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14 false claims that thrived on Nigeria Twitter despite ban

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On June 4, 2021, Twitter was banned by the Nigerian government, after a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari, which threatened to punish regional secessionists, was removed.

The government, however, claimed that  the ban was not because the president’s tweet was removed but because of what it described as the “unceasing use of the platform by some unscrupulous elements for subversive purposes and criminal activities, propagating fake news, and polarising Nigerians along tribal and religious lines, among others.” 

Following the ban, many Nigerians were unable to access the platform while some others continued to use Twitter via Virtual Private Networks (VPN). The ban was eventually lifted from 12 midnight, January 13, 2022. 

Despite the seven months ban, however, Twitter was still a major source of mis and disinformation in the second half of 2021. Here are some of the major falsehoods that emanated from Twitter fact-checked by  DUBAWA.

  1. Twitter Doesn’t Recognise Buhari as Nigerian president.

The Twitter ban itself became a source of several misinformation. A Twitter screenshot on the same day that Twitter was banned claimed Twitter does not recognise Muhammadu Buhari as Nigerian president.

The screenshot alleged to have originated from Twitter’s official handle reads: “Dear @MBuhari We have no idea who you are or what country you are leading, we have come across a tweet that violates our rule number 4 of “safety and freedom” and removed it”. 

DUBAWA, however, found that this was false as the Twitter screenshot circulating with this claim was manipulated.

  1. Twitter was apologetic to the Nigerian Government

Another viral screenshot allegedly from Twitter’s public policy handle claimed Twitter was apologetic and ready to mend things with the Nigerian Government.

But this was also a manipulated tweet, created using online tools. 

  1. Twitter changed the retweet button to green in Solidarity with the June 12 protest.

Many Nigerians on June 12, 2021, took to the streets in peaceful protests against bad governance, public corruption, maladministration and insecurity. 

This protest which held simultaneously in different cities across Nigeria had no central or structured leadership, just like the #EndSARS protests in October 2020.

During the June 12 protest which was being promoted largely on Twitter, a Twitter user claimed Twitter’s Retweet button had been changed from blue to green in solidarity with Nigeria but DUBAWA found that the retweet button had always been green and even when it was changed in 2016, it was from one shade of green to another with no connection to Nigeria. 

  1. Kenyans protested in solidarity with Nigerians

This was another claim that emanated from the June 12 protest. A Twitter post accompanied by an image depicts Kenyans standing with Nigerians during the June 12 protest was false as the image featured in the 2020 EndSARS protest in Abuja.

  1. Kenya’s president’s Twitter account was suspended because of Nnamdi Kanu’s arrest

Following the arrest of Nigerian secessionist leader, Nnamdi Kanu, a Twitter user claimed the account of Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, got suspended because Biafrans reported it over Kanu’s arrest.

This was found to be false because the Kenyan President had deactivated his Twitter account since 2019 and the alleged account suspended was a fake account of the President created in March 2020. 

  1. 32% of Nigerians own bitcoin 

Crypto has become a big deal in Nigeria with bitcoin in the lead despite the ban on its use by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). 

The chief executive officer (CEO) of Twitter, Jack Dorsey in August claimed 32 percent of Nigerians own bitcoin. This, however, is misleading as he misquoted the outcome of a survey by Statista. It was 32 percent of Nigerians who partook in the survey conducted by Statista that owned or used Bitcoin.

  1. Typhoid fever is caused by stress

A Twitter user in September 2021 claimed he was sick with typhoid due to stress from commuting from mainland Lagos to Island, but typhoid, as explained by experts,  is not caused by stress. Typhoid is caused by a microorganism known as salmonella typhi.

  1. The Nigerian government is registering inmates for the upcoming general election

On September 21, 2021,  a Twitter user posted two images with the claim that the Nigerian Government had started registering all inmates in Nigeria’s correctional facilities for the upcoming general election.

The first image shows a group of men seated together with some without shirts, while the second image shows what appears to be Nigerian inmates lined up in their green uniforms while a staff of the correctional centre stood by.

However, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigerian Correctional Service, state that inmates were not undergoing voter registration for the next general election scheduled to come up in 2023. 

  1. Ahmad Lawan is the single longest serving legislator at the national assembly

On September 25, 2021, Chidi Odinkalu, a lawyer and human rights activist, took to his Twitter handle to say that Senator Ahmad Lawan,  is the single longest-serving legislator at the National Assembly since 1999.

However, contrary to Odinkalu’s claim, the senate president, Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North), is not the single longest serving legislator at the National Assembly since 1999. DUBAWA found that a member of the House of Representatives, Nicholas Mutu (Bomadi/Patani), is the longest serving legislator as he has also been a legislator at the National Assembly since 1999.

If Mr. Odinkalu had said Ahmad Lawan is the single longest-serving “Senator” not “Legislator” at the National Assembly since 1999, just as Nicholas Mutu holds the same record at the Federal House of Representatives, then he would have been right. 

  1. 10,000 CFA now equal to 10,000 Naira

A Twitter user claimed that the West African CFA Franc is equal to the Naira but this is misleading as official rates show the Naira is still slightly higher in value to the CFA. Even though the Naira had lost so much value that the normal gap between the two currencies dropped, the Naira was still higher.

  1. Boko Haram impose sharia law in Niger state

On October 7, 2021, a Twitter user claimed that Boko Haram had imposed Sharia law in some communities in Shiroro local government area of  Niger State, North Central Nigeria. The communities named were Kawure, Kuregbe, Awulo and Chukuba.

The Twitter user also claimed Boko Haram had informed Muslims and Christians that twelve year old girls were to be married off. However, evidence available, shows the claim is misleading.

  1. Zero voter turnout in Onitsha

The November 6 Anambra governorship election was also a victim of false claims from Twitter. 

One claim on Election Day was that polling units in Onitsha remained empty with zero voter turnout. This was however quickly debunked by one of our observers in the field who noted that in Onitsha there was low voter turnout not zero and the low voter turnout was only at the newly established polling units in the area. 

  1. Unidentified armed men invaded and attacked Aguata LGA

Another claim on the Anambra Elections was that unidentified armed men invaded  Aguata Local Government Area (LGA), Immaculate Heart Ekwulobi, and attacked party agents and electoral officers. The claim also added that the attackers made away with election materials which led to the cancellation of voting. 

This was verified false as another observer who was at the location confirmed this was not true as voters were still on queue waiting to vote with no threats. 

  1. RCCG launched a dating website

The screenshot of a Twitter post by TODAY.ng went viral in December with the claim that the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) launched an online dating website.

This was a news report shared with a misleading headline as our findings show that while it is true a parish of RCCG launched a dating website, this was not a product of the entire RCCG.

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