Posts falsely claimed Nigerian ruling party candidate ordered crushing of motorcycles

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on February 10, 2023 at 09:30
  • 3 min read
  • By Tonye BAKARE, AFP Nigeria
A video has been shared online with claims that it shows a bulldozer destroying motorbike taxis owned by northern Nigerians on the order of the ruling party’s presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, when he was the governor of Lagos state. But the claim is false: AFP Fact Check found that the video is unrelated to Nigeria and was taken years after Tinubu left office.

“This is how motorcycles of people from the north were confiscated and destroyed by Tinubu when he was the governor of Lagos because of the hatred he has for northern people. Now is the time for the people of the north to reject Tinubu and his backers,” reads a tweet written in Hausa, a language predominantly spoken in northern Nigeria.

A screenshot of the false tweet, taken on February 6, 2023

The video, which lasts 55 seconds, shows a bulldozer crushing several bikes. Then a man dressed in a suit waves a black-and-white checkered flag ostensibly to signal the bulldozer driver to begin crushing the bikes.

“Tunubu’s work in Lagos (sic),” reads a text overlay in Hausa.

The clip surfaced as Nigerians prepare to elect a new leader on February 25, 2023.

Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is among the leading candidates vying to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.

The video was shared by a supporter of Tinubu’s rival, opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party. The post has been retweeted more than 440 times since it was published on February 4, 2023.

North-south divide

Nigeria is roughly divided between a Muslim-majority north and a predominantly Christian south.

Tinubu, a Muslim from the south, was governor of Lagos state in southwestern Nigeria between 1999 and 2007.

People from northern Nigeria, many of them Muslims, make up a sizable percentage of commercial motorcyclists in the state.

The state first introduced a ban on motorcycle taxis in the state capital in 2012 and has renewed it several times since then, including last August.

Motorcycles of defaulters are regularly impounded and crushed.

A coalition of interest groups from northern Nigeria said the ban was “discriminatory” and “curtails the right to freedom of movement of the northern people living in their midst”.

But the claim that Tinubu ordered the destruction of the motorcycles seen in the video is false.

Video from New York

The misleading video features the handle of a TikTok account called “Khalilo_ff” on the right-hand side.

After locating the user on TikTok, AFP Fact Check found that the account posted the video on November 29, 2022, along with a caption that reads: “7up”. There was no reference to Lagos or Nigeria.

Using the InVID-WeVerify video verification tool, we found another clip from the same event on a YouTube channel belonging to Reuters.

The channel published the footage on June 22, 2022 -- years after Tinubu left office as governor. According to the caption, the bulldozer crushed “dirt bikes confiscated by the New York City Police Department” in Brooklyn, New York.

A screenshot of the video published by Reuters, taken on February 6, 2023

The Reuters video is longer than the one in the false tweet and provides a broader angle of the event.

The New York Post reported that 92 “dangerous dirt bikes” were crushed for not being “street-legal”. The news outlet said New York City mayor Eric Adams witnessed the destruction of the bikes at the Erie Basin Auto Pound in Brooklyn and identified him as the man who waved the checkered flag in the video.

AFP Fact Check geolocated the pound using Google Street View and found the parking lot in the facility where the bikes were destroyed by matching the skyline and buildings in the near background, including an Ikea.

Leading candidates have repeatedly been targets of disinformation ahead of the presidential ballot. You can read AFP Fact Check's Nigeria election debunks here.

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