In the past few days,Nigerians have observed with dismay the rising penchant for posting and spreading all manner of falsehoods and half-truths, especially,on the social media,in respect to issues surrounding the ongoing campaigns and activities that are aimed at curbing and combating the spread of the COVID 19 disease.
As worrisome as some of these pieces of information are,it is, however, obvious that many of us continue to “share” these messages without regards to their veracity or otherwise; and, in fact,in many cases, without bothering to crosscheck their original sources. Hence,we, nonetheless, contribute,albeit unwittingly, in spreading falsehood, misinformation, disinformation,panic,hate and other negative broadcast material that possesses the tendency to incite fear, anxiety,hatred,panic and even sudden death!
Of particular note is the continuous broadcast of many variations of a message purported to have emanated from sources in the Netherlands, in Switzerland,Germany and other parts of the world “advising” brothers,sisters and other Nigerian compatriots in the country to utterly reject and never accept any donation of materials and equipment from China,like the Face Masks,Overall Gowns,Blankets and others, intended for use to fight the COVID 19 pandemic, while,also,” informing” and “revealing”,as it were,that these materials are all infected and are, actually,intended to be a means of spreading the disease in other parts of the world.
To say the least, such messages, as the one to which we referred above, have done our people and country more harm than good. At a time when every resource needed to exert a definite and collective pressure on the pandemic is being sought for with all strength and seriousness, it is sad to observe that this misinformation has,apart from making our people poised to reject genuine assistance from people of goodwill,left us more vulnerable to the scourge of the COVID 19 pandemic. Again,of even major concern is the fact that nationals of those countries targetted in this campaign of calumny and blackmail who live among us are beginning to suffer the sad result of these smire campaigns.
The above,we must all note,is without regards to bilateral relations, friendship and co- operation agreements entered between our country and other nations of the world, including other international conventions and protocols that bind our nation with other countries across the globe. In fact,our present actions, activities and speeches have in the present circumstance in many ways flouted such agreements and protocols.
By our actions,we seem to be telling other countries of the world, including non- State actors and multilateral corporations like the World Health Organisation,the UNICEF,USAID,Forum of China and Africa Co- operation ( FOCAC) and many others through which these countries , usually,relate or co- operate with us ,that we do not need them; and,in fact,have chosen to be alone at this time,to fight our battles alone and die alone,if need be; God forbid! As the saying goes, even in diplomatic circles, no man is an island. We all need one another.
Consequent upon the above,as Chairman,House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs,I call on the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to,as a matter of urgency,mobilize its information- dissemination apparatuses to address the concerns I have here raised,given the threat they pose to parts of our Foreign Policy objectives and the current initiatives of Mr President and the House of Representatives at bettering these policies.
Now is the time for relevant Agencies of Government like the National Orientation Agency( NOA),which is known to be doing its best ,in spite of the paucity of funds that has hamstrung many of its programmes and reach, and other Agencies like it , to be alive to their responsibilities and core mandates by concentrating their energies and resources on this new challenge. We cannot afford an ignorant citizenry at a time like now when many misinforming messages are being spewed out on the social media. I also urge the Ministry and other law- enforcement Agencies to,again,beam their searchlights on the social media. Perhaps,this is the right time to test the implementation of parts of that Hate Speech Bill,which have to do with checking the reckless and destructive use and abuse of the beautiful idea and concept of Freedom of Expression. Please,let us be guided appropriately.
Make endeavours to stay safe.
God bless Nigeria.
Rt. Hon. Yusuf Buba Yakub
Chairman, House Committee on Foriegn Affairs.