The National Orientation Agency (NOA) has cautioned users of social media to thread with caution when spreading information from one source to another.
The Director-General (D-G) of the agency, Mr Garba Abari, made the appeal on Wednesday in Abuja at the opening session of a three-day workshop organised by Avant-Garde Interbiz Project, a Civil Society Organisation (CSO).
The D-G, who was represented at the programme by Mr David Akoji, his Special Assistant, stated that fake news and hate speech had brought so many negativity to the security of the country.
He said that the upsurge of hate speeches and fake news in the country had assumed an alarming rate.
He said that it was on dangerous proportion and was currently heating up the polity and destroying the fabrics of the national peace and unity.
“Hate speech, as the name implies, is usually intended to instigate hate, anger and acrimony with the main aim of causing disaffection, division, violence and even war.
“Fake news on the other hand is outright falsehood, distorted or alternative facts purveyed as authentic news intended to mislead people, cause disaffection, confusion and chaos.
“The advent of the internet especially the social media has encouraged their spread like wild fire.
“This is further exacerbated by the use of religious, ethnic and political platforms to promote these negative values.
“In recent times, we have seen situations where politicians desperate for power have resorted to the use of hate speech and fake news as tools for opposition and destabilisation,’’ he said.
He added that some of the religious leaders were now elevating their pulpits through sermonisation of hate speech rather than talking about love and unity.
He added that there was the need to change the narrative and allow peace reign.
He, therefore, called on all to pursue issues of national interest, pointing out that Nigeria is greater than any individual or group, and we must at all times override any self-centered interest.
According to him, Nigeria constitution guarantees the right to expression, and the freedom can only be pursued and allowed to the extent where it promotes peace, unity and national development.
On his part, Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman, a former spokesperson of the Nigerian Army, commended the organiser of the workshop, saying that the workshop was apt at this period when the menace of misinformation was already bedeviling the country.
Usman, who was also represented by his technical adviser, Mrs Saddika Muhammad, noted that the menace of misinformation, fake news and hate speech was already affecting relationships and tearing the nation apart.
According to him, through fake news, misinformation and disinformation, Nigeria is experiencing divisive narratives that tend to disunite or alienate one component from another and the issue is indeed worrisome.
“It is, therefore, necessary to take decisive steps to address these problems before they snowball into intractable conflicts.
“It is desirable to cross-check and verifies facts and authenticates information.
“We must also learn to differentiate between facts and opinions.
“Consequently, it is high time we joined hands in combating the menace of fake news, misinformation and hate speech.
“This is because of their inherent disastrous effect on national security and our peaceful corporate existence as a nation,’’ he said.
Mrs Comfort Ogunmola, the Acting Director, NOA, FCT Chapter, urged Nigerians to always fact-checking information before passing it around to other persons.
According to Ogunmola, when you are not sure of the source of your information, you don’t need to pass it to another person.
She warned that not all information should be taken hook, line and sinker as to the genuineness of such information.
Mr. Maji Peterx, Country Director Nigeria, Equal Access International, also urged Nigerians to do away with propagation of fake news saying that, it does not promote national interest or social cohesion.
Mr. Nathaniel-Oye Allahmagani, Avant-Garde Interbiz Project Director, stated that he was motivated to organise the workshop following his experience as a victim of fake news sometime in 2004.
He said that he desired to share his experience to let others learn and adjust themselves in order not to fall victim as he did.