One week after the deadly attack on soldiers at a military base by Boko Haram, the army has threatened to sue persons circulating “fake news that aims to undermine national security.”
The Nigerian Army on Saturday on its Twitter and Facebook pages said it “has continued to observe with great dismay the myriads of photos and video clips being recklessly distributed on various social media platforms by different caliber of persons” on the attack in Metele, Borno State.
Last Sunday’s attack on a Metele army base in Borno left over 100 soldiers and officers dead. Although the army is yet to provide details of the attack, why it occurred, or casualty figure, it has taken a strong stance against the media and other Nigerians for circulating what it considers fake news of the attack.
Earlier on Friday, the army said “Whilst it is true that there was an attack” on the Nigerian Army 157 Task Force Battalion on November 18, 2018, it has “become necessary to correct several misinformation being circulated with regards to this unfortunate event.”
The Army said, “several social media, print and online publications have been brandishing false casualty figures as well as circulating various footages of old and inaccurate” Boko Haram “propaganda videos and alluding same to be the attack on 157 Task Force Battalion.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday finally spoke on the Metele attack, saying “No responsible Commander-in-Chief would rest on his oars or fold his hands to allow terrorists to endanger the lives of its military personnel and other citizens.”
The president pledged to work with the military to ensure the defeat of the insurgents.
The army in a Facebook and Twitter post on Saturday evening expressed concern over what it said was the indiscriminate circulation of different fake video footage, an action it says creates fear and unrest in the society.
It dismissed the videos as ‘false’, explaining that they do not portray the situation on ground.
The army said such videos served the purpose intended by the insurgents to misinform and spread panic.
“The Nigeria Army has continued to observe with great dismay the myriads of photos and video clips being recklessly distributed on various social media platforms by different caliber of persons.
“It is indeed shocking to see how these well doctored propaganda materials from enemies of the state succeeded in creating fear and unrest in the polity.
“These doctored materials are obviously serving the purposes intended by the terrorists to misinform the populace; spread panic, hatred, religious intolerance and undermine national security.
“The Nigeria Army wants to categorically state that the videos and images making rounds as the purported attack on Metele base are false and do not in any way portray the reality of the situation on the ground,” it said.
The army reiterated its commitments to the protection of the nation’s territorial integrity.
It warned that it would not condone the spread of fake news as it violates the provisions of Nigeria’s notorious cybercrime laws.
“While appreciating the concerns of well meaning Nigerians, who genuinely care for the well being of military personnel, the Nigerian Army wants to draw the attention of its detractors to the fact that spreading fake news is an offense and violation of Section 24 (1) (a & b); and (2) (a), (b), (c), (i), (ii) of the Cyber-crimes Prohibition and Prevention Act, 2015.
“In view of this, please note that the Nigeria Army, henceforth, report the infractions and file case against individuals or groups who deliberately spread fake news that aim to undermine national security in courts of competent jurisdictions.
“Equally; the Nigeria Army wishes to inform the public of its iReport channels on the NA website, android and iOS platforms through which members of the public can forward meaningful advice, criticism or observations that would enable it to better serve the good people of Nigeria.”
The cybercrime law has been criticised by civil society groups for its use as a tool by Nigerian agencies to stifle critical comments and opinions on social media.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how some Nigerians have been arrested and detained by state governments and security agencies over critical Facebook posts and other publications on the basis of the cybercrime law,
The Metele attack is one in a series of recent attacks by the Boko Haram on military bases and formations in North-east Nigeria.
The attacks, including those on civilians, have continued despite the efforts of the military who have limited the insurgents to three North-east states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.