Video of burning building is not the Nigerian embassy in Niger

31 August 2023
What was claimed

A video shows an assault on the Nigerian embassy in Niamey, Niger, by protesters supporting a military coup in July.

Our verdict

This is not the Nigerian embassy. The video shows an attack on the headquarters of the deposed Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism on 27 July.

A viral video falsely claims to show the Nigerian embassy in Niamey, Niger, on fire after a military coup last month. 

Niger and Nigeria are neighbouring countries in West Africa. Niger’s President Bazoum, who was elected two years ago, was deposed by a military junta on 26 July and is still detained at the time of writing. The military has reportedly suspended Niger’s constitution and all state institutions, closed the country’s borders and imposed a curfew. 

A video shows an assault on a building with smoke, flames, smashed windows and paper littered across the floor. Multiple posts shared on social media platforms—including Facebook, Twitter and TikTok—claim the building is the Nigerian embassy in Niger’s capital, Niamey.

One Facebook post, shared by a UK account, has the caption: “Nigerian Embassy premises in Niger is in flames”. 

Another post says: “The price of meddling in someone else’s business: Niger youths torch Nigerian Embassy in Niamey, Niger.”

However, the video does not show the Nigerian embassy being attacked. The building in the clip is the headquarters of the deposed Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism, which was ransacked by coup supporters on 27 July. 

There are several ways to identify the building. As fact checkers at Reuters have reported, a sign saying ‘Bienvenue’ (‘Welcome’ in French) alongside a photo of a lion is visible at around 33 seconds into the video clip. These exact signs can be seen in photos of the headquarters here, here and here

Other features such as the distinctly shaped fences, pillars and round windows also locate the video at the headquarters. Videos of the incident published by various media outlets show cars being set ablaze, which corresponds with the position of flames and smoke in the footage on social media.  

Moreover, Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed in a press release signed by the Nigerian ambassador to Niger, Liti Auwalu, that the clip does not show the embassy and encouraged the general public to “disregard such videos”. 

It said: “The Embassy wishes to inform the general public that even though protesters tried to gain access to the Embassy on 30th July 2023, the Nigerien Military and Police Authorities promptly curtained the situation.”

Nigeria's President Bola Tinubu is the chair of the regional bloc ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) which threatened Niger with military action if civilian rule was not restored by 6 August. It has since been reported that ECOWAS is prepared for military intervention if diplomatic efforts fail while Niger’s junta reportedly authorised troops from neighbouring countries Mali and Burkina Faso to come to its defence in the event of military action. 

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The French embassy

Other posts on social media falsely claim the same video shows the French embassy in Niamey, rather than the Nigerian embassy. As explained above, the video shows the toppled party’s headquarters, not an embassy. 

However, the French embassy did come under attack on 30 July and footage of the event shows a darker, single-storey building. Niger gained independence from France in 1960 and an anti-French sentiment has been reported in the former colony. 

France condemned the violence against its embassy and evacuated French and European citizens from the country at the beginning of August. At the time of writing, Niger’s military regime has reportedly instructed security forces to expel the French ambassador from the country and has withdrawn his diplomatic immunity. This comes after reports that France defied an ultimatum ordering him to leave.

Misinformation can often thrive during global news stories such as this. We have observed similar false claims relating to photos and videos for events including the recent wildfires in Maui, riots in France and the February earthquake in Turkey and Syria.  

It’s important to consider whether a post shows what it claims to before sharing it online—you can read more about how to identify misleading images and videos using our guides here and here

Image courtesy of Roland Huziaker

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