A presidential statement on Monday described as fake a report that President Muhammadu Buhari was poised for a 20-day vacation to the UK.
Many online sources had claimed the president was bound to embark on a 20-day vacation to the UK on Wednesday, after which he would visit Saudi Arabia and then on March 2, depart for Austria for the World Economic Summit.
However, not only is a 20-day vacation between February 19 and March 2 impossible, the said World Economic Summit always holds at the end of January in Davos, Switzerland. The 2020 edition held between 20–24 January.
Presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, described the report as “unfounded information” and “nothing but falsehood from mischievous minds.”
Mr Adesina also urged Nigerians to be careful about what they consume as news, and also share with others, particularly from the social media.
“We urge Nigerians to be discriminatory about what they accept as credible information and restrain themselves from sharing what they have not authenticated as genuine. That is how we can all collectively beat the malevolent minds at their pernicious games.”
This latest round of false report ascribed to the office of the presidency joins a viral video where the president was said to be set for a phantom wedding with two of his ministers, finance minister Zainab Ahmed and humanitarian affairs minister Sadiya Farouq.
The State Security Service has since apprehended the alleged mastermind of the video, Kabiru Mohammed, a 32-year-old indigene of Kano.
Citing sections 392 and 393 of the Criminal Penal Code, the SSS filed charges of defamation and injurious falsehood against Mr Muhammad — charges which could earn him a maximum of three years’ imprisonment, without fine, if found guilty.
Also, in the buildup to the last presidential election, President Buhari had his name smeared by a report that he was an impostor.
Called a certain ‘Jibrin’ from Sudan, the report, attributed to fugitive IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu, claimed the real Buhari had died from a chronic illness.
It took a rare rebuttal from the president himself before the flame of the claim was doused.
Referencing these cases, the federal government has shown willingness to tackle fake news in the country. But some critics see the government’s intent as a move to clamp down on opposition and gag dissent.
Meanwhile, much to the backlash of the public, two bills: social media and hate speech bills are receiving legislative consideration at the nation’s upper chamber.