Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, as seen here in 2017, arrived in Paris on May 16, 2021, ahead of the African Finance Summit (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

False claims circulate that Nigeria's leader arrived in Paris for postponed conference

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Numerous social media posts are sharing reports that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had travelled to Paris to attend the Africa-France Summit, unaware it had been delayed. However, the claim is false; while the Africa-France Summit, originally scheduled for July 2021, was indeed postponed to October, the Nigerian leader arrived in France for a separate meeting that is scheduled for Tuesday, May 18.

A screenshot of one of the reports about the postponed summit was shared in numerous social media posts, including on Adetutu Balogun’s Twitter page. Her account has more than 262,000 followers and is known for criticising Buhari and his government.

Screenshot taken on May 17, 2021, showing Balogun’s tweet

“The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria @MBuhari travelled for a summit that has been postponed,” reads Balogun’s tweet, shared nearly 600 times since publication on May 16, 2021.

The same screenshot was also published by the leader of Nigeria’s outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, who further queried why the “leader of over 200 million Nigerians not have the right information!!! (sic).” 

Screenshot taken on May 17, 2021, showing Kanu’s tweet

Similar claims have also appeared on Facebook, as well as Instagram, posted by staunch Buhari critic, Reno Omokri. The former media aide to Nigeria’s ex-president Goodluck Jonathan also alleged that Buhari wanted to “cleverly see his doctors in Paris, while pretending to attend the African Finance Summit”.

However, the claims are false. The postponed summit is an entirely different conference that will take place in Montpellier, about 600 kilometres from the French capital city.

Buhari arrived in Paris on Sunday night ahead of Tuesday’s African Finance Summit, according to presidential spokesman Femi Adesina.

The summit is one of the twin meetings to be held in Paris this week where African leaders and chiefs of global financial institutions are expected to help guide Sudan into a new democratic era and provide Africa with critical financing.

AFP reported that French President Emmanuel Macron will host his African counterparts on Monday to rally support for the Sudanese government under Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. A separate meeting is scheduled for the following day to develop strategies for African economies to help fill a financing shortfall of almost $300 billion caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A keyword search for the headline in the viral screenshot led to a report on the website of online news aggregator AllAfrica. The report sourced from French radio service RFI was published on May 14, 2021.

Screenshot taken on May 17, 2021, showing the report on RFI’s website

AFP Fact Check confirmed that the news report was about the Africa-France Summit. It was originally scheduled for July 2021 in Montpellier, in southern France, but delayed until October due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, according to RFI.

Since coming to power in 2015, 78-year-old Buhari has made multiple international trips, including to the UK where he usually receives medical attention.