Ibrahim Gambari was appointed as presidential chief of staff in May 2020 after his predecessor died of COVID-19 (Photo by Ashraf Shazly / AFP)

Fake online accounts of Nigeria top aide multiply after appointment

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A raft of social media accounts falsely purporting to belong to the Nigerian president’s chief of staff Ibrahim Gambari have sprouted online since his appointment in May 2020. AFP Fact Check has rounded up some of the most popular ones, which the presidency has confirmed as being fake.

Gambari replaced powerful aide Abba Kyari on May 12, 2020, after he died of COVID-19 last month. Since his appointment, various social media accounts including this one on Facebook have sprung up to impersonate the university don.

A screenshot taken on May 15, 2020, showing the misleading Facebook account

Gambari served as foreign minister in the 1980s when President Muhammadu Buhari was Nigeria's military ruler. The senior official later went on to become a UN under-secretary general for Africa during Kofi Annan's tenure.

The Facebook account displays Gambari’s picture just like 11 others found by AFP on the social network. The majority of them claim they belong to Buhari’s "chief of staff". We’ve archived some here, here, and here.

A screenshot taken on May 15, 2020, showing the misleading caption

The creation of fake social media accounts for public figures and government bodies is common in Nigeria. AFP has debunked several online accounts registered on behalf of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) during the novel coronavirus pandemic. NCDC is the national health institute tasked with the control of disease outbreaks in the country. 

The proliferation of fake social media accounts linked to Gambari has also spread to Twitter. AFP found that accounts @ProfSgf and @profgambarii were registered following his appointment in May.

A screenshot taken on May 15, 2020, showing the account’s creation date

Using Twitter Join Date, an online platform that helps users find the actual date they became members, AFP confirmed that the account @profgambarii was created on May 12, 2020 -- shortly after unconfirmed reports of Gambari’s appointment filtered out.

A screenshot taken on May 15, 2020, showing the dates the accounts were created

Meanwhile, @ProfSgf was registered on May 13, 2020, the same day Nigeria’s presidency officially announced his appointment. We've archived other similar accounts here, here and here.

Gambari has no social media accounts

Buhari’s media aide Bashir Ahmad confirmed the proliferating accounts were “fake” and that Gambari had no social media presence.

Some of the Twitter accounts have disclaimers on their bios. This one says it’s an “official parody account” while another describes itself as a “fake account run by Eric Hover”.

A screenshot taken on May 15, 2020, showing the misleading Facebook account

Converted Facebook accounts

AFP found that some social media accounts which had been falsely created for Kyari were then changed to Gambari’s name. For instance, the link to this Facebook account is www.facebook.com/abba.kyari.3133, while www.facebook.com/abba.kyari.182 links to this account -- both of which carry Kyari’s name.

While this Facebook account has now been deleted, others seen here, here and here have remained active since Gambari’s appointment.