The Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Force Headquarters of the Nigeria Police, Abuja, have arrested a 34-year old female teacher, Grace Ibrahim, for spreading false information that a policeman was involved in the kidnap of Mrs. Ataga, wife of Kaduna based medical doctor, Philip Ataga, and two children.
Mrs. Ataga and her daughters were abducted on January 25, 2020, from their residence at Juji area of Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
Mrs. Ataga was killed by the kidnappers while the children were later released on February 6, 2020.
In a post that went viral on the Internet shortly after the girls were released, Ibrahim said one of the children had identified a neighbour, a policeman, as the person that ordered the shooting of their mother.
Ibrahim, who was paraded at the Force Headquarters, apologized for the viral message, saying she did not verify it before spreading it.
Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, who paraded the suspect said, “While we were working on that case, we woke up to a very damaging viral post that made allegations to the effect that a policeman was implicated in the kidnapping and subsequent murder of the deceased. It was a very damaging insinuation and our operatives immediately set out to investigate the source and origin of that story.
“Today after days of investigation, we traced that post that went viral to the young lady here, Grace Ibrahim, a teacher, who from nowhere originated that post.
“This is a classical example of fake news and one of the major problems with this kind of fake news is that not only are they false and irresponsible, buy can actually set the people against the police. This kind of story has the capacity of damaging the very important relationship between the police and members of the public.
“The success of every police department is predicated on the kind of support they get from members of the public. Once trust and confidence from members of the public are eroded no police agency can function effectively. So when you spread this kind of false story, insinuating that police officers are now the ones carrying out kidnapping and killing innocent people, whose lives they have been charged, employed, trained, equipped and paid to preserve, then you are damaging a very vital ingredient of a stable society.
“Fake news of this nature is also very distractive. Resources that would have been otherwise used in investigating important cases are sometimes diverted to trying to investigate the source of these kinds of stories. We have also seen in the past where fake news have triggered communal clashes and reprisal attacks and innocent persons are attacked and killed and properties damaged. ”
The Force PRO warned Nigerians, especially the youth to be sure of any information they are putting out in the public space.
He cautioned that ‘forwarded as received’ was not a defence if caught for speeding fake news
“I use this opportunity to appeal to members of the public, particularly our teeming youths to exercise a lot of caution in the use of the social media. You have to be circumspect before you push out that story.
If you are not sure of the authenticity of that story, if you cannot confirm if indeed it is true, please don’t push the button on your phone. Don’t push out that story. It is also a criminal offence. Our cyber laws are very clear. We would go after you, arrest and prosecute you. It is not enough defense to say forwarded as received. Once you forward, you have put your signature on that story, at the point you are forwarding the story, you have become a co-author of that story.”
Speaking on the story, the author, Grace Ibrahim who said she was a teacher from Kaduna State, said: “I apologize to the police for putting out information that was false because I did not verify it. It was based on hearsay, and I just put it out there. I did not think about the implication and I am very sorry because the information was false. I heard it from a colleague. I wish to apologize.
“I did not confirm and decided to post, which was bad of me. When I saw it was going viral, I decided to pull it down because that was when I realized what I did was wrong and I really want to apologize to the police.
“I said the daughter of Dr. Ataga recognized a policeman that ordered the killing of her mum. I should have confirmed before I did that. I urge that people should not share information that cannot confirm. It is damaging. It is saddening that I would go on national air because of such information.”