*Nigeria safer today than 2015 when terrorists held court in many N/E LGs, says Lai Mohammed; adds The Economist was wrong about Nigeria
*Deplores Nigerian media for amplifying British newspaper’s report
*FG now notorious for lying – Adebanjo, Afenifere leader
*It’s false, unfortunate, laughable to say Nigeria is safer today than 2015 – MBF
*We won’t want to join issues with the minister – ACF
*It’s unfortunate Lai’s unaware of happenings in Nigeria – Ohanaeze
*He’s not in tune with reality – PANDEFlWe disagree with the minister – CAN
By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor, Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Peter Duru, Davies Iheamnachor, Luminous Jannamike & Ibrahim Hassan
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, yesterday stirred the hornet’s nest, saying Nigeria is safer now than it was in 2015, as regional groups in the country did not only disagree with him but also contended he was living in fantasyland.
The groups include the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, its counterparts in the South-East, Niger Delta, Middle Belt and North, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Middle Belt Forum, MBF and Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF.
The minister was, however reacting to the report on Nigeria by London-based magazine, The Economist, which he described as not only wrong but also unacceptable.
The magazine had reported that Jihadist threat against Nigeria had worsened in size and scope, despite the effort of the military to check it.
But Mohammed at a briefing in Abuja, picked holes in the report which he claimed was wrong in its entirety and faulted some Nigeria media for amplifying same report without any attempt to verify the contents.
Mr. Mohammed said The Economist magazine, part of the Economist Group, had always made wrong predictions about Nigeria and will continue to be fallible, recalling how it predicted victory for Atiku Abubakar in the 2019 presidential election, which was subsequently won by Muhammadu Buhari with over three million votes margin.
Mohammed said the facts were clear and available for right-thinking persons to see that the country was better today in terms of security than it was in 2015 when President Buhari took over, pointing out that at that time, many local government areas in the Northeast were being run by terrorists who held court in those places.
‘The Economist was wrong’
Mohammed said: “When The Economist reported its patently-wrong and badly-researched story, it was immediately amplified by the local media, without even interrogating its content. This is totally unconscionable!
‘’For example, The Economist reported that the jihadist threat in the North-east has ‘metastasized’, and everyone knows that this is totally inaccurate.
“Prior to the time it was dislodged, which was before December 2015 when I led a team of local and international journalists to Bama in Borno State, Boko Haram established the headquarters of its so-called Caliphate in that town (Bama), where it hoisted its flag, collected taxes as well as installed and removed emirs at will.
‘’Today, Boko Haram has no Caliphate anywhere in Nigeria. Yet, the Nigerian press regurgitated that report by The Economist.
“Again, at a time that Boko Haram and ISWAP are taking on each other in a mutually-destructive lockstep, and at a time the terrorists are surrendering in droves as a result of heavy pounding by the military, it is wrong to say that jihadists are carving out a caliphate in the North-East, as the Economist reported.
‘’In any case, why would the Nigerian media become an echo chamber for a foreign newspaper that denigrates the Nigerian military and makes light of the sacrifices of our valiant troops? Would the British or American press regurgitate a report in the Nigerian press denigrating their militaries?
“The Nigerian press is reputed to be one of the most vibrant in the world. This is not a fluke. The Nigerian press has indeed earned its epaulets and its vibrancy has been honed by years of fearlessly taking on whoever crosses its path, whether they are colonialists or military rulers.
‘’It is, therefore, not a surprise that the media was assigned a role by the 1999 Constitution. Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution tasks the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media to, at all time, and be free to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.’’
FG now notorious for lying — Adebanjo, Afenifere leader
Reacting to the Information Minister’s claim about Nigeria being safer now than it was in 2015, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, faulted the claim, saying the Federal Government was now notorious for lying.
Afenifere’s acting Leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, said: “There is no point answering Lai Mohammed again. I won’t say more.
“If at the rate people are dying every day, kidnapped everyday, murdered every day across the country, the government can easily say the country is safer now, it is unfortunate. He can only be deceiving the people in Aso Rock and not Nigerians or the world and that is why Buhari has the kind of people who surround him.”
It’s false, unfortunate, laughable to say Nigeria is safer today than 2015 – MBF
In its reaction, the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, said the claim by the Minister was not only false but also unfortunate and laughable.
National President of MBF, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, who stated this in Makurdi yesterday, said: “The claim is just laughable, that was why I was laughing when you asked me to react.
“Anybody who says Nigeria is safer now is not sincere and it is unfortunate that a Minister who has data, who is well informed, being the Minister of Information, will make such a statement; knowing that on daily basis, many people are being kidnapped and killed, is sad.
“In 2015, all those incidents were happening just around the North East and North West, but today, it is all over the country. Even train is being bombed, aircraft is being shot down and all sorts of things.
“For him to make such a statement is unfortunate. It’s good for government to come out clean and tell the people that gentlemen, we have failed in these areas, bear with us but let’s put heads together and know how to better the situation.
“But to say the country is safer today than 2015 is totally false and unfortunate for a minister of information to make such a statement.
We won’t want to join issues with the minister – ACF
Also reacting, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, asked the Federal Government to rescue the country from its current security challenges.
National Publicity Secretary of the group, Emmanuel Yawe, who stated this in reaction to Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s claim that Nigeria is safer today than 2015, said: “We don’t want to engage Lai Mohammed in this argument.
‘’Our stand on insecurity in present day Nigeria is well-known. It behoves the government to ensure criminal activities in the country are put to an end.”
It’s unfortunate Lai’s unaware of happenings in Nigeria – Ohanaeze
On its part, the apex Igbo Socio-Cultural Organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said the remark showed that the minister was oblivious of what was happening in the country.
Ohanaeze’s National Publicity Secretary, Chief Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia, told Vanguard on phone: “I don’t want to believe that the Information and Culture Minister will make such remarks. It shows that he is not really aware of what is happening in Nigeria, and it is unfortunate.”
He’s not in tune with reality – PANDEF
On its part, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, stated that the position of the minister showed that he (Mohammed) had lost terms with reality.
The National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, said in Port Harcourt yesterday that things had changed for worst since the All Progressives Congress, APC, took over in 2015.
He said: ‘’He is not in tune with reality and that is the least we can say. They live in denial and they will never say the truth for whatever reason.
“They can continue to pretend and deceive themselves, but the world is aware of the precarious state and situation in Nigeria and that it is becoming unbearable.
“People no longer go about their businesses freely. Both social and economic activities are affected, particularly in the North-West, North Central and parts of South West and South-South where marauders parading as bandits have made life unbearable for citizens of Nigeria and it is unfortunate that officials of government continue to play this ridiculous narrative that life is safer now.
“One wonders when this Buhari administration will stop comparing and giving excuses. The past is past.
“You came and told Nigerians you will make things happen, you will make things better, but unfortunately the change is change for the worst.
“Look at the economic situation, look at the value of the Naira, look at the cost of living, it is terrible and I think Lai Mohammed and other officials like him should stop taking Nigerians for granted.
“It is funny, where schools children are kidnapped at will, traditional rulers are being kidnapped, it’s a big business now and perhaps, some government functionaries are benefitting from it, that is why they make this ridiculous statement.”
We disagree with the minister – CAN
The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in its reaction, disagreed with the minister, saying Nigeria had never had it this bad in terms of security.
CAN’s Director of National Issues and Social Welfare, Bishop Stephen Adegbite, said: “We do not agree with the minister’s assertions, but they are his personal opinions.
“Majority of Nigerians will disagree him on this matter. Definitely, we cannot agree with him.
“Going by his antecedents, many citizens no longer believe his statements about the state of affairs in the nation, and this is quite unfortunate.
“We know that Nigeria today is not better than it was in 2015, going by the rate of abductions, banditry, wanton killings of innocent people, attacks on security personnel, destruction of government establishments, and even lopsidedness in federal appointments, among other injustices and pain in the land.
“For us, we cannot agree with Alhaji Lai Mohammed.”