Africa: Viral ‘Quote’ From World Trade Organization Chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Fabricated

IN SHORT: A quote attributed to the head of the World Trade Organization about her meeting with Nigeria’s president Bola Tinubu is circulating on Facebook. But the quote is fabricated.

Many Facebook users in Nigeria have posted a quote attributed to the director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Okonjo-Iweala is the seventh director-general of the WTO. She is the first woman and the first African to hold the position. She is an economist and has twice served as the finance minister of Nigeria.

On 8 August 2023 she met with Nigeria’s president Bola Tinubu at his official residence in the capital Abuja to discuss how to reduce poverty in the country.

In the quote, Okonjo-Iweala appears to be complaining about being criticised for meeting with Tinubu.

It reads, in part: “I keep receiving toxic calls and messages regarding my meeting with the president yesterday, and from those I hold in very high esteem. Honestly, I am shocked at the contents of the messages and tone of the callers. Has Nigeria sank this low?”

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The quote started circulating two days after the meeting. But why would the meeting have been controversial in the eyes of some?

For one thing, Tinubu’s election victory has been challenged in court. The meeting would have been seen as a sign that Okonjo-Iweala supported the disputed outcome of the election.

Tinubu’s dramatic economic measures have also been blamed by some for making life harder for Nigerians. A meeting with the WTO chief could also have been seen as tacit endorsement of these measures, which include the controversial removal of a fuel subsidy.