Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has lamented that he has really suffered from a fake statement attributed to him which has been circulating on social media at least, since 2019.
Ribadu spoke at a news conference in Abuja on Sunday, while denying the trending statement he purportedly made accusing some leading government officials of being behind banditry in the country.
The former EFCC boss lamented that though he had repeatedly denied making such a statement in the past, some Nigerians on social media keep circulating it and attributing it to him.
Ribadu said it was unfortunate that some persons out of nowhere, would create a lie and innocent people would consume and believe it.
“But I have really suffered because of it; I have a couple of friends and colleagues who also went through the same thing,” he said.
The former EFCC boss who blamed most of the country’s challenges on fake news peddled by social media said he first became aware of the false statement attributed to him in July 2019 and he immediately issued a very strong denial then, saying that it was a fabrication and had no basis.
“It was a piece of rubbish with very bad grammar and factual destruction but indeed very damaging.
“I reacted very strongly after that, it didn’t stop and I was forced again to issue a statement denying it.
“I thought that would have been the end of it, but not long afterwards, it started coming back again and am worried and concerned,” he said.
Ribadu said globally, people who were worried and concerned and wanted to fact-check had been getting in touch with him, adding that he had continued to respond to the issue every single day.
“I want to again deny in the strongest term and send a message to everybody to disregard the statements, it is not fair, it is not just.
“It is very sinful for you to create something from nowhere and attribute it to an innocent person who doesn’t know anything about it, I have nothing to do with that message.
“This is my strongest denial, everybody should please disregard the statement: it is not from me, it is not true,” Ribadu stressed.
He added that he had been inundated by messages from friends and associates who wanted to find out if the tweets on the issue were actually from him.
He, however, said he had made a formal complaint to law enforcement agencies for the records, and possibly for them to go after those responsible for the act.
Ribadu said it was the responsibility of the state to take action in such situations.
“Social media is today, partly responsible for what is going on in our country by trying to promote things that are not true and creating division based on religion and ethnicity among others things.
“They are not being fair to us, and I think the government has a duty and a responsibility to take action, nobody else can do it.
“As private citizens, we have limited capacity to take action, government has to,” Ribadu said.
He said whoever was responsible for accusing him of such lies, was being very unfair and unjust to him and had hurt him a lot.
He, therefore, called on owners of social media to do something to protect innocent people from suffering unjustly because of lies told against them on their platforms.
He added that a combination of government, established media outfits and social media companies could do something to address the situation.
“Social media companies also have a role to play, I don’t see any reason why Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
will allow such a damaging statement to go out against somebody without stopping it.
“Even though I had denied it and so many persons in the same situation did, WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter still allowed it to be moving around from one platform to the other.,” he said.
Ribadu said he however had great regards for the print media and established television stations which he noted had refused to be part of peddling fake news like most social media. According to him, social media is doing a lot of damage to the people and nation.
He said that the danger of fake news peddled mostly by social media could not be underestimated, saying that it cost the genocide in Rwanda, where close to a million people died.
The former EFCC boss said the same thing happened in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
He said that fake news portends very serious danger and could actually harm a country and its people because of its very dangerous consequences.
According to Ribadu, those behind it were doing evil to their people and their countries, adding that there was no benefit for them.
“I am a believer of freedom of expression, strong and a firm believer in the ability of people to be free, but at the same time, be responsible.
“If it is going to course harm to others, then you lose that freedom.
“I am a victim, and I don’t know why people are doing it, it’s as if am a target of something which I don’t know.
Ribadu noted that a lot of people acted on fake news and it has caused a lot of danger.