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Ten Fake News that Fueled Ethnic Violence in the Southwest

Several incidents of fake news have fuelled ethnic feuds in the Yoruba-dominated part of the country. This report will attempt to highlight some of them.

Oyo: Controversy On Fatai Aborede’s Death

In late December 2020, one Fatai Aborode was reportedly killed by suspected herdsmen near his farm along Apodun village in Oyo State.

After the alleged incident, a self-acclaimed Yoruba-nation activist, Sunday Igboho, visited the Igangan community to banish the Seriki Fulani, Salihu Abdulkadir and his tribesmen from their settlement.

The truth was later exposed after the Oyo State Police Command arrested an 80-year-old PDP chieftain over the killing of Fatai Aborode. His death was later revealed to be unconnected to the herders-farmers crisis as reported in the media.

However, things had gone out of hand after Sunday Igboho’s visit and this led to an ethnic clash as the herders struck back. It was reported that 11 persons lost their lives in the imbroglio.

Igangan: Fani-Kayode’s Tweet

Nigeria’s former Culture and Tourism Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, in his reaction to the Igangan saga, announced on his verified Twitter handle, “Over 50 innocent souls butchered & cut to pieces in their homes by Fulani terrorists in Igangan, Oyo state & the Palace of the trad. ruler burnt to the ground. I shed tears when I saw the videos. Can there be any greater provocation than this? How do we respond to such barbarity?”

Fact checks carried out, however, revealed that 11, and not  50 persons were confirmed dead, as the Oyo State police command spokesperson, Adewale Osifeso confirmed that 11 people were killed and not 50 people as claimed

Lagos: Herders Shooting Sporadically

This report allegedly accused the Fulani herders of invading the Odo-Egiri community in the Eredo area of Epe Local Government, Lagos State. It was said that the herders were causing chaos and shooting at people in the neighborhood.

The Lagos State police spokesman, Mr Olumuyiwa Adejobi, confirmed that the story is far from true. He said: “There was no iota of truth in the media report that some Fulani herdsmen had attacked some residents on their farmlands.”

Instagram: Fani-Kayode’s burnt baby post.

Unsurprisingly, Fani-Kayode also posted on Instagram an image of a man holding what appears to be a charred baby which has garnered more than 2,123 likes since its publication on June 6, barely hours after unknown gunmen attacked the Igangan community.

However, the AFP fact-checked the claim and found it to be false as it was actually a screenshot of a video clip filmed after a crisis in Cameroon’s northwestern town of Batibo.

Afenifere: Funke Olakunrin’s Death.

The pro-Yoruba group, Afenifere in 2019 announced that herdsmen had killed Funke Olakunrin, who is Reuben Fasoranti’s daughter. Yinka Odumakin -the group’s spokesperson- said: ‘Mrs. Funke Olakunrin was killed by Fulani herdsmen who emerged from the bush, shot her, and killed her in the process.’

Ondo State Police Command later gave details through their spokesperson, Femi Joseph who confirmed that the incident happened between Kajola and Ore, where about 15 hoodlums attacked two vehicles. He added that their tribe was not known yet. “You have to wait for us to arrest them. Somebody you have not arrested, it is difficult for you to establish his ethnicity,” he said.

Osun: Rumour on Herders Attack

The news circulating through the Internet in May, as reported by online media, was that herders attacked some residents including children, traders and civil servants in Osun state, making parents withdraw their children from schools, while shops and offices were closed.

When the Osun State Police command visited the scene along with the Special Adviser to the governor on security issues, they discovered that the story was untrue, as revealed in a statement by the police spokesperson, Yemisi Opalola.

Ogun: Herders Attack Lagos-Ibadan Expressway

Ogun State Police Command also debunked fake news about a report of an attack by herdsmen along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, stating: “There is no attack by herdsmen or any other group in all the stretch of ExpressWays across and within Ogun State, we make bold to say that the alleged attack posted on social media is a lie from the pit of hellfire being peddled by those who are not happy with the peaceful atmosphere in Ogun State.”

Ekiti: Hausa Artisan Mistaken For Herdsmen

Ekiti State Police Command called on its citizens to desist from spreading fake news, a day after receiving a distress call that some Hausa/Fulani men with possession of dangerous weapons had arrived to launch an attack in the community.

The Police swung into action, only to discover that the suspected persons were not herders but artisans and laborers working for MESSRS ZALHAT TRADING AND CONSTRUCTION NIGERIA LIMITED  brought in to Ado-Ekiti to construct a 3 bedroom bungalow at the site.

Twitter: Dele Momodu’s post.

The publisher of Ovation Magazine, Dele Momodu, tweeted on January 24, “Incredible things happen in this country!” This tweet, attached to a video he posted on his verified account, gained 325k views.

It was also reposted by a social media influencer, Kelvin Odanz, who claimed that the Nigerian government is offering herdsmen the sum of #100 Billion to hike kidnapping rates in Nigeria. However, a fact check has proved the story to be untrue.

Wole Soyinka’s attack rumour

The Nigerian Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka became the talk of the town after a video reported online that some herders attacked his house and threatened to kill him.

Herders indeed trespassed on his land, but there was no violence, as clarified in a statement by his son, Olaokun Soyinka.

“I have confirmed that while cows did stray onto his land yesterday, there has been no attack, no violence, and no attempt to enter the house. We do not need confusion added to the already tense situation in the country,” he said.

Despite the fact-checking that established falsehood of these social media posts, none of the posts have been deleted as of the time of this publication. Messages and emails sent to the people who shared the posts were ignored.

Fact Checkers’ Responses…

Many times, fake news is not pulled down or acknowledged even after it has been fact-checked by reliable sources. Experts have advised that continuous dissemination of the correct information is a powerful tool to tackle this menace.

Most social platforms now offer a ‘report policy’ on posts. Reporting such posts with valid reasons, along with referencing the link has proven to be very useful for citizens.

Lois Ugbede, a researcher for Dubawa, noted that apart from regulations put in place by the platform it was posted on, there is a limitation in actions that can be taken against fake news sources.

“There is nothing much to be done here aside from amplifying the fact-check debunking the claims. Share the fact-check in different formats like videos and fact cards to widen its reach.”

“Also, you can flag it for those platforms to take action. As a fact-checker, you cannot force a person to take down a post. Only the platforms on which the fake post was published can regulate it.

“Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and even WhatsApp now regulate suspicious posts by restricting their reach and flagging it as fake for other users to beware,” she said.

Curbing the spread of fake news is not just the responsibility of the mass media and the government alone. Citizens also have significant roles to play as the circulation of fake news directly affects them.

Citizens are often the originators of misleading information who should play major roles to bring this menace into possible extinction.

An Audience Engagement Officer with Dubawa, Lateef Sanni said citizens should possess basic media literacy skills that will enable them to distinguish credible information from fake news.

He said, “The first thing citizens should do is to arm themselves with good media literacy skills so they can filter fake news from credible news. They should watch the platforms through which they receive information and be skeptical of these platforms and their content.”

“They should not share or forward every message without verifying them and if they can’t do this on their own, they should consult credible and independent fact-checkers for verification.”

 Similarly, Niyi Oyedeji of The ICIR implored them to always think of the implications before relaying any news on herders and farmers.

He also added that citizens should check the reliability of the source of information they are consuming through fact-checking tools available.

“There is a need for the citizens to be armed with basic fact-checking tools to be able to prevent the circulation of fake news on herders and farmers in Nigeria. There is a need for them to always think about the implications before posting anything on herders and farmers.”

“Also, they need to check the source of every news they are consuming to know if it is coming from a reliable news platform. They also need to check to know that such news is not coming from fake social media handles that are known for circulating fake news,” he said.

Experts have suggested that media outfits should always fact-check inaccurate reports and set the record straight.

Silas Jonathan, a senior researcher/fact-checker with DUBAWA, advised media outfits to engage in balanced reporting with objectivity and fairness, to avoid triggering crises. Also, the media should be on the lookout for claims and debunk them before they go viral.

He added that adequate provision of media literacy programs should be provided to address fake news circulation.

“Media literacy as regards the problem and the solution should also be a focus. Just focusing and reporting on the problem alone without offering major solutions will only escalate the rising tension.”

“People sometimes create false narratives to gain an edge or slander one group, as such, the media should make sure all matters that concern the topic are reported based on facts and not emotions or hearsay,” he suggested.

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