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FACT CHECK: Did Buhari, Dabiri describe Nigerians as lazy, cultists and drug dealers?

Controversies have trailed the remarks made by Ayo Mairo-Ese, an Arise News journalist, while she was speaking on a live television program. 

While reacting to the trending issue of Emdee Tiamiyu, a Nigerian who told the BBC that Nigerians are migrating to study in the UK under false pretenses, Mairo-Ese said Tiamiyu’s utterance followed the footsteps of other notable Nigerians who have disparaged young Nigerians on international platforms.

She claimed that the country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, stated in 2016 that Nigerian youths are largely lazy and that the UK should not grant asylum to young people because some Nigerian youths are criminals. Mairo-Ese also asserted that Abike Dabiri Erewa labeled young Nigerians as drug dealers and members of cults. 

Claim I: Buhari, in 2016, said the Nigerian youths are largely lazy and that the UK should not grant young people asylum because some of the Nigerian youths are criminals. 


In February 2016, Muhammadu Buhari gave an exclusive interview to the Telegraph, a UK-based newspaper, in which he made comments about the international perception of Nigerians. 

In the interview, he said, “some Nigerians have also made it difficult for Europeans and Americans to accept them because of the number of Nigerians in different prisons all over the world accused of drug trafficking or human trafficking.”  He also stated that Nigerians should not attempt to make asylum claims abroad because their reputation for criminality has made it difficult for them to be accepted, and that many of those asylum claims were made for economic reasons rather than fear of Boko Haram attacks.

Reactions to the interview became widespread in 2018 after the president claimed in another interview at the Commonwealth Business Forum that many Nigerian youths sit at home and do nothing because they believe Nigeria is an oil-producing country, implicitly describing the country’s young population as lazy.

This sparked a social media revolt #LazyNigerianYouths by young people who objected to being labeled as lazy. Many of them displayed their crafts and demonstrated how hardworking they are, while emphasizing how enterprising they are despite the difficulties they face in the country. 

In response to the backlash, the presidency clarified that Buhari did not refer to all Nigerian youths as lazy, but that he only made reference to “a lot of,” not all.  

Verdict: Largely True

In 2016, Muhammadu Buhari told the European and American countries not to grant asylum to some Nigerians due to their reputation of criminality.

In 2018, Buhari did not explicitly say the Nigerian youths are lazy. However, he said “many Nigerian youths sit at home and do nothing because they believe Nigeria is an oil-producing country.” While many believe this statement connotes being lazy, the president did not mention the word “lazy.”

Claim II: The Chairman of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri, referred to Nigerian youths as cultists and drug dealers. 


Abike Dabiri-Erewa responded in October 2022 to a claim that some Nigerians were attacked by their Indian colleagues during a clash. She assured Nigerians in India that the government was committed to their safety.

In response, another Twitter user suggested she visit Indonesia to see how Nigerians are treated there. Abike then said, “You go to Indonesia, carry drugs, do cultism, and come begging to be rescued from death sentence. Thank God for the NDLEA (National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency) now saving people like you from death row.” 

Many Nigerians criticized her response, accusing her of stereotyping all Nigerians as drug dealers and criminals in a foreign country, which contradicts her role as a diplomat and representative of Nigerians in the diaspora. 

Verdict: Misleading

Abike Dabiri-Erewa did not say Nigerian youths are cultists and drug dealers. She said those of them (youths) who go to Indonesia, carry drugs, engage in cultism and then come begging for rescue are the ones treated abysmally. This was in response to a tweet decrying the treatment meted out to Nigerians in Indonesia.

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