The Federal Government, yesterday, cautioned against spewing negative and false narratives around Boko Haram members who are surrendering to the Nigerian military in the insurgency-ravaged North East.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Washington, yesterday, berated those he said were alleging that the surrendered insurgents were not actual Boko Haram fighters and if they were, they should be shot rather than granted amnesty.
He described as “false and demoralising’’ the claim in certain quarters that the surrendered insurgents would be recruited into the Nigerian military.
Mohammed said that rather than changing the narratives, President Muhammadu Buhari and the military should be commended for their resourcefulness and doggedness in the fight against insurgency.
“The fact that we are witnessing insurgents submitting in droves calls for the commendation of our military for their doggedness. We must not forget that two months ago, Nigerians were putting pressure on the President to recruit mercenaries to fight the war against terror because they said we were losing the war.
“The President, however, remained focused and confident in his belief in the Nigerian military that they have what it takes to defeat the insurgents. We thank God that Mr. President today has been proven right. We were able to achieve this, largely because of the leadership of Mr. President in providing the wherewithal continually to the military and ensuring that their fighting morale is sustained by way of welfare packages,” he said.
The minister said it was unfortunate and inconceivable that some Nigerians would be going about with fake news that the surrendered insurgent would be absorbed into the military.
According to him, the call for the prosecution and killing of the repentant militants rather than granting them amnesty is against global best practices.
“I personally spoke to the military authority before I left Nigeria and they said what they were doing is what the global practice dictates about soldiers that surrendered that should be treated as prisoners of war.
“You cannot just shoot them because there are international conventions that give rights also to prisoners of war. What the military is doing is that, when they surrender, they profile them to ensure that they are genuine and reintegrate them into the society,” he explained.
In another development, yesterday, Mohammed disclosed that from the 10 demands it put forward to lift the ban on Twitter’s operation in Nigeria, the microblogging and social networking platform has acceded to seven.
The minister, who made the announcement during his ongoing engagement with various global media outlets, global think tanks, and influencers in Washington DC, said an amicable settlement of the ban was in sight.
The engagement is to enable the minister to put across the correct narratives about what is happening in Nigeria, showcase the government’s achievements, and present challenges facing the country.
While interacting with Reuters, Washington Post, and Bloomberg Quicktake, a live streaming news service, Mohammed said: “We believe that even the other three outstanding demands are not really about whether they agreed or not but about timing and scheduling. That is what gave me the confidence that we are getting nearer to an agreement.”
He revealed that among the demands made from Twitter were that the platform should register as a Nigerian company, pay taxes from revenue made from the country and ensure that harmful content is regulated.
“As recently as last week, we exchanged correspondence with Twitter, and when I left home a few days ago, we were expecting a reply from them. It is rather, more left with Twitter to respond to grey areas that we asked them to look into. We are not inflexible in our negotiation with Twitter because we recognise both the positive and negative aspects of social media,” he added.
To him, the Twitter ban has been very effective in the country, noting that Nigerians now see less harmful and injurious content on social media.
He said other social media platforms had been more conscious and alert to injurious content likely to threaten national security.
The minister added that from the talks the government had with Twitter when the platform resumes operations, it would not be business as usual. He admonished all social media platforms in the country to take a cue from Twitter’s experience and comply with set down regulations.
Mohammed described the claim that Twitter’s operation was suspended because it deleted President Buhari’s tweet as a mischievous interpretation not grounded in facts.
“Twitter’s operation was suspended because they were threatening national security, pitching one ethnic group against the other, interfering recklessly in the internal affairs of our country.
“It renders its platform as a platform of choice for those who are preaching separatism and lend their resources to protesters against the police without understanding the nuances of our culture. They raised funds to support #EndSARS protesters which led to the killing of 57 innocent civilians, 37 police officers, six soldiers in addition to billions of dollars of destruction in property,” he said.