Nigeria’s Federal Government on Tuesday reacted to claim by a member of the British Parliament, Tom Tugendhat that former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon took half of Central Bank’s money with him to London, rubbishing the insinuation.
British MP Tom Tom Tugendhat had during debate on #EndSARS protest at the parliament alleged that Gowon took half of Central Bank with him to London when he was overthrown.
The country’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, at a news conference in Ikeja, Lagos, said Gowon served Nigeria with the best of his ability, saying that the MP displayed sheer ignorance.
The minister also lashed out at the entire British Parliament over what he called poor debate on the #EndSARS protest without seeking to know the truth.
In his words: “In particular, it is most disheartening that Parliamentarians in a country with a history of upholding the finest ideals of democracy will act in such an uninformed manner on an issue such as EndSARS.
“The quality of the debate at the British Parliament on EndSARS was under par. Fake accusations based on fake news and disinformation were levelled against the Federal Government by poorly-informed participants at the debate.
“One MP even accused former Nigerian leader Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd), who served this country to the best of his ability, of stealing half of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Sheer Ignorance!
“The flippant MP, who unfortunately chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British House of Commons, did a great disservice to himself, the Committee he chairs and the entire Parliament by allowing himself to be misled by fake news exponents.”
Mohammed said fittingly, the British Government has distanced itself from him.
He stated that even an international broadcaster like CNN was misled by fake news and disinformation, noting that CNN has itself to blame for relying on unauthenticated videos, which it took from social media.
Mohammed said CNN is now seeking to save face by trying to clarify its report, which was not only inaccurate but failed the simple test of balance and fairness.
“The attempt to walk back its earlier report has justifiably attracted the anger of Nigerians. As you all know, the Federal Government has written a letter to CNN asking it to use its own internal mechanism to probe its so-called investigative report on the Lekki Toll Gate incident.
“We have received an acknowledgement of our letter, saying the letter has been referred to CNN’s Editorial Team. We await the outcome of their probe. But CNN has egg on its face for airing an ”exclusive investigation” that is hinged on nothing but fake news,” he added.
The minister stated that the Nigerian government remained concerned about the abuse of social media, and would continue to look for ways to ensure a responsible use of the platform.
He appealed to online publishers, who relied heavily on the new media, to help in weeding out those who are abusing it.
“If things get to a level where people can no longer trust anything published online, no one stands to lose more than media practitioners. That’s why we continue to seek your support on this issue,” he added.
Mohammed emphasised that checking the abuse of social media was not synonymous with stifling press freedom or free speech, as fake news and disinformation we not the same as free speech.
“For the umpteenth time, I want to say that this government has no plan to stifle free speech, neither do we have any intention of shutting down the internet as some have claimed. Social media has come to stay, and those who use it responsibly have nothing to fear. But those who abuse it are right to be worried,” he said.