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No evidence of a gunfight in Rivers state, Nigeria; governor's wife not abducted by soldiers

IN SHORT: There is no evidence to support the claim that the rift between the governor of Rivers state and his predecessor led to a shoot-out between soldiers and the abduction of the state's first lady. 

A message circulating on Facebook as breaking news claims there was a gunfight in Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s prominent oil-rich city, between soldiers loyal to Rivers state governor, Siminalayi Fubara, and those loyal to his predecessor, Nyesom Wike.

The 27 February 2024 post claims there was chaos in the city due to the gunfight and Fubara’s wife, Valerie, was abducted in the process. It reads, in part:

The clash, which lasted for several hours, resulted in widespread panic and raised concerns about the deteriorating security situation in the state. 

Eyewitnesses reported that the confrontation began when a convoy of armed soldiers loyal to Governor Wike intercepted a vehicle carrying Siminalayi Fubara and his wife, who were on their way to attend a social event. The situation quickly escalated as both sides exchanged gunfire, creating a tense and volatile atmosphere in the heart of the city.

The post includes photos of Wike, Fubara and armed security operatives. It also includes a link to an article published on a suspicious looking website. It’s titled: “Breaking News: Intense Gunfight Erupts in PH as Soldiers Loyal to Wike Clash with Siminalayi Fubara; Fubara's Wife Abducted by Wike Forces.”

The same message appears in other Facebook posts here, here, here, here and here.

Within months of becoming governor, there were signs of a rift between Fubara and his predecessor Wike, who supported him during the election. Wike is now the minister of the Federal Capital Territory.

There was a crisis in the state’s assembly, as lawmakers loyal to Wike attempted to impeach Fubara in October 2023, less than six months after he took office for a four-year term. 

That led to chaos in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital. The state’s house of assembly complex was razed and Fubara was shot at with tear gas and water cannons.

Peace returned to the state after conciliatory moves, including a mediation meeting convened by the country's president, Bola Tinubu. 

Did the situation deteriorate to the extent that a gunfight occurred between both sides in late February 2024.


No evidence of the claim, photos unrelated

First, none of the photos show soldiers or a gunfight. Reverse image searches of the photos led to reports of a clash between Wike and his predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi, then the transport minister, in November 2017 when Wike was governor of Rivers state. 

Furthermore, multiple keyword searches on Google yielded no report of a gunfight in Port Harcourt in late February or any violence related to Fubara and Wike. There is also no report of Fubara’s wife being abducted. 

Fubara’s timeline on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, showed he attended a memorial event for the late chief executive of Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe, on the evening of 27 February, the day the post was published.

Valerie Fubara has also reportedly been in attendance at public events.   

Nigerian media has extensively covered the rift between Fubara and Wike. If a gunfight broke out between soldiers during the rift, it would have been widely reported in the national media. 

The claim is false.

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