Buhari: COVID-19 Poses Threat of Online Radicalisation

  • Laments escalated prices of food items

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari wednesday said the massive migration to cyber space following the outbreak of COVID-19, posed greater risk for radicalisation, especially with the growing limitations placed on physical contacts and movements.

Buhari also yesterday said his administration was concerned about sudden skyrocketed prices of food items in the face of decline in economic activities caused by the pandemic ravaging the world.

The president, who raised the alarm on online radicalisation, while participating at AQABA Process virtual meeting conducted from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, said the spread of COVID-19 pandemic had largely aided movements of activities to cyber space.

He also observed that the lockdown of policies of various governments as well as restrictions placed on movements had compelled people to transfer their activities to cyber space with attendant increase in tendencies for online radicalisation.

“It is important to state that the spread of COVID-19 has led to the movement of activities to cyber space. “Furthermore, lock-down policies and restrictions of movement in affected areas means that people would move their day to day social and business activities to cyber space. This, however, comes with an increase in the risk of individuals being radicalised online,” he said.

A statement by the president’s media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Buhari appreciated King Abdullah II of Jordan for inviting him to the meeting and also thanked Hashemite Kingdom for hosting the meeting under the AQABA Process.

Adesina said Buhari pledged federal government’s sustained efforts to adjust to new lifestyles and be sensitive to current security situations as experts strive hard to find vaccines and possible acceptable cure for COVID-19.

Buhari said Nigeria had developed a robust framework championed by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to coordinate and oversee the country’s multi-sectoral inter-governmental efforts meant to contain the spread and reduce the impact of COVID-19.

“This was done while currently monitoring effects of the measures and taking steps to mitigate these effects as quick as possible. This was in a bid to ensure sustained human security across the population.

“Earlier, we had established the National Humanitarian Coordination Committee with the responsibility of providing among others a national vision for humanitarian actors and settling disputes that may arise from interactions between security services and the humanitarian community. This committee was timely as a stop gap measure in coping with the effects of COVID-19,” he said.

The statement said Buhari disclosed that the Federal Government of Nigeria had also taken steps to address social and economic effects of COVID-19 by focussing on the most vulnerable citizens of the society through the provision of palliatives and other economic stimulus packages.

It also said Buhari told the meeting that even though such measures were capital intensive, it would be sustained, citing Mali as the example of a geographical location where social and economic challenges took a toll on government, leading to a crash of democracy in the country.

“Such situation could create a vacuum that can be exploited by terrorists and violent extremists,” Buhari observed.

Adesina said Buhari also submitted that Nigeria’s security landscape and that of the entire West Africa had continued to evolve with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, bearing in mind that various systems in the society had been at a lull as a result of urgent measures taken to contain the spread of the disease.

“These measures were taken while being mindful of the toll that the virus has had in the various epicentres across the world where medical structures were strained up to breaking point while dealing with mass casualties as a result of infections from the disease.

“These measures are not without their challenges as livelihood were drastically affected and civic lifestyle is being tested to its limits. The whole instruments of government are now mobilised to confront what has now turned both a health emergency and an economic crisis,” he quoted the president as said.

He also said the president pledged government’s continuous monitoring of activities of terrorists online with a view to controlling radicalisation of citizens by terrorist groups, as well as other violent cells as a result of huge traffic online caused by COVID-19.

Buhari Laments Escalated Prices of Food Items

Meanwhile, Buhari yesterday said his administration was concerned about sudden skyrocketed prices of food items in the face of decline in economic activities caused by the pandemic ravaging the world.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement, said Buhari, however, encouraged Nigeria to keep hope alive because the situation would be temporal adding that his administration had begun to put in place certain measures aimed at alleviating the plights of the citizenry.

He quoted the president as saying, “While Providence has been kind to us with the rains and as such an expectation that a bumper harvest would lead to crashing of food prices and ease the burdens on the population, government’s concern is that the exploitative market behaviour by actors has significantly increased among traders in the past few years and may make any such relief a short lived one.

“This year has indeed tested us in ways that globalisation has never been tested since the turn of the century. These challenges have disrupted lives and supply chains all over the world, and Nigeria has not been spared.

“The effect has been deeply felt in the delays encountered in procurement of raw materials for local production of fertiliser (damaging standing crops before harvest) and the speculative activities by a number of rice processors who are ready to pay for paddy at any price to keep their mills running non-stop.

“But of all these problems, the most worrisome are the activities of “corrupt” middlemen (with many of them discovered to be foreigners) and other food traders who serve as the link between farmers and consumers found to be systematically creating an artificial scarcity so that they can sell at higher prices.

“In dealing with these problems, the administration has, in line with its ease of doing business mantra, avoided imposing stockholding restrictions, in order not to discourage investments in modern warehousing and cold storage.”

The statement said consequent upon the current development, the president approved the release of food items from strategic reserves, including 30,000 tonnes of maize to animal feeds’ producers to ease the high cost of poultry production.

It also said Buhari’s administration had discussed some of the current challenges with various associations producing food in the country, particularly producers of rice and other grains, saying with their cooperation, the high food prices would drop soon.

Buhari also said investments in the agro-allied sector by the private sector would significantly increase production of local farming inputs especially fertiliser and consequently crash prices, create employment and ease the pressure on foreign reserves.