by Dolapo Adelana
Kogi Governor Yahaya Bello on Monday announced a N500,000 reward for any resident who provides “useful information” to authorities that leads to the arrest and successful prosecution of those who spread rumours to cause public disorder.
According to a statement signed by Chief Press Secretary, Petra Onyegbule, Bello wants to “ensure the reduction of crime and criminality in the state and to also curb the attitude of some politically sponsored persons who spread false information against the government with a view to causing disquiet and rancour amongst the citizenry.”
The government said a successful prosecution of such individuals will guarantee N500,000 to the whistleblower, Mr. Bello said.
Some critics of the governor said he was trying to stifle free speech through the back door.
“This policy may be attractive, but it will not work and it could lead to endless litigation over freedom of speech,” a member of Kogi State Elders’ Council said.
The source added, “The governor had so far refused to yield to calls for him to appoint knowledgeable individuals to his cabinet.
“That’s why he’s making all these blunders which are unnecessary, to be honest.”
Media adviser to the governor, Gbenga Olorunpomi, denied such allegations saying they were untrue.
“Without any doubt, the people of Kogi State know that the governor encourages free speech. In fact, he recently held a meeting some labour union leaders in Lokoja during which they freely expressed themselves.
“No one disturbed them from speaking despite how offensive some of their comments were towards the governor.”
“It’s a very fragile situation in the state right now,” Mr. Olorunpomi said. “The state has borders with at least nine states and we’ve been experiencing a lot of cross-border crimes and many are linked to false information.”
“You’re free to express yourself, but don’t put people’s lives in danger because of that. And we will only pay out the N500, 000 after successful arrest and prosecution of suspects based on the information provided by a good citizen.”
Dolapo is a writer and journalist who works with YNaija. He has interests in Christianity, politics and sports.