence Headquarters has responded appropriately to this accusation
“The military denied razing down villages and detaining locals unlawfully; that it does not employ arson as an operational tactic; and that looting and burning of villages is the style of Boko Haram Terrorists
“I will like to add that in carrying out their duties, Amnesty International should not cast themselves in the league of Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists. They should stop the growing practice of constantly attacking the military and casting them as the bad guys, when all they are doing is putting their lives on the line to fight terrorists who have no respect for the sanctity of life, who wilfully go after women and children, who attack houses of worship without respect or allegiance to any religion.
“ Amnesty International should stop providing succour for terrorists by attributing their atrocities to our troops. Our soldiers, who are defending the country, are guided
by extant rules of engagement and operational codes of conduct. They should not be made to look like the aggressors here.”
He said the federal government “has always taken seriously any allegation of rights violation by soldiers or other security forces. Investigations have been carried out and culprits, if any, punished. And it is a continuous process.”