“CNN said it” may soon be a popular phrase if many citizens are to follow in the steps of presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu as he tried to defend government claims about Nigeria’s rice production
The special assistant to the president on media and publicity was reacting to online criticism of recent claims from official quarters that Nigeria had risen to 2nd spot in rice production globally.
A number of social media users had shamed Mr Shehu and other government spokesmen for allegedly deceiving the public about Nigeria’s rice production.
A few people also shared a list showing the top 10 rice producers as of January 2017 with Nigeria evidently missing from the list.
Many therefore wondered how Nigeria could suddenly leapfrog to the top spot in such a short period of time.
“We are not the first to say that Nigeria has grown to the second position in rice production worldwide,” Shehu said in response to the rebuttals and deferred to the integrity of popular news station, CNN.
The presidential spokesman stated further that the federal government had taken significant steps in recent months to boost agriculture and those efforts were beginning to yield results.
Shehu also said a number of African countries had been coming to Nigeria to buy rice, sorghum, sesame and other food items.
According to the top media aide, the federal government has just taken delivery of 110 rice milling machines to be installed in various parts of the country before July to support the growing rice industry.
He also stated that the agriculture ministry would collate relevant data and make its position known on the claims that Nigeria was now the 2nd highest rice producing nation.
“A lot is happening in Nigeria for which we should be proud,” Shehu stressed.
The reliance of the presidential spokesman on a foreign news outlet to back a claim which the government was pushing as its accomplishment has deservedly left a sore taste on many tongues which are already wagging at him.
A few reactions on Twitter can be seen below:
One Twitter user shared a screenshot of what appears to be a CNN broadcast about Nigeria’s rice production:
However, with rice production at 2.7 million metric tonnes as suggested by the image, Nigeria still comes far behind Nepal which produces 3.1 million metric tonnes as shown by a previous list.
Is the presidency sharing fake news now? Perhaps time will tell but we can hardly expect the same fate that befell Mr Audu Maikori over his tweets with respect to the Southern Kaduna crisis, to befall government officials should the report about Nigeria’s ascendancy in rice production turn out fabrication.