As the 2023 general elections draw closer, the Department of State Services (DSS) has cautioned civil society organisations (CSOs) against fake news and being used by people it called mischievous elements to disrupt Nigeria’s democracy.
Speaking at a one-day brainstorming session with CSOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the director-general of the DSS, Yusuf Magaji Bichi, said although the relationship between the Service and CSOs have been cordial, the recent actions by some pressure groups have left much to be desired.
The DG, who was represented by the director of administration, Kabir Sani, also said that sequel to increasing security challenges facing the country, occasioned by the activities of terrorists, kidnappers, cattle rustlers, political thugs, cultists and other undesirable elements working to scuttle the nation’s nascent democratic project, there was urgent need to establish a synergy and partnership between the civil society organisations and members of the intelligence community to find lasting solutions to the challenges.
He said: “As 2023 general elections draw nearer, all hands must be on deck to ensure that the elections are free and fair, devoid of rancor and anarchy.
“The role of civil society organizations and non governmental organizations in enhancing national security cannot be overemphasized. This is because in recent times, subversive elements are leveraging on the social media platforms to weaken the democratic structures for effective governance in most countries by conscripting gullible minds to achieve their sinister motives.
“For instance, the January 6, 2021, Capitol Hill riot in United States (US) became escalated, following reports of about forty thousand (40,000) “fake news” per hour by users of facebook (Washington Post, 2021).
“In Central African Republic (CAR), its recently conducted election was marred with targeted disinformation campaigns and divisive rhetoric capable of undermining national security.
“In Nigeria, the development is gradually becoming worrisome, especially as the 2023 general elections draw near. Suffice it to say that since the advent of fourth
republic, our Nation has been confronted with the menace of pervasive hate speeches, disinformation and fake news which have tended to fan the embers of disunity by whipping up anti-government sentiments. More worrisome, is the establishment of some pressure groups under the guise of enhancing national security, but with questionable links to foreign hostile organizations or locally subversive individuals.
“Consequently, these unhealthy developments have deepened the mistrust between CSOs/NGOs, and security agencies, thereby weakening the fibre of robust relationship and synergy for facilitating national security.”
Also speaking, the spokesperson of the DSS, Dr. Peter Afunanya, said the purpose of the gathering was to re-establish the goodwill of the Service with the CSOs and urged the groups to always remember that there must be accountability for actions in shaping Nigeria’s democracy.
Speaking for the CSOs, Clement Nwankwo, said no CSO would want to cause problem for Nigeria and urged the DSS and other security agencies to rise up to their duties to curtail insecurity in the country.