Misinformation risks worsening ethnic and religious tensions in Nigeria, media commentators and researchers say, at a time of heightened concern about internal security and fragile community relations.
The months and weeks running up to recent elections saw a slew of false claims about politicians and their parties, as part of deliberate attempts to shape the narrative before polling.
Africa’s most populous nation is often characterised as teetering on the brink.
Security threats include Boko Haram insurgents in the northeast and violence between nomadic cattle herders and farmers in central states.
The latter is primarily a battle for water and land but those involved have been polarised along ethnic, sectarian and religious lines, in a country with more than 250 ethnic groups and where identity is rarely far from the surface.
Simon Kolawole, a former editor with Nigeria’s ThisDay newspaper and founder of The Cable online news site, said manufactured lies in the guise of news was “further endangering the delicate ethno-religious fabric of Nigeria”.
It was also “hampering the credibility of news outlets in the country”, he told AFP.
Information minister Lai Mohammed said misinformation and hate speech “threatens the peace, unity, security and corporate existence of Nigerians”.
Of particular concern was the fabrication of stories pitting the country’s mainly Muslim north against the predominantly Christian south — a traditional fault line often used by proponents of restructuring the current federal system and even breaking it up.
By Dominic C. Odoh
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