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Who Can Be Trusted When Fake Groups Defend Nigeria’s ‘Most Abusive and Corrupt Officials’

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By Joel Popoola

“On the internet, nobody knows that you’re a dog”.
So went the caption of one of the internet’s first ever memes, American cartoonist Peter Steiner’s iconic 1993 cartoon of a dog using a computer.

In those days, the message was empowering – the digital age allows you to create an entirely different persona online, expressing yourself in a way which was previously impossible.
But today people claiming to be something they aren’t, potentially threatens Nigerian democracy.

The international cliché of the “Nigerian Prince” online scammer is at best a grotesque symbol of our national squandering of a creative and digitally-confident youth, and at worst a national embarrassment.

But Nigeria increasingly has a similar problem at home, with the troubling rise of new public groups who are also not who they claim to be – and who exist only to mislead.

Global think tank, Carnegie, have recently released research highlighting the rise of “at least 360” new non-governmental organisations in Nigeria who “masquerade as authentic civil society groups, singing the praises of top officials and attacking their critics.”

The researchers state that these groups have created “a substantial fake civil society” which is “both corrupting and corruptive, compounding the country’s downward democratic trajectory”.

Researchers highlight how “fewer than 7 percent are listed on the country’s corporate registry as is legally required”, “murky financing” and most alarmingly of all that the vast majority of these groups seemingly exist only to “defend Nigeria’s most abusive and corrupt officials”.

The report alleges: “It may also be the result of a deliberate but unspoken strategy on the part of a handful of ruling party and military elites to…dilute civil society and international criticism.”

The research even highlights one such group who recently hailed President Buhari’s “excellent performance” when it comes to security, publishing a report stating “the President has frenetically tackled the insurgency with so much vigor, energy and resources. It stamps that [he] has made the difference in counter-terrorism combat and [is] deserving of loud accolades and commendations.”

Even President Buhari’s strongest supporters would have to admit that this is a very “glass half full” assessment of the current security situation in our nation.

Nigeria’s vibrant and extensive civil society is one of our greatest strengths and is crucial to sustaining democracy in our nation. We cannot allow it to be contaminated with corruption.

As the Carnegie research states, Nigeria’s civil society encompasses “religious bodies, ethnic and subethnic associations, village cooperatives, occupation-based groups, student and alumni entities, charities and foundations, as well as a broad range of advocacy and development-focused NGOs, both international and domestic.”

It is the space where we come together to decide what Nigeria is and where as a nation we are going. As Carnegie researchers put it, it is these groups who have a vital role to play in “pushing for better governance, greater accountability, and respect for human rights.”

This cannot happen if this space is dominated by sycophantic surrogates.

So what is to be done in the face of this tidal wave of misdirection and misinformation?

We must create an internet where information comes only from verified sources, who at least must clearly identify their vested interests.

This may sound easier said than done, but I believe that it is possible.

At the digital democracy campaign I lead, we have created a free app called Rate Your Leader which gives verified voters direct access to verified local politicians.

Rate Your Leader lets people put their ideas, comments, complaints and issues directly to the people who have the power to do something about them – while also allowing politicians to better understand the needs and wants of the people who elect them.

The Rate Your Leader app also allows users to rate local leaders for accessibility and transparency, showcasing to local voters that their local leaders are worth voting for.

With Rate Your Leader, you aren’t speaking to a middle man – you’re speaking to the politician direct.

Technologies like these ensure that there is always public access to sources of political information who are demonstrably who they say they are – and at least have to be transparent about their allegiances and interests.

If we are to revive our democracy, we need a beating heart of people-powered movements.

If these people are in fact just one or two individuals with a vested interest in preserving the status quo, democratic revival and renewal will remain out of our grasp.

Joel Popoola is a Nigerian tech entrepreneur and digital democracy campaigner. He is the creator of the Rate Your Leader app, and can be reached via @JOPopoola

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LSSTF’s Balogun Tours EPAIL Facility, Commends Management for Contributions to Security

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The Executive Secretary/CEO of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF), Dr. Abdurrazaq Balogun, has paid a visit to the Equipment and Protective Applications International Limited (EPAIL) mega factory, with the Chairman/CEO of EPAIL expressing delight at the Fund’s visit while conducting his guest on a tour of the facility.

During the visit, the ES witnessed the production of security equipment such as armored hard body for vehicles, ballistic plates, helmets, vests, etc. from scratch using locally sourced materials. A test was also conducted on one of the locally made crowd dispersal water cannon and other crowd control equipment.

Speaking on the visit, Balogun said: “The security challenges in the state continue to increase as a result of the harsh economic situation in the country hence the visitation which was in furtherance of the Fund’s commitment to continue to source for and provide the required equipment and home grown state of the art security gadgets and technological solutions that meet international standards, fit for our terrain and useable by security agencies to combat crime in the State.”

The LSSTF CEO also commended EPAIL Nigeria for its outstanding work and contributions in the area of security, noting that “The importance of a strong and formidable security outfit cannot be overemphasized as it is one of the hallmarks of a thriving society.  As we approach the 2023 general elections, it is critical that we strengthen our security agencies to enable them proactively combat crime and maintain law and order in the State, therefore we call on our donors to do more by way of contributions in cash or kind to the Fund towards improved security in the State in our collective self-interest”.

Subsequently, the Chairman of EPAIL thanked the Executive Secretary of the Fund for his visit and pledged his continuous support to the Fund.

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Many Feared Killed As Explosion Rocks Kano

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Many are feared dead after an explosion on Aba Road in the Sabon Gari area of Kano State.

While details of the blast are still sketchy as of the time of filing this report, visuals from the scene showed that many buildings, one of which is suspected to house a primary school, were affected.

One of the videos that surfaced online also showed injured schoolchildren being moved from the scene of the incident.

Parents were also searching for their children.

One of them was heard shouting “my children”.

Meanwhile, the Kano State Commissioner of Police, Sama’ila Dikko, has clarified that gas and not a bomb exploded in the state on Tuesday morning. He made the clarification during his visit to the scene of the incident.

Dikko, who spoke in Hausa, also confirmed that four persons were dead.

The Punch

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News of Closure of Ogui, Trans-Ekulu Stations Fake – Enugu Police

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The Enugu State Police Command has said that the news making the rounds in the closure of Ogui and Trans-Ekulu police stations is fake, urging the public the disregard the false publication.

A statement by the Command’s PPRO, ASP Daniel Ndukwe, and made available to the National Association of Online Security News Publishers (NAOSNP), quoted the Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Lawal as describing the story as not just unfounded, and a figment of the publisher’s imagination, but also a misinformation targeted at creating panic among peace loving citizens of Enugu State.

The statement also expressed the CP’s resolve to continue to “deliver the statutory mandates of the Nigeria Police Force in the State, including ensuring that Police Stations remain opened to members of the public and maintain robust crime detection/prevention patrols and visibility policing of their assigned areas of responsibilities.”

CP Lawal therefore, urged the “general public and residents of Enugu State in particular, to disregard such untrue publications and continue to promptly report security situations and criminal activities to Police Stations nearest to them, noting that Police Stations in the State remain open to the general public on a twenty-four hour a day, seven days a week (24/7) basis.”

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