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No, Nigeria’s Rivers state governor Nyesom Wike didn’t threaten to expose ‘secret’ behind Biafra leader’s detention

IN SHORT: Facebook posts claim that secessionist leader Nnamdi Kanu declined to do the Nigerian government’s bidding, which is why he remains under guard. But the governor quoted as having details of this plot has denied any knowledge of it.

A post published on Facebook in Nigeria claims that Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the secessionist Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), remains in custody because he refused to do the government’s bidding. 

The post attributes this claim to Nyesom Wike, the vocal and influential governor of the southern Rivers state. 

The Nigerian government has since 2021 detained Kanu on a series of charges, including terrorism. This is despite him being acquitted by a court ruling in October 2022

According to the claim, should Wike expose the “secret” that keeps Kanu incarcerated, the government would be forced to free him.

The post alleges that Wike “further stated that Nnamdi Kanu is still in their custody because he has refused to dance to their tune and because Buhari has asked him to do something and he has refused to do it, so they are not releasing him”.

Nigerians choose a new president on 25 February 2023 to succeed Muhamadu Buhari, who has been in office since 2015.

Ipob has been demanding the secession of southeastern Nigeria to form an independent country called Biafra. There are concerns that violence due to this might lead to election delays.

The same claim appeared on Facebook here and here. But did Wike make these remarks as the post reports?


Wike: ‘Absolutely fake news’

The post gives no details of when or where Wike is meant to have made this statement. A link to a blog is provided but this only repeats what is in the post. Such a lack of detail is often a red flag that a quote circulating on social media has been fabricated.

Given the governor’s national profile, such claims would also have been widely reported by trustworthy media sources. We could find no such reporting. 

We also asked Kevin Ebiri, Wike’s special assistant on media, about the quote. The claim is “absolutely fake news”, he told us.

For more on the disinformation trends during Nigeria’s election season, read our analysis here.

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