Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, believes that just because bandits levy levies on communities does not imply they have gained control.
At a news conference on Thursday in Abuja, Mohammed made the remark in response to an article headed “Insurgency, secessionism, and banditry threaten Nigeria” from The Economist.
In response to a London magazine reporting that terrorists had carved out caliphates for themselves in the North East, the minister stated that the magazine was wrong.
Speaking to reporters about banditry in the North West, where bandits now impose levies on communities, Mohammed argued that taxation does not necessarily mean crime is in charge, adding that it occurs throughout the country including in the South, where touts commonly referred to as ‘area boys’ impose levies on residents.
“Do you know how many places in this country where area boys collect taxes? And there is no terrorism or banditry there. I don’t want to mention names.
“In many of our cities, they carve out their own territory. So, it is not indicative of the bandits have taken over.
“No. I know many areas in Nigeria both in the South and the North where these kinds of things happen. So, it is not the same thing.”
The minister pleaded with the Nigerian press to refrain from exaggerating the shortcomings of the country’s international counterparts.
Mohammed narrated what transpired. As projected by The Economist Intelligence Unit, the People’s Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, Atiku Abubakar, will win in 2019, but that forecast proved to be incorrect.
“President Muhammadu Buhari won re-election by over three million votes. So, The Economist and other arms of the group are not infallible,” the minister argued.
When Nigerian media reprints content from other nations, Mohammed claims, it damages Nigeria’s independent and dynamic brand.
“The Nigerian media does itself a great disservice by turning itself into an echo chamber of the foreign media. When The Economist reported its patently-wrong and badly-researched story, it was immediately amplified by the local media, without even interrogating its content? This is totally unconscionable!” he added.
The minister maintained that contrary to the article by The Economist, Boko Haram had been degraded. He, therefore, lambasted the newspaper for attempting to downplay the exploits of the Nigerian military.
“Again, at a time that Boko Haram and ISWAP are taking on each other in a mutually-destructive lockstep, and at a time that the terrorists are surrendering in droves as a result of heavy pounding by the military, it is wrong to say that Jihadists are carving out a Caliphate in the North-East, as The Economist reported.
“In any case, why would the Nigerian media become an echo chamber for a foreign newspaper that denigrates the Nigerian military and makes light of the sacrifices of our valiant troops? Would the British or American press regurgitate a report in the Nigerian press denigrating their militaries?”