The Many Social Media Lies of Lauretta Onochie, President Buhari’s Aide

Pictures can mislead in several ways: when they contain false information, are doctored to misinform or are employed in a false context. As part of a series scrutinising online posts by prominent social media users, The ICIR used publicly available tools to verify pictures shared on Twitter by Lauretta Onochie, Personal Assistant on Social Media to the Nigerian president.

DURING the first term of President Muhammadu Buhari, a good number of his aides restricted their social media posts to official releases and photographs. But some shared a lot more - including outright misinformation.

And, in the days, weeks and months leading to the last general elections in Nigeria, social media became, for presidential aides, as for many others, a tool for merely selling their principal. Social media platforms became a battleground, a turf for peddling propaganda and misinformation and a weapon to discredit and shoot down opponents’ reputations.

President Buhari’s Personal Assistant on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, in September 2018, tweeted a picture of an asphalt road being constructed.  She captioned it “Nasarawa-Jos Road”, giving the impression that it was a road constructed by the government, but it is actually a stock photo uploaded to Getty Images in November 2015.

The inaccuracy triggered a wave of sarcastic tweets under the hashtag #TweetLikeLaurettaOnochie. She then pulled down the tweet and apologised for the “big mistake” saying “it won’t happen again”.

Onochie’s tweet wrongly crediting the federal govt. for a foreign road project

But, it has happened again and again as  many of Onochie’s other tweets since then have also included misinformation, such as one in December 2018 showing foodpacks bundled with N500 notes. She claimed Atiku Abubakar,  PDP presidential candidate in the 2019 election, had shared the money with voters. 

It turned out that the picture was not taken at an Atiku campaign rally but had actually been put out in February 2017 by a Lagos – based charity organisation during an outreach.

Though the President mentioned “fake news” as a security challenge in August 2019, he reappointed Onochie along with several other media aides shortly thereafter. Together the aides command a Twitter following of over 1.7 million, providing a considerable platform to any misleading information they might share.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *