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Nigeria remains challenged by insecurity. Islamist insurgencies continue to threaten northeast states while banditry remains prevalent throughout northwest and north-central regions of Nigeria.
Nigeria’s political landscape is currently unstable. Democracy remains fragile, while public institutions have not performed well and have been plagued by internal disputes and battles, mainly concerning election management partisan machinery. President Muhammadu Buhari’s low approval ratings reflect his lack of leadership while corruption has become widespread in his administration.
The military remains an ever-present presence, and its role in society continues to expand. Yet, its increased involvement with civilian affairs has raised serious concerns and stirred fears about its power.
Corruption remains widespread, and attempts by the EFCC to combat it have had mixed results. Still, with President Muhammadu Buhari recently reelected and vowing to intensify efforts, voters discontented with slow progress may support him and give his government their vote of confidence.
Despite its oil wealth, Nigeria is experiencing significant economic difficulties, with large populations of poor people and double-digit unemployment among young people. There has been an ongoing cash crunch; mob attacks on banks only compounded this difficulty by leaving many citizens complaining they have limited access to money. Nigeria’s education system is suffering as students often do not receive the introductory textbooks required for studying; some teachers have organized volunteer book drives in response to this phenomenon. Quality in public schools has also declined precipitously while government initiatives seek to reverse this trend.
Nigeria is now more unstable than it’s been for decades due to a series of security crises ranging from kidnappings and extremist insurgencies to poverty exacerbated by unemployment increases; some claim it feeds violent extremism.
During his election campaign, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari promised to protect citizens from criminals and terrorists. Yet, less than two years into his final term, he has yet to deliver on that pledge. Violence and crime continue to plague every corner of Nigeria.
Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group once restricted to the northern-eastern parts of Nigeria, is steadily spreading into new areas by taking advantage of rural poverty and taking advantage of it to expand. Buhari’s administration has failed to stop their insurgency – which has displaced millions and killed millions over time.
The police force is beset by corruption and waste, while its alphabet soup of agencies has led to inefficiencies and competition that have compromised its effectiveness. New appointments represent a welcome step in the right direction towards making the force more efficient; all geo-political zones should be defined for maximum national cohesion as this helps allay fears of ethnic or sectional dominance within its ranks.
Economically, Nigeria ranks 161st on the Human Development Index for 2020, with high corruption levels and poverty rates of over 60%, resulting in inequality-ridden lives for most Nigerians. The administrative structure comprising 36 federal states and 768 local governments should provide an avenue for managing social tensions; however, leadership has proven inadequate at fulfilling this function. Pacification of the oil-producing Niger Delta remains incomplete; Islamist insurgencies in its northeast, led by breakaway factions including Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), continue challenging state authority and destabilizing the region. Meanwhile, sectarian clashes replete with ethnic overtones, as well as widespread criminal gangs who specialize in cattle rustling, have compounded matters further.
Nigeria’s essential education quality has declined steadily over time. Its media landscape has become an arena for public relations by interest groups with deliberately biased and discriminatory agendas, including “brown envelope journalism.” Though women’s statutory rights have seen some improvement, these rights still aren’t fully respected in practice.
State control over the use of force remains limited, and leadership’s performance in combatting endemic corruption and militarization of the economy has been dismal. Furthermore, overdependence on oil revenues makes the country highly susceptible to fluctuations in global markets.
Nigeria has made progress toward political and economic stability since transitioning to democracy in 1999, despite several structural constraints. Yet corruption persists at all levels of government while violence threatens millions in oil-producing regions such as Niger Delta. Furthermore, an insurgency in northeast Nigeria feeds off weak state capacity and law enforcement practices to continue operations for ransom purposes.
Analysts claim that politicians in Nigeria are using disinformation as they prepare for general elections in February 2019. Violent content has taken over social media networks like Facebook, TikTok, and WhatsApp to undermine opponents and discredit their rivals.
Though some of these posts have been independently verified, fake influencers may spread others in return for financial rewards or political appointments such as government contracts. These social media influencers can rapidly reach a large audience with their messages, amplified further by unknowing Nigerians who do not verify what they read online. This study seeks to understand how respondents process and assess news headlines during Nigeria’s COVID-19 pandemic using a mixed methods approach that includes an online survey. Each respondent was presented with fifteen headlines, consisting of nine false news/fake cure headlines circulating on social media in Nigeria and six credible news headlines related to coronavirus; additionally, three invented fake headlines served as “placebo” controls to reduce false recall by respondents.