Nigeria is on the edge and the spread of disinformation and misinformation – online and offline – may push her into chaos and possible violence if not addressed. According to Eze Onyekpere, “Nigeria is currently at a tipping point in its politics and security, a point from which any further descent will lead to a fatal crash, anarchy, and total collapse”.
Unverified information and most times false claims are capable of bringing the worst out of our beloved country. In recent weeks, many prominent Nigerians have also risen to speak up and warn citizens of the impending dangers of circulating false narratives or claims from the farmer-herder conflict currently ravaging the country.
Also, with labels and ethnic profiling, agents of misinformation are capitalizing on the situation to spread hate and animosity.
While we agree that there is an information gap between the government and the citizens, the Nigerian people need to make a deliberate choice to be on the side of truth, fact, and patriotism as against spreading misinformation with a touch of ethnic intolerance.
During the week, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) had asked the Nigerian government to take action against the growing insecurity, kidnap of school children for ransom which has become a stock in trade for criminals.
The CDD in its press statement released on February 17, called on the Nigerian Government to declare a State of Emergency on security.
CDD’s Director, Idayat Hassan said Nigeria has to come to terms that she has a huge security problem on her hands and act decisively.
“The country has to declare a state of emergency on insecurity across the board. And must synergise efforts with our sub-nationals. There must an agreement for instance on no ransom, no amnesty policy as they fight with boots on the ground,” Hassan said.
While we await the actions of the government, research has shown that the spread of disinformation in such a volatile situation as Nigeria is in today, can aggravate the issues and sow lasting seeds of discord among the people.
For instance, in June 2018, Facebook users circulated the bloodied image of a baby’s corpse, a man’s cracked skull, and bodies in mass graves which went viral with hundreds of reactions.
The post accused Fulanis, who are mostly Muslims, in Plateau state of perpetrating the atrocity against Berom Christians. In what was termed as a reprisal although acting on a false image shared on social media, several Berom youths blocked the roads and dragged men of the Fulani extraction out of their cars, and killed them. At least 10 people were reported to have died in the incident.
A Berom youth leader from the Gashish region of Plateau State was quoted by the BBC as saying, “As soon as we saw those images, we just wanted to strangle any Fulani man standing next to us”.
When the images were subjected to verification, it was discovered they were more than five years old and were taken in the Republic of the Congo. While fake news did not create tension between these two ethnic groups, it certainly exacerbated them.
Beware of online scams
On February 17, 2021, some concerned citizens alerted fact-checkers at the CDD to a Twitter page “Nigerian Youth Investment Fund” (NYIF_NGR) that claimed to be a ‘Youth-focused business funding scheme of the Federal Government of Nigeria’.
The handlers of the page also called on interested applicants to pay a certain fee before applying for any of the grants.
The Twitter account Nigerian Youth Investment Fund (@NYIF_NGR) is fake and not associated with the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.
Checks by CDD show that the ministry has not also asked participants to pay a fee before applying for any of its grants as portrayed by @NYIF_NGR.
Findings by CDD fact-checkers also revealed that the authentic page for the FG-approved grant is the Nigerian Youth Investment Fund with Twitter handle @NYIF_NG.
The Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF), launched by the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports in July 2020 completed its pilot disbursement of loans totalling N165,700,000 to 239 beneficiaries.
On Tuesday, February 16, 2021, CDD fact-checkers spotted a WhatsApp broadcast shared on various groups that the Aliko Dangote Foundation is disbursing grants to eligible Nigerians.
The claim reads: “2021 Dangote Empowerment, Hurry Now Check if You are Eligible to Receive a Cash Price As Part Of Dangote Empowerment Grant.”
Also attached to the message is a link for registration.
Investigations by CDD show that the purported grant being circulated on WhatsApp is an online scam shared by some fraudsters.
A visit to the website through the link provided on the message reveals that every piece of information provided online is not authentic.
CDD also gathered that the picture attached to the link does not correspond to what can be obtained on the website – a new strategy adopted by online scammers to defraud unsuspecting Nigerians.
Also, an analysis of the pictures attached using fact-checking tools reveals that the image used is that of the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, giving out cash to some Nigerians.
Other fact-checks produced by the CDD are:
FACT-CHECK: Beware!! Fake Link To FG/CBN Grant In Circulation
FACT-CHECK: Beware Of Viral Fake N-Power Grant Website Link
FACT-CHECK: Remdesivir Not COVID-19 Vaccine Only Distributed In Africa
You can also watch CDD video on Steps To Verify An Image You Suspect To Be Fake