Disinformation and the Danger of Public Mistrust Against Security Institution
By Mukhtar Ya’u Madobi
Nigeria’s constitution and other international treaties and declarations have duly recognized and guaranteed freedom of speech and press expression as one of fundamental human rights. Unfortunately, people have been abusing these rights through an act of disseminating information capable of inciting violence in the society.
Therefore, misinformation, disinformation and of course fake news have over the years continued to threaten the stability, peace and social coexistence of people globally. The effect has consequences as it instills mutual distrust and suspicion among people of particular geographical location.
The gravity of disseminating false information is even more dangerous when the heinous act was done against a national security institution. Because, this will undoubtedly affect their mode of discharging duties and eventually lead to breach of national security.
Thus, by spreading disinformation regarding a particular security agency on baseless grounds, then it is tantamount to sowing the seed of mistrust of that agency against the citizens of the country. This is obviously bad from all points of view!
It can be recalled that, lately, an organisation who claimed to be tracking the implementation of government projects, known as TrackaNG, has issued a misleading and half-baked report accusing one of the nation’s outstanding intelligence agency, the Department of State Services (DSS), saying that the Counter Terrorism Centre in Bauchi was not being constructed in spite of providing available fund for the project as captured in the country’s
However, investigations conducted by the indicted agency revealed that the TrackaNG field officer might have not properly visited the site before making such an unwholesome conclusion which is capable of smearing the image of the organization before the public.
While debunking the unsubstantiated allegation via a statement issued to the members of the press, the Public Relations Officer, DSS, Peter Afunanya, added that about 17 structures are currently under construction by different contractors at the project’s site.
The statement, titled; “TrackaNG-Budgit got it wrong, projects at counter Terrorism Centre, Bauchi ongoing according to budget provisions,” was released on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 in Abuja.
Parts of the statement read, “The DSS wishes to react to a misleading publication by TrackaNG–BudgIT, self-acclaimed budget implementation monitors to the effect that the Service’s Counter Terrorism Centre, Bauchi is not under construction in spite of budget provisions for it.
“On 19th February 2022, Tracka on its social media platforms, particularly Facebook and Twitter, posted that the construction of DSS Counter-Terrorism Training Centre, Gubi Dam, Bauchi State allegedly valued at N1.1 Billion in 2021 FG budget was “not done”. It added that it “visited the site and discovered they only renovated a primary school and mosque adjacent to the site”.
It is gratifying to learnt that, while the project was ongoing, the DSS, out of its desire and concern for the doctrine of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to the host communities, it therefore engages in rehabilitation of a primary school located close to the site in order to entrench the teaching and learning activities among the inhabitants of that area.
“It may also be noted that the primary school in question was a dilapidated Nomadic Education Centre located at Galga, near Gubi Dam, Firo where the CTC is located.
“The Service, in conjunction with its Land School (site of the CTC), found the primary school in a bad state and decided to renovate it as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility, typical of the Service wherever it has such public facility and cohabits with the community,” the statement reads in part.
However, it is worthy and necessary at this juncture to pay attention to the medium of communication through which the said TrackaNG made their hasty and of course empty findings available about the projects to the audience.
For the past years, the advancement in technology coupled with the blooming of internet have made our communication easier thereby paving way for the emergence of social networking sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter just to mention but few.
Social media has now become a cheap avenue where fake news and hate speeches are transmitted at will without regards to the consequences they might have on the national cohesion existing among the populace.
In the latest publication unveiled by PRNigeria, titled; “101 Fake News on EndSARS”, which was authored by Dahiru Mohammed Lawal, it was revealed that about 24% of fake news related to EndSARS protest were transmitted via social media handles.
It could be remembered that the protest started peacefully, but later turned bloody after much disinformation was shared on social media regarding the movement. Alas, the ill-fated event led to wanton destruction of lives and properties belonging to both government and private individuals.
The findings of the book recommended that social media should be harnessed as an effective tool for social change, especially in countering false information that are defamatory, malicious and clearly dangerous to the society.
Nevertheless, every citizen has the right to freedom of expression of speech as guaranteed in the constitution which should not be misused or abused. Because, it is important to understand that, government can derogate those rights when deemed necessary for the sake of preserving national interest such as security and maintenance of public health and order as well as ensuring mutual trust and unity among the citizens.
Therefore, for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) or any Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to be tracking public projects in order to ensure its implementation, is a welcome development as it will deepen transparency and accountability throughout the conduct of the exercise.
Nonetheless, the oversight function should be done meticulously and appropriately for the purpose of achieving fairness and avoidance of peddling fake information.
Mukhtar is a Staff Writer with Emergency Digest