Analysis: Nigeria’s Security Agencies Are Victims of Misinformation! 

By Quadri Yahya 

More than nine thousand X users engaged with Shehu Gazali Sadiq (@ShehuSky)’s post claiming that ‘no terrorist is ever arrested and tried for all terror  attacks in Northern Nigeria…’, and many of them didn’t dispute it. One user even commented thus: “Facts upon facts and they rub it right in our faces.”

The X commentator’s claim reads in full: “Did you know that no terrorist is ever arrested and tried for all terror  attacks in Northern Nigeria? Do you know why? It’s because the Northern political elites are the jihadists financing the terror attacks.”

Alongside fighting terrorism and crimes, Nigeria’s security agencies are contending with harmful misinformation.    

For years, military operations have been launched to annihilate and flush out terrorists killing innocent citizens, burning down villages across many Nigerian states, especially in the Northern region. Fake news, manipulated videos and images as well as concocted statements on social media overshadow these security efforts. 

The social media user’s claim posted in December 25, 2023 that no terrorist has been arrested and jailed is false, FactCheckHub’s findings revealed

The detailed report noted that the former President Muhammadu Buhari-led government said it prosecuted 1,500 terrorism cases and secured 397 convictions from May 2015 till the end of the last administration. Also in 2023, Nigeria’s current  Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi announced the resumption of the trial of several suspected Boko Haram members in government’s custody.

Fagbemi said the federal government secured a total of 366 convictions, while 896 others were discharged for lack of evidence.

A similar false claim was made in 2022 by Reno Omokri, former aide to President Goodluck Jonathan, who  said Nigeria ranks as the 3rd most insecure nation in the world. A  report noted that the Global Terrorism Index rated the country as 6th at the time.

Misinformation like the above block out the efforts of Nigeria’s security agencies. FactCheckAfrica tracked some misinformation related to security agents (including the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Police Force and so on), and findings show that many misleading posts are aimed at discrediting the agencies, confusing the public and causing distraction. 

Fake news could worsen insecurity, former Minister of Information and Culture for the  Nigerian government, Lai Mohammed had said in 2022. 

“… the issues of peace, security, and national unity on the front burner of our national discourse. In recent times, in particular, the issues of peace and security have been on the lips of many Nigerians against the backdrop of rampaging terrorists, bandits, and kidnappers. Unfortunately, this insecurity crisis has been exacerbated by the twin evils of fake news and misinformation”.

Investigations have shown that these security agencies sometimes do not tell the full story of their activities to the public, creating room for speculation and suspicion. However, the public relations officers of the agencies have had to publicly dismiss viral misleading contents both in the media and social platforms. At times, fact-checkers do the job.

Misconducts & Missing Context 

Nigeria’s security agencies have a record of violating human rights, bribery and extortion, among other misconducts, which have strained the relationship between security personnel and the people. However, misinformation often slammed on the forces could worsen the already fragile relationship, culminating in distrust and crisis. 

New security chiefs often acknowledge the need to curb corruption and misconduct which have become ‘norms’ among their personnel. From taking bribes in broad daylight from road users to illegal arrest, harassment and detention and alleged robbery of citizens, policemen, soldiers and other security operatives have been reported for violations of laws that established them.

Since assuming office as the Inspector General of Police in October 2023, Kayode Egbetokun has on different occasions warned police officers to shun bribery and corruption which have dented the image of the Nigeria Police Force. Likewise, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Lieutenant General. Taoreed Lagbaja has relentlessly warned soldiers to shun inducements and illegal practices. 

Though the security chiefs often walk the talk by not condoning illegalities and punishing officers found guilty, bad eggs still remain in the forces; however, the problem is compounded by misinformation. 

A recent case of police sanctioning corrupt officers by dismissal occurred in December 2023 when Kareem Fatai and Jimoh Abdul-Lukman – both were special police constables seen in a viral video demanding money from a Dutch tourist in Oyo State. 

The constables were dismissed for misconduct, but on January 3, 2024, a content creator, Akin Abolade (@mrlilgaga_) made a misleading post on X after interviewing the officers.

The post garnered 8,318 views on X 

The headline on the YouTube video reads: “Police dismisses (sic) officers after owing them salary for 3 years in Nigeria’’. The video, posted on January 2, 2024, has garnered more than 25,800 views and 200 likes. According to the YouTuber, the “officers got dismissed after a video of (them) taxing a road user from the Netherlands went viral.”

The state commissioner of police, Adebola Hamzat had said the constables dismissal was necessary to deter other police officers from the same act. But the content creator’s headline  minimizes the reason for dismal to gain public sympathy – and get donations – for the officers.

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At the 35 Artillery Brigade in Abeokuta, Ogun State, the circumstance surrounding the death of a  soldier Boyi ThankGod had different versions in the media — just as it stirred controversy on social media as well. Some news outlets reported that the soldier accidentally shot himself; some newspapers reported that he committed suicide after battling with depression, while some said it’s because of unpaid allowance. 

Different headline news about the incident 

However, in a counter-report on X, the Nigerian Army dismissed the claims, saying  they are misleading. 

“However, investigation into  the immediate cause of the incident, indicated that the deceased soldier reportedly handled his personal weapon negligently and misfired, which resulted in his death. His colleagues who heard the sound of gunshot had rushed to the scene of the incident, only to find the soldier in the pool of his blood with gunshot wounds on the head,” the dismissal post stated

 

To its 2 million followers, the Nigerian Army has made more than 7,000 posts on X (as at January 22, 2024), including a few to dismiss misleading news about its operations.