On July 30, 2023, a Twitter user uploaded an image with the caption “BREAKING: Your Government is illegitimate. I will not listen to you- General Tiani, Niger Military Leader replies Tinubu as the chairman of ECOWAS.” The tweet has garnered over 472k views as at the time of compiling this fact-check.
A similar version of the claim is going viral on WhatsApp. The message reads “Coup plotter in Niger accuses President Tinubu of lacking legitimacy.”
In a video attached to this WhatsApp version of the claim, the caption reads “ECOWAS is not as strong as it used to be because its Chairman, the President of Nigeria is having legitimacy issues.” The claim is attributed to an SABC correspondent.
Claim I: Niger military leader said Tinubu government is illegitimate
On July 27th, 2023, military officers in Niger announced a coup on national TV. They said the democratically elected government of Mohamed Bazoum has been dissolved. The soldiers also announced the suspension of all institutions and the closing of the country’s land borders. Since the announcement, president Bazoum has been held hostage by the commanders of the presidential guard.
Shortly after the military took over, Bola Tinubu, the president of Nigeria and the chairman of ECOWAS, summoned an extraordinary meeting of all ECOWAS leaders. At the end of the meeting, the resolution was to give a week ultimatum to Abdourahmane Tchiani, an Army general, the leader of the officers who overthrew Niger’s democratically elected leader.
In a communique read by the ECOWAS Commission chairperson, Omar Touray, at the Extraordinary Summit held in Abuja, the ECOWAS leaders concluded that if constitutional order is not restored to the Republic of Niger, the commission may resort to the use of force.
The military leader, Tchiani, fired back at ECOWAS, just as they warned against any form of military intervention from the sub-regional body. Even though the Niger coup leader warned against the use of force, there is no evidence that he referred to the government of Bola Tinubu as illegitimate.
Verdict: NO EVIDENCE
There is no evidence to show that Niger coup leader, Tchiani described the Bola Tinubu-led federal government as illegitimate. Although the presidential election result that won Tinubu the presidency is being contested at the tribunal, the elections court is yet to give its verdict.
Claim II: SABC correspondent says ECOWAS is not strong because its chairman, the president of Nigeria is having legitimacy issues
The CDD War Room found that the video circulating online is an interview granted on SABC NEWS by Sophie Mokoena, the international editor for South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).
In the interview, Sophie was asked questions about the recent coup d état in Niger, the continuous hostage of the president, Mohamed Bazoum, and the role of ECOWAS and the AU in the ongoing crisis within the region.
While responding, she said “it is quite unstable right now and unfortunately you have the chair currently, it’s the president of Nigeria also facing a lot of pressure in his country in terms of how the election panned out in terms of the result. Some questioning the credibility of the election. He issued a strong statement yesterday but already when you read the reaction to the statement, people were already saying you yourself, you are not legitimate…”
We can confirm that Sophie Mokoema, the international editor of SABC said ECOWAS is not strong (as it used to be) because the chairman who doubles as Nigerian president, is having legitimacy issues.