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4 mins read A weekly newsletter that takes a closer look at the aspects of truth and falsehood in recent news topics. In an uncertain time, stay informed about the latest news and updates on coronavirus-related developments in Nigeria.

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How telecoms shutdown in Zamfara state is fuelling misinformation

By Shola Ilesanmi

On September 3, 2021, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) directed all telecommunications providers to shut down services in Zamfara State in response to the growing spate of insecurity in the state, especially kidnapping and banditry.  While the decision was to further enable security forces tackle the threats, there are indications it might create information blackout in the state and stoke the spread of misinformation among residents. 

The move was also said to have been based on the request of Zamfara state government following a resolution of its state security council. According to The Guardian, a letter dated August 3, written to the NCC from the office of Zamfara State Governor, asked for the shutting down of telecoms service in the state.

However, it was only a matter of days before the shutdown was extended to over 13 local government areas in neighbouring Katsina state as confirmed by local authorities.

Zamfara state as Epicenter of Banditry in Nigeria?

Zamfara, carved out of Sokoto state in 1996, has had a fair share of Nigeria’s insecurity menace in the past decade, leaving thousands dead, hundreds of thousands homeless, and the figure of orphans and widows increasing everyday across the country.

A report by Proshare quoted the NBS National Corruption Survey for 2017 as revealing that crime and insecurity was the most important issue affecting Zamfara state at that time. Four years down the line, the situation has not improved even though there have been  at least three presidential directives on the deployment of troops to arrest the perpetrators and restore peace to the state.

In spite of this, kidnappings have continued to thrive in Zamfara with the most prominent being the abduction of more than  200 schoolgirls in the town of Jangebe in February. The schoolgirls were later freed after a ransom was reportedly paid, an allegation denied by authorities. Worried by this trend, the state government ordered total closure of schools two days before the telecommunication shut down was to take effect after gunmen had made away with many students during an attack on Kaya Day Secondary School in Maradun Local Government Area of the state, five days following the release of some students of the College Of Agriculture and Animal Science Bakura earlier abducted by bandits.

Security operatives have also not been spared of the venom of the blood spilling bandits with the latest being the death of 12 military personnel during an attack on a military base on September 12, 2021.

What is telecom shutdown?

The NCC announced a shutdown of telecom services, but because their operations are largely interwoven with the internet, it’s safe to say that what is being experienced in Zamfara and adjoining local governments in neighbouring states is a total internet shutdown.

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Tip of The Week

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There’s precious little that we can do about the barrage of misinformation that we see daily, but there’s a lot we can do together if we learn to identify suspicious claims in the news and refrain from fuelling the fire by spreading them! Here are our top picks of likely-to-be-false news which [sadly] couldn’t be fact-checked.

CLAIM: Beware of Ororo for cooking. 

SOURCE: WhatsApp Message

A message circulating on WhatsApp calls for caution while using Ororo (Groundnut oil). It draws attention to a “dangerous recycled cooking oil imported into Nigeria and being circulated across the country.” The whatsApp message advises on how to tell these recycled oils apart and urges readers to share the information to others. 

Questions to ask yourself: Who is the source? How credible is the source? Did the report cite any references? Are the references accurate? 

What you should do: Consult experts on the issue raised and the experiment described in the message. Get your facts right before sharing further.

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