By Rotimi Ijikanmi
Gov. Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State has advocated broader jurisdiction for States legislature and judiciary to legislate and adjudicate on strict laws to tackle the menace of fake news and hate speech.
The governor made the call when the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed paid him a courtesy visit on the sideline of the 47th Meeting of the National Council on Information, holding in the state capital.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports, the minister, states Commissioners of Information, Heads of federal information agencies and other stakeholder attended the meeting.
The theme of the meeting is : “Fighting Fake News and Hate Speech to Enhance and National Unity”
The governor who said the theme for the Council meeting was apt added that Kaduna had bore the brunt of hate speech and fake news more than any other state in the federation.
He noted that fake news and hate speech could tear the nation apart and therefore required strict and vigorous law enforcement actions.
el-Rufai, however said that Kaduna like other states was constraint to using the outdated penal code in fighting hate speech and fake news.
Specifically, the governor said the jurisdiction of state high courts should be widened to enable them have Cyber Crime Act that provides framework to pursuing people that use social media to proliferate fake news.
He noted that the states could not effectively prosecute those that are involved in the crime because they are relying on the penal code.
The governor gave the instance of a fake report circulated in the social media by one Aminu Maikori which claimed that five students of the College of Education, Gidan Waya, were ambushed and killed by Fulani herdsmen in southern Kaduna.
He said the report which turned out to be false almost triggered reprisal killings, “yet the mastermind of the fake news was still walking the street freely because of absence of firm law.
“Audu Maikori who sat in the comfort of his home in Lagos and posted a story that 5 students of Journalism of College of Education Gidan Waya had been killed which was totally false.
“We are prosecuting Audu Maikori and when he realised that he was misled, he posted a retraction and thought that was all.
“We said No, we are going to have him convicted first. But this was since 2016, we are in 2018 he is still on bail.
“We have fundamental problems. We need to give state governments and state high courts jurisdiction to try these people because the federal government cannot do it alone.
“What we are thinking of doing in Kaduna state is to enact our own legislation to tackle the menace.
“We need a stronger framework that will compel the technologies and processes that are used now more than ever,” he said.
The governor also explained that the recent crisis in Kaduna metropolis and Kasuwan Magani was largely as a result of hate speech.
“Rumours started circulating that the abducted Chief of Agara had been killed and within an hour, 22 people were killed in reprisal attacks.
“The story circulated was that I invited the chief to a meeting and told him that his chiefdom will become an emirate and when he disagreed with me, I said I would deal with him.
“So, when he was abducted on his way back from Kachia it was implied that I had arranged the abduction. This was what started the crises and it is totally false.
“I have never invited any chief to the government house except when they write to me and say they want to meet me for one reason or the other”.
The governor queried: “Why should I have argument with a Chief or abduct him, when in fact, if he flouts the law, I have legitimate and constitutional power to abolish his chiefdom or emirate.
“Unfortunately, that was the fake story that was circulated, it raised tension and till today parts of that chiefdom are still under partial curfew”.
In addition, the governor said the fake news about the cloning of the President was not peculiar to him.
He said someone also went to his Wikipedia page and changed his birthplace to Bamako, Mali.
el-Rufai commended the Council for bringing the meeting to Kaduna and charged participants to come up with strong recommendations to tackle the menace.
Earlier, the minister had called on the states to compliment the efforts of the federal government in fighting fake news and hate speech.
He said the fake news phenomenon was increasing because the opposition were using it as campaign tool to discredit the Buhari administration ahead of the 2019 elections.