The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has said videos being circulated purportedly showing how Nigerians are being killed in South Africa are fake and misleading.
The minister said not only are those videos inflaming passion, they are also complicating the efforts of the government to calm frayed nerves at home in the wake of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
While addressing journalists today in Abuja, the minister mentioned three of the videos.
“One video shows a man who has been set ablaze trying to escape, and those circulating the video identified the man as Nigerian,” he said. “This is not true, the video shows Mozambican Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, a victim of xenophobic violence in South Africa in 2008, and it is not that of a Nigerian being attacked in 2019.”
“Another video shows those said to be Nigerians jumping down from a multi-storey building that was purportedly set on fire by xenophobic attackers in South Africa.
“This is fake news as the video is that of a Suraj Coaching Centre in Gujarat State, India, that was gutted by fire on May 24, 2019, leaving about 18 people dead.
“The third video, purportedly showing the bodies of Nigerians who were burnt in xenophobic attacks, is the raw footage of those who were killed in a Tanzanian fuel tanker explosion in Morogoro that left at least 60 dead on August 10, 2019,” he said.
Danger of fake news
While reiterating the dangers posed by fake news and disinformation, the minister referred to the national campaign against fake news which was launched last year which he said is more urgent now.
“Fake news and disinformation represent a clear and present danger to every society,” he said.
He also appealed to opinion leaders and celebrities in the country to be guarded in their utterances and comments on the xenophobic attacks and reactions from Nigerians.
“Words have meaning, and wrong words are like poisoned darts in the words of the Buddha, better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace,” he said.
He assured that the federal government will leave no stone unturned to protect Nigerian citizens in South Africa.
The minister appealed to Nigerians who are angered by the attacks not to reciprocate by destroying and looting properties “as it will only hurt us more”.
“MTN is listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the investors in this company are Nigerians. The workers are mostly Nigerians. Same applies to other South African businesses in the country. By attacking them, we are hurting our own people,” he said.
President Buhari had on Tuesday dispatched a special envoy to convey his concerns to President Cyril Ramaphosa over the attacks.
The Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, also summoned the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria. Equally, the Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa has been recalled as both nations scramble to untie the diplomatic knot.
Nigeria has also pulled out from the World Economic Forum on Africa taking place in South Africa.
On Wednesday, a Nigerian airline, Air Peace, offered to bring back Nigerians who are willing to come back to Nigeria for free.