2023 Review: Major fake news that clouded Nigeria’s media space

MAJOR events like the 2023 general elections had their fair share of misinformation and disinformation that contributed to the malaise in Nigeria’s media space.

Apart from the general elections, some false news was reported by media houses. Some of the false news stories were international but made their way into local media publications/broadcast, which many individuals unfortunately believed to be true.

Disinformation experts continue to educate the public on media literacy and how to prevent fake news. One of such examples is the work done by the Nigerian Fact-Checkers Coalition during the 2023 general elections and the countering misinformation and promoting media literacy project implemented by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) in schools and for journalists, with the support of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Nigeria (Abuja).

But the fight against misinformation and disinformation would be stagnant if public figures and notable government officials keep spreading fake news and false information, which we saw played out in 2023.

Apart from government officials spreading false information, some international news stories, which were also false and misleading, made its way into the national news, courtesy of some media platforms.

Some of the major false information that went viral in 2023 include:

1. Aisha Binani’s acceptance speech

Nigeria’s gubernatorial elections, which were conducted on the 18th of March 2023, saw Kebbi and Adamawa states having supplementary elections on the 15th of April 2023 after both states were initially declared inconclusive due to the margin of the votes.

The APC candidate, Aisha Dahiru (Binani), had read her acceptance speech after she was illegally declared the governor-elect by the state’s resident electoral commissioner (REC).

She was still reading the speech when her victory was overturned by INEC. According to Nigeria’s electoral law, the REC, Hudu Ari, had no power to announce the winner of the election. The responsibility solely lies with the state collation officer appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The speech was televised by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) which misled many Nigerians.

2. Dubai visa ban

On September 11 2023, the Special Adviser to the Nigerian president on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, shared a statement (archived here) that the visa ban placed on Nigerian travellers by the United Arab Emirates have been lifted immediately. The statement added that Etihad Airways and Emirates Airlines were to resume flights in and out of Nigeria without further delay. A visa ban was placed on Nigeria in October 2022, as the UAE banned nationals of about 20 African countries including Nigeria from entering its borders.

The news was reported by credible media platforms, including ThisDay.






     

     

    However, on 15th September, 2023, CNNTheCable and BusinessDay reported that the UAE had contradicted claims of the Nigerian government that the visa ban had been lifted.

    Furthermore, In November 2023, Channels TV reported that the FCT minister, Nyesom Wike, had received the UAE ambassador to Nigeria and that during the visit, the minister had sought for the visa restriction ban to be lifted.

    3. Sweden sex sport controversy

    On June 4, 2023, there were news reports that Sweden had become the first country to officially recognize sex as a sport and a tournament would take place on June 8 which would feature participants from different European countries which would span on for several weeks under the supervision of the Swedish Sex Federation. The news was reported by local and international media.

    Few days after the news had made rounds on the internet, Anna Setzman, the spokesperson for the Swedish Sports Confederation debunked the claim in a written statement. She stated that an individual Dragan Bratic, who owned several strip clubs across the country and  claimed to be a member of a sex federation applied for membership, but their application was rejected in May 2023.

    4. Misleading photo of Islamiyat Oyefusi

    Barely a week to Nigeria’s gubernatorial elections which took place on March 18, 2023, a photo of a lady smoking went viral on the internet with various version of a false claim that it was the Labour Party‘s Deputy Governorship candidate for Lagos state, Islamiyat Oyefusi.

    The unnamed lady in the photo clearly wasn’t Oyefusi as they lack the same facial features while the lady in question looked younger than her. The deputy governorship candidate  had also debunked the claim in a tweet in a response to the claim.

     

    5. Kaduna tribunal judgement

    The Kaduna tribunal sitting in its judgement on 28th September, 2023, had dismissed the suit filed by Isah Ashiru and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), challenging the victory of Governor Uba Sani of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the March 18 governorship election. In the suit, he stated that the pre-hearing notice was filed out of time and, therefore, deemed to lack merit.

    But Isah Ashiru had shared a statement archived here on X (formerly Twitter) stating that the court had nullified the election and ordered that the Certificate of Return be retrieved and fresh elections be conducted in some polling units in four local government areas of the state.

    This generated conflicting narratives in media reports as some media houses had reported Ashiru’s statement.

     

    6. Hakimi: Moroccan football star divorce

    On 14th of April, 2023, a French magazine reported that a Moroccan football star Achraf Hakimi’s wife, Hiba Abouk, who is an actress had asked for half of Hakimi’s assets and fortune after she filed for a divorce. The report allegedly said she was surprised when she learned that he has nothing in his name and the beneficiary of Hakimi‘s salary and wealth is none other than his mother. The news caused a stir everywhere as it was widely reported by both international and local media.

    It was later discovered that the news was FALSE as the report was extracted and republished from a parody website. Abouk had responded to the allegations stating that such claims ‘no longer affect her’.

     

    7. Otti arrests errant Abians

    An X user, @DrChiemeziem, had on Sunday, December 10, 2023 claimed (archived herethat the Abia State governor, Alex Otti, had invited youths and elders who had barricaded a road undergoing construction for peace talks in Umuahia and locked them up.

    The post had gone viral and garnered over 800,000 views, and over 6,000 likes within days, and thus prompted the governor to release an official statement via his spokesperson, Dodoh Okafor,  who described the reports as ‘false and misleading’.

    *This is republished from the FactCheckHub, read the original here.

    Fatimah Quadri is a Journalist and a Fact-checker at The ICIR. She has written news articles, fact-checks, explainers, and media literacy in an effort to combat information disinformation.
    She can be reached at sunmibola_q on X or [email protected]

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