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No evidence Nigeria’s leader Muhammadu Buhari ordered security agency to arrest presidential candidate Peter Obi

IN SHORT: With campaigning in top gear in Nigeria ahead of February 2023 elections, all manner of claims are circulating online. But there is no evidence the Labour Party candidate threatened to burn down a mosque, or that he will be arrested for this.

A post published on Facebook in Nigeria claims the country’s leader has ordered the arrest of presidential candidate Peter Obi for threatening to raze the Abuja National Mosque. According to the claim, Obi said he would do this if the pro-Biafra secessionist group leader Nnamdi Kanu was not released from prison.

The poorly written post reads: “JUST-IN: Buhari Orders DSS To Arrest Peter Obi After Threatening To Burn down National mosques Abuja”.

It adds that Obi made the threat if Nnamdi Kanu wasn't released by Buhari: “Peter Obi ordered President Buhari to release Nnamdi Kaun before Wednesday next week and if he fails to do so, he will born down National mosques Abuja.”

Two screenshots of tweets are also posted, meant to be the “source” of the claim. They are both from a Twitter user called “Victor Gabriel”, whose profile picture in the screenshots is the flag of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nigeria’s ruling party. 

The relevant tweet, dated 7 December 2022, reads: “@PeterObi Peter Obituary said he will burn down National mosques Abuja if @MaziNnamdiKanu is not released before Wednesday next week.”

Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president and leader of the APC, will step down after the February 2023 elections.

Obi is running on the ticket of the Labour Party and is perceived as a frontrunner. He is from Anambra state in southeastern Nigeria. 

Nnamdi Kanu is the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), a group campaigning for the secession of southeastern Nigeria to form an independent country called Biafra.

He was charged with terrorism by the Nigerian government in 2015, but only rearrested in 2021. He is still in custody despite being discharged and acquitted by a court ruling in October 2022. 

Despite the allegation that Obi is involved with Ipob, the group has described him as a “betrayer” and asked their followers not to support him.

Nigeria’s department of state services (DSS) is in charge of internal security.

Did Obi say he would burn down the country’s national mosque if Kanu wasn’t released from prison and did Buhari order the DSS to arrest Obi for his threats? We checked.


No evidence of statement 

We searched for the original tweet in the second screenshot and found it, published in reply to a tweet by the verified account of the APC on an unconnected subject. 

This Twitter user repeated the claim two days later on 9 December, in reply to a tweet from Muhammadu Buhari's official Twitter account, writing: "God bless you my dear president. @PeterObi Peter Obituary said he will burn down National mosques Abuja if @MaziNnamdiKanu is not released before Wednesday.”

But it gives no details of where or when Obi is meant to have made this statement and can’t be considered a source for this claim. 

An order to arrest such a high profile presidential candidate would have been widely covered. So would have been a threat by Obi to burn down a mosque, especially given the religious divides often experienced in Nigeria.

We found no reports of any of this by any credible local or international media organisations. 

We also checked the official Twitter handles of Buhari, his spokesperson and the DSS website for evidence of such an order but came up empty.

There is no evidence for any parts of this claim, either on Facebook or Twitter, and it should be ignored.

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