A South-East/South-South based civil society organization, Human Rights and Security Accountability Watch (HURISAW), has expressed concerns over what it tagged a smear campaign by some “subversive elements within the opposition” to instill fear and scare potential investors away from Enugu State and other states in the region, using fake news and propaganda to magnify kidnapping incidence in the state.
In a statement issued by its director of information, Mr. Kingsley Oluoma, on Tuesday in Enugu, HURISAW said the group was concerned over the growing spate of fake news in the South East Zone about insecurity, particularly kidnapping incidences in Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi, Abia and Imo states, stressing that the true situation on ground was almost the opposite of what the purveyors of the fake news wanted people to believe.
It stated that as a responsible, non-partisan and independent civil society organisation in affiliation with other reputable international bodies, it would never be on the side of any government or align with opposition elements to mislead the members of the public, especially in the area of security and safety of the people.
The statement added that the security of life and property of the citizens was the group’s utmost priority and had to hold the government, both federal and state to account whenever there was a security breach, adding that security was not an issue with which to play politics.
HURISAW further noted that it had deployed its members who were well-trained on information and intelligence gathering to different communities in Enugu State where some people alleged that kidnapping had taken place and that their findings showed the false alarms on social media were sponsored, as no such thing as multiple kidnappings had happened in the state.
It, however, admitted in the statement of the existence of fragile locations where security presence had to be reinforced such as the Ugwuogo Nike-Opi Road, where some kidnappers were recently killed in their hideouts by special forces of the Nigeria Police, and Udi –Ezeagu axis, in order to allay the fears of motorists.
“We note with grave concerns, the spate of fake news flying around on social media and also on mainstream media about kidnapping incidences and other security infractions in the South East Zone where we actively operate as a reputable civil society organization with the mandate to hold accountable national and sub-national governments on the areas of human rights protection and security of lives and property as contained in section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which provides that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.
“Over the past three weeks, we have been on the trail of information and intelligence on the alleged cases of kidnappings as read on the social media and other mainstream media by dispatching our members who were adequately trained to the communities and areas said have been affected by the security breaches for independent investigation.
“Our findings, corroborated other material evidence, showed that the incidences of the security breaches such as kidnapping and wanton killings of innocent citizens were mere hoax and an attempt to discredit the security successes recorded by the Government of Enugu State over the past months, perhaps motivated by politics and anti-progressive spirit.
“Our interactions with members of the public revealed that most of those sharing, forwarding and peddling the fake news about the alleged kidnapping incidences in the state could not independently confirm the veracity of what they were sharing and had to base their justification on hearsay evidence. Instances of where some of them said they were forced to join others in sharing news of the kidnapping incidences because they read it on mainstream media were rife.
“Our contacts with some of the bloggers disclosed that they were paid to blog and share some of the news by “friendly politicians and businessmen” who gave no particular reason of interest. This inference serves as a strong background to draw conclusion on the mission of some subversive elements with political inclination to discredit the efforts of the state government at attracting investments, as well as dissuading potential investors to have a rethink about the state and the entire region.
“While our findings further showed that pockets of security breaches were recorded in some areas that were immediately quelled by the combined security forces involving the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Police and the Department of State Services, we call on the government not to rest on achievements in the security space over the past months. The Distress Response Squad, IGP Special Forces, SWAT, and the military presence in the state is a commendable effort the public had received with satisfaction and it is our hope that the government of Peter Mbah will continue to sustain and reinforce the sanity.
“Finally, we call on members of the opposition and the general public to eschew fake news, reports incidents of security breaches to the appropriate authorities and avoid using themselves as willing instruments enemies of the state to propagate their evil mission in the state and the entire region. Enugu has been a safe haven for investment and we will continue to track security trend and enumerate indicators of security cracks with appropriate recommendations from our technical pool,” part of the statement read.