Talking Points For The Hon. Minister of Information and Culture, Alh. Lai Mohammed, during a Press Conference in Abuja

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The Hon. Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed during a Press Conference in Abuja on Thursday, 20 February 2020

TALKING POINTS FOR THE HON. MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, DURING A PRESS CONFERENCE IN ABUJA ON THURSDAY, 20 FEBRUARY 2020

SPIKE IN FAKE NEWS AND DISINFORMATION
There has been a spike in the dissemination of fake news and the use of disinformation in recent times This is not accidental: Fake news, disinformation and hate speech have become the weapons of choice to create tension in the polity and destabilize the country. And those behind it, the naysayers, are not about to relent.
For some people, the 2019 elections are not over. They are stuck in the pre-election mode. And they must continue to use these weapons to put Nigeria on edge.

We have security challenges and we are tackling them head on. There is no question about that. But the challenges are being aggravated by fake news and disinformation, in particular. Those behind this campaign of fake news and disinformation have also deployed new tactics, top of which is the recycling of old news items and videos.
A good example is the video of the over 400 young men suspected to be Boko Haram members who were intercepted in Abia state in 2014. About two weeks ago, the video came back into circulation, creating panic in the polity. Their intention is simple: to create tension and panic in the country.

Other recent instances of fake news:
– that President Muhammadu Buhari will be travelling to the UK for 20 days before proceeding to Saudi Arabia and Austria
– that the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, wasattacked at the Rigasa train station in Kaduna
– that the Nigerian Air Force killed 250 Boko Haram insurgents.
– that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy is planning to unveil some new ‘communication regulations’ aimed at recording all calls, monitoring Whatsapp, Twitter and Facebook, etc

Even private individuals have also been victims of this scourge

We will continue to appeal to Nigerians to be circumspect in believing or circulating these fake news, as we did when we launched our national campaign against fake news in 2018.
We are also pushing ahead with our plan to sanitize the social media, working with stakeholders.
By March 2nd 2020, we will inaugurate the stakeholders committee that will deliberate and recommend the way forward.
We are also planning a major international conference that will bring together the tech companies, media practitioners, policy makes and others as part of efforts to tackle this growing canker-worm Last week, I met with representatives of Google and Facebook for the same purpose.
The situation is dire, and no nation that values its peace, security and stability will allow an irresponsible use of the social media.

INSECURITY
As I said earlier, the country is facing security challenges, and the challenges are being tackled headlong.
However, there have been some red herrings in recent times, including those calling for the resignation of Mr. President or the sack of the
security chiefs.
I just want to say that the government, which has provided and continues to provide the military and the security agencies with the wherewithal, believes in their ability to tackle insecurity. These challenges will be successfully tackled. I will however advise all commentators, especially political and religious leaders, to be very careful at this time not to aggravate the situation with incendiary comments, comments that cash in on our religious, ethnic and political fault lines to further divide us. The kind of comments that have been attributed to some leaders, especially religious leaders, are incendiary and reckless. Leaders should be part of solutions to problems, rather than aggravating situations.
To those asking Mr. President to resign, I wish to say this: Mr President will not resign. He has the overwhelming mandate of Nigerians to preside over the affairs of the country till the expiration of his tenure in May 2023.

DISRUPTION OF INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS TO THE MURTALA MOHAMMED INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT IN LAGOS
In recent times, some international flights billed for the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos have diverted to other airports within and outside the country due to adverse weather conditions at the airport.
This has led to a debate on the state of the navigational aids at the airport.

First, let me apologize to all our citizens and other travellers who have had to endure inconveniences resulting from the diversion of their flights. This is highly regretted.

I will also like to quickly take us through what caused the problem. In its commitment to passenger safety and security, the Federal Government has recently taken the decision to upgrade the navigational facilities at some major airports across the country. Consequently, the navigational aids at airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt, Asaba, etc. were all marked for an upgrade from Category II Instrument Landing System (CAT II ILS) to top-of-the-class CAT III ILS. In the first phase, the CAT III ILS was procured and installed in Lagos and Abuja. In addition, the government procured a calibration aircraft instead of renting one each time for $500,000. Both Abuja and Lagos airports were calibrated. The CAT III ILS is working perfectly
here in Abuja. But after calibration, some incorrect readings were noticed in the CAT III ILS at the MMA. Just as it was about to be re-calibrated, the weather situation in Lagos changed for the worse, hence the disruption of international flights into Lagos.

Some airlines opted to divert their flights to Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana, which, by the way, does not even have a CAT III ILS but where the weather was not as adverse as that in Lagos.
Many travellers bound for Nigeria became stranded. Again, this is much regretted. Of course, the same flights could have diverted to Abuja, which has a perfectly-functioning CAT III ILS and where flights to Lagos are regular. But they instead chose to fly to Accra.

Some commentators have alleged that perhaps the CAT III ILS was not bought or installed in Lagos and Abuja. This is not true. The equipment was indeed procured and installed in both airports. But for the hitch I referred to earlier, there would have been no disruptions at the MMA. Accusation of ineptitude against aviation officials is misplaced. Otherwise, the Abuja CAT III ILS would not have been working perfectly now

May I also inform you all that a number of airports around the world, even in the advance world, don’t even have CAT III ILS. This is because they feel that because adverse weather is only for a short period in a year, they don’t feel that the kind of huge cost that is required to acquire it is justified. Even the Kotoka International Airport that most flights were diverted to does not have CAT III ILS.

NOTE: When the CAT III ILS in Lagos ran into a hitch, the CAT II ILS at the runway 18R (international runway) remained the only option. But with CAT II ILS, pilots can only land their planes with a minimum visibility of 800 metres, compared to zero visibility for CAT III ILS.

The weather phenomenon that reduced visibility at the International wing of the MMA is not unique to Nigeria. As some flights were being diverted from the Lagos airport, over 200 flights were either being diverted or cancelled at Heathrow in London

I am happy to announce that the two runways at the airport in Lagos have now been calibrated for CAT III ILS and NOTAM sent out

$500 MILLION LOAN
In an era of social media, the real news is usually sacrificed on the altar of sensationalism and disinformation.
That’s how I will describe the hysteria, in a section of the media, over the reportage of the $500 million loan being sought from China.
It is wrong to report that the loan is being sought for the NTA alone.
Indeed, the loan is for three major projects

1. To construct a headquarters complex and transmission network for INTEGRATED TELEVISION SERVICES (ITS), the FG-owned signal distributor that is a major component of the country’s Digital Switch Over (DSO)

2. To build an ultra-modern Media City in Ikorodu that will have the following facilities
– Indoor/Outdoor shooting area
-Animation Production Facility
– Digital Media Training Centre
– World Class Cinema
– Four-Star Hotel
– An Amusement Park
– Amphitheater
(b) Acquisition of digital movie production equipment for rental as well as power system (c) Media City Training Academy, only the second of its type in Africa
(the first is in Egypt) that will train Nigerian broadcasters and film makers in the production of high quality media content programmes and make Nigeria a hub for digital movie production in Sub-Saharan Africa

(3) Digitization of NTA Stations

(a) Digitization of all NTA stations
– Headquarters
– 12 Zonal Stations
– 36 State Capital NTA Stations
– 76 Community Station

(b) Upgrade, purchase and installation of relevant digital TV broadcasting equipment compatible with DSO products and accessories that are necessary for the production and broadcast of digital programme contents, in addition to provision of power system and manpower training

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S ACCUSATION THAT THE MILITARY BURNT SOME VILLAGES AND FORCEFULLY DISPLACED THE RESIDENTS

I am aware that the Defence Headquarters has responded appropriately to this accusation

The military denied razing down villages and detaining locals unlawfully; that it does not employ arson as an operational tactic; and that looting and burning of villages is the style of Boko Haram Terrorists

I will like to add that in carrying out their duties, Amnesty International should not cast themselves in the league of Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists. They should stop the growing practice of constantly attacking the military and casting them as the bad guys, when all they are doing is putting their lives on the line to fight terrorists who have no respect for the sanctity of life, who willfully go after women and children, who attack houses of worship without respect or allegiance to any religion. Amnesty International should stop providing succour for terrorists by attributing their atrocities to our troops. Our soldiers, who are defending the country, are guided by extant rules of engagement and operational codes of conduct. They should not be made to look like the aggressors here.

I am aware that the Federal Government has always taken seriously any allegation of rights violation by soldiers or other security forces.
Investigations have been carried out and culprits, if any, punished.
And it is a continuous process.