Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, says media houses, during the crisis that trailed the #EndSARS protests, gave prominence to what he described as ‘fake’ massacre at the Lekki toll-gate while the attack on security operatives and police formations was ignored.
In October, soldiers stormed Lekki toll-gate, the major convergence point for the #EndSARS demonstration, in order to disperse youth protesting against police brutality.
The soldiers, however, allegedly opened fire on the protesters leaving, a yet to be ascertained number of persons dead and many Injured. But the military claimed he didn’t not fire live rounds at the protesters that blank bullet were deployed in dispersing the crowd.
Speaking at a meeting with title editors of newspapers on Friday in Lagos, Mohammed said less attention was given to the ‘gruesome’ killing of police officers while ‘fake’ massacre in Lekki became the major subject of public discourse.
Mohammed bemoaned the influence of fake news during the #EndSARS protests, saying the federal government will not allow “reckless use” of social media to throw the country into turmoil.
He added thay government would look for ways to ensure civil use of social media, noting that there were no attempts to ban its use.
“Our fears about the abuse of social media, and specifically the dangers posed by fake news and disinformation, have come to pass. During the protest and the subsequent violence, fake news and disinformation were the order of the day,” he said.
“Social media was used for mobilisation, and it was also used to guide arsonists and looters to properties, both public and private, which were targeted for attack. “Celebrities who were listed as killed at Lekki quickly dispelled the report of their deaths.
Discerning Nigerians exposed the fact that pictures of some non-Nigerians were used to justify the hoax massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate.
“This development has strengthened our resolve to work with stakeholders to stop the abuse of social media.
It has also rekindled the debate on the need to regulate social media content, a debate that is not limited to Nigeria.
“On our part, we will not sit down and allow a reckless use of social media to aggravate our fault lines and throw the country into turmoil.
But in curbing the excesses of social media, rest assured, gentlemen, that we will neither shut down the internet nor stifle press freedom or free speech, as some have insinuated.
We also acknowledge that social media is here to stay.
“Still on the coverage, gentlemen, less attention was paid to the barbaric and gruesome murder of security agents by hoodlums during the crisis.
While everyone was fixated on the fake massacre at Lekki Toll Gate, few paid attention to the way and manner policemen and soldiers were killed,” Mohammed said.
“Also, 196 policemen were injured; 164 police vehicles were destroyed and 134 police stations burnt down.
In addition, the violence left 57 civilians dead, 269 private/corporate facilities burnt/looted/vandalised, 243 government facilities burnt/vandalised and 81 government warehouses looted.”