The Nigerian High Commission in Accra, Ghana, has urged Nigerians living in Ghana to discountenance a message circulating on WhatsApp which says Nigerians without a resident permit would not be able to withdraw their deposits from Ghanaian banks beginning from November this year.
The high commission in a statement issued on Wednesday said the message was fake and should, therefore, be ignored by Nigerians in Ghana.
The statement, signed by one A. H. Ibrahim on behalf of the Nigerian high commissioner, asked Nigerians resident in Ghana to continue to respect the laws of their host country.
The release of the fake message coincided with when journalists, other media-related professionals, and government officials from West African countries gathered in Accra to discuss the impact of fake news in the region, especially with regards to elections.
“Fake news or what we call information distortion has always been there, what technology has done is to make it viral,” Dapo Olorunyomi, a Nigerian journalist and publisher of Premium Times said at West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards (#WAMECA2019) organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa.
“Technology provides a chamber where information exchange is now happening. Say between 15 to 20 million Nigerians are on Facebook, daily perhaps. I don’t know the number in Ghana, but I expect it to be as huge. That then effectively made Facebook the biggest newsroom in Nigeria.
“So, technology is a component of the distortion, then, of course, the community itself. If you look at it in aggregate terms, far more of this is happening through a mechanism like WhatsApp and so on. And these are citizens – my mother, my sister, your friends, perhaps your pastor, your imam, all these people are peddling these things (fake news) on a daily basis.
“All these coincide with an age where trust in the media has totally depreciated. It’s a real problem we are facing as journalists. If truth is slipping off our hands, we have to struggle to retake it.”
Mr Olorunyomi said besides journalists fact-checking the information available in the public domain, there was a need for media practitioners, government officials, civil society organisations, and other interest groups to hold talks with tech companies on how to tackle information distortion in the region.
He said tackling illiteracy in the region could also help people to distinguish what is not true from what is true, whenever they come across a piece of information.
WhatsApp is one of the platforms owned by Facebook.
Akua Gyekye, Public Policy Manager, Africa and MENA Elections at Facebook was one of the speakers at the #WAMECA2019.
Ms Gyekye, who said Facebook has for some years now shut down several accounts for spreading fake news, urged users of the social media site to report to Facebook any account suspected to have violated its community guidelines.