… of reports and claims that leave room for speculation


The past one week has kept the mainstream and social media abuzz. The saga started with reports attributing the recent killings in Plateau State to the Chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Danladi Ciroma. He has vehemently denied this and there seems to be no hard evidence for a counterclaim from the press.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s alleged call for national prayers also made the news. The SUN reported his request that Nigerians should pray over the same mayhem spread across five communities in Plateau State which left over 150 people dead.

Expectedly, the report generated mixed reactions on the social media and other channels, most of which vilified the President. The SUN story leaves some room for speculation nonetheless. Premium Times and Vanguard reported that discussions during the President’s sympathy visit to Jos were held behind closed doors and highlighted his commitment towards ending the rampage. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that some government crew in the meeting taped the discussions and shared with the press. How come no other news medium published the President’s prayer request except the SUN? And just before we jump to conclusions, the Presidency has not reacted to the SUN report. Bottom line? It remains speculative.

This same week, Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu asserted that Nigeria produces more electricity than it can consume during a chat with journalists in Abuja.

The quote reads thus: “We have more power in terms of electricity than can be consumed by the DISCOs. We have 2000MW excess of electricity that is not being evacuated. Before the end of the year, we are going to hit 10,000 megawatts from the 2500 megawatts we inherited. The burden by government, for now, is how do we sell this power? How do we take it to Nigerians who need it?

Some of his claims are hypothetical. First off, available National Bureau of Statistics (NBC) records for May 29, 2015, the day President Buhari officially took over, peg power generation at 2690MW, not 2500MW as claimed.

Second, Mr Shehu did not elaborate on the excess 2000MW he cited, which has been in the news since February this year. At the last check, GENCOs can potentially ramp up their generation capacity to 7000MW, but the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) can only distribute 5000MW – leaving 2000MW unutilised. Has the TCN’s capacity improved considering all the pipeline vandalism and gas shortages that make the news on a regular basis?

Third, the Federal Government projects it will achieve 10,000MW by the end of 2019 through its Power Recovery Programme. Last time we checked, this target has not been revised backwards by the Minister of Power. So Mr Shehu’s claim that this target will be met before the end of 2018 may be overly ambitious.

Governor Ayo Fayose is not left out of the rash of speculative news. He has alleged that Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials in the state are conspiring to preload card readers and stuff ballot boxes. Yesterday, there were reports that he confronted INEC officials with video evidence buttressing his claims. But INEC summarily dismissed the video with the excuse that card readers meant for the Ekiti election have not been configured. Which of the parties is telling the truth?

This week has seen the mindless killings of seven on-duty policemen and youthful Linda Angela Igwetu, an Abuja corps member. We have seen social media images of 41 throats allegedly slit in faraway Zamfara for no apparent reason.

These are trying times to say the least. But the speculative reports and claims reinforce the argument that we need to be circumspect. It’s in our best interest to FACT-CHECK the news before we click that share button and heat up the polity any further.

Francis Jakpor is the Programme Manager (Election Fact-Checking Project), Paradigm Initiative.