By Jerry Emmanson.
Towards identifying issues underlying the growing conflicts in Nigeria, particularly the farmer-herders conflict, Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) over the weekend organised a 2days workshop in Abuja tagged: “Understanding and Responding to Fake News Exacerbating Fears and Insecurity in the Country,” to assess the dangers of fake news and hate speech on national growth, security and development in Nigeria.
Participants at the workshop were youths from across the country, media, academia and civil society amongst others, which featured paper presentations from highly revered professionals and authorities from different spheres of life. In a communiqué jointly signed by Hamza Ibrahim (CITAD), Ibrahim Sulaiman (ALCIDA), Uza Doshima, Food Technology and Research, Yadoma Bukar Mandara and Usman Masara Kim, said fake news does not exist in a vacuum, it rather thrives in a gullible environment where human populations are less enlightened to access quality, objective, balanced and fair information.
“People who propagate hate speech have platforms they tend to use to manipulate public opinion and emotions for the purpose of mischief and/or selfish economic or political gains. The workshop in part of its resolution said: “Lack of transparency and sincerity on the part of government, which reflects in the operations of public/state owned media organizations, has greatly reduced public confidence in official sources of information.
Therefore, citizens are compelled to explore alternative sources of information, thereby falling victims of fake news media and agents. On the area of farmers-herders conflicts it stated that: “Existing legislations affecting pastoralism especially anti-open grazing laws have not holistically addressed the issue of farmer-herder clashes as they seldom reflect the sociocultural and environmental diversities of Nigeria.” It advised the government to consider the multiplicity of the sociocultural, geographical and other related landscape of the country, and design agric-related programmes to favour such.
“Communities should be allowed to explore specific livestock production options suitable to their sociocultural and/or environmental peculiarities rather than ‘one-size-fits-all’ approaches that have over the years proved a failure in addressing the lingering crisis between farmers and herders.” Also in a presentation by Dr. Junaidu A. Maina on “Understanding the Crisis of Pastoralism in Nigeria,” he listed the major drivers of conflict between farmers and herders to be population growth, Livestock feed resource base, Encroachment of grazing reserves and Stock routes, Cattle Rustling, Breakdown of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms, weak criminal justice system allowed and one sided report by media etc. He maintained that adaptation of intensive/enclosed production system will create a structured modern cattle production system with a national spread.
“This will for sometime co-exist with pastoralism which will persist in some states. Just like the modern commercial poultry which co-exists with larger rural poultry,” he said. Mr Dapo Olorunyomi, online publisher of PremiumTimes in his address on “Fake news and the challenge of security in Nigeria,” said that there is a fundamental crisis in global journalism today and while a vigorous debate is currently apace we pretend that is not the case in Nigeria.
“Digital transition has complicated the whole crises and one of the challenge of news at the current moment is the fact that at no other time in history do we have such a deluge, such a tsunami of information to contend with. “Because of the speed and volumes through which information and news reaches us, the capacity to blur the boundaries of journalism and non-journalism has narrowed, and the capacity to disinform and misinform has also grown out of bounds.” He however, advised journalists to maintain balance and fairness in their reports as the twin concepts which are central to journalistic ethics.