Fact and unfact

Fake news is in the news, it seems. But fake news is not news. Two former commissioners under former Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode rubbished a report that they spoke against the ex-governor before the House of Assembly committee investigating the purchase of 820 mass transit buses. The report, published in PM News, was headlined “Ambode shuns Lagos Assembly again, ex-aides indict him.”

Former commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Wale Oluwo, in a letter to the Managing Director of Independent Communications Network Limited, publishers of PM News, complained particularly about a part of the report that said he and the former commissioner for Agriculture, Toyin Suarau, told the committee that many projects, including the Oshodi Transport Interchange, were never captured in the state budget. He described this as “completely false and indeed a misrepresentation of the proceedings.”

Oluwo said:  “For the records, I wish to state the facts as follows: I attended the second session of the Committee proceedings on October 15, 2019. The ex-commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Toyin Suarau and I were called into the Committee room at the same time. So the questions asked both of us were in the open. Suarau was asked questions on the Lagos State Rice Mill project in Imota while I was asked questions on the LED-UK street lights installations (a UK Exim Bank funded project). I answered the committee’s questions to the best of the information available to me and at no time was any of us asked questions on Oshodi interchange or any other project outside the two mentioned above.”

Former commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Olusegun Banjo, said in a statement:  “…the press reports of my testimony before the committee are skewed in such a manner as to suggest that I had been scathingly critical of the last Administration in which I had served and had painted the executive in bad light. It is instructive to note that the operational lapses in the other arms of Government that I also made specific mention of in the course of my testimony before the committee were deliberately ignored and were not reported on by the press in their coverage.”  He accused “a section of the press” of “abdication of a basic tenet of professional journalism- impartial reportage.”

Both reactions suggest that the medium’s report was shamelessly unfactual and unreliable. It is noteworthy that Oluwo asked the medium to investigate the alleged misrepresentation, adding that it should demonstrate that “it is unbiased and capable of staying above the fray in the high-wire political events unfolding in Lagos State.”

The medium needs to respond to the allegation of unprofessionalism, if it cares about its public image.

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